Olive oil, once used in the U.S. primarily by immigrants from Mediterranean countries and adventurous gourmets, is now mainstream. In 2013, Americans consumed over 338 metric tons, about ten times the amount used in 1982. This is good news, as olive oil has multiple health benefits:
• It has the highest percentage of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat of any edible oil.
• Quality brands contain abundant antioxidants - substances that have been shown to provide cardiovascular and anti-cancer effects.
• If you're watching your weight, adding extra olive oil to your diet can help you feel full longer.
• Regular consumption of olive oil may help increase concentrations of a bone protective protein known as osteocalcin.
Plus quality extra-virgin olive tastes wonderful: the vibrant green treat has probably helped many Americans realize that there is no need to sacrifice sensory pleasure in pursuit of healthy eating. One easy way to get more olive oil is to use it instead of butter in low temperature cooking, on top of fresh vegetables or as a salad dressing.
When buying olive oil, choose small bottles of certified organic oil. Check the label for the ICEA (Istituto per la Certificazione Etica e Ambientale, which means Ethical and Environmental Certification Institute) logo, or that of another organic certification body such as the USDA's green-and-white ORGANIC logo.