Exploring the Health Benefits of Greek Olive Oil

Greek Olive Grove

Radiantly beautiful into her nineties: did my Yiayia have Greek olive oil to thank?

My Yιαγι (Greek Grandma) Toula Zoubaki was born in 1921 in a very small, quiet village near Ancient Olympia. Daughter of Stavroula and Aristeidis Zoubaki, the local area railway manager, and the eldest of eight siblings, she grew up surrounded by olive groves, which peppered the landscape from the hills to the sea. Freshly-pressed olive oil was part of her daily diet. Toula left Greece for the UK in 1947, having fallen in love with my grandfather, a young British soldier, at a dance in Syntagma Square in Athens, shortly after the end of the Second World War. 

Olive Trees and Poppies in Greece

 Post-war Britain was a far cry from rural Greece. Olive oil was nowhere to be found… or so she thought! She spotted small bottles in the local chemist, where it was dispensed to treat earaches.

By the 1980s, olive oil was easier to come by and it was as a young girl that I first noticed an enormous canister of olive oil in Yιαγιά’s kitchen. She used it in many of her recipes from traditional Greek salads, and dakos to pastitsio and dolmades.

Toula, who sadly passed away aged 95, lived a long and healthy life, as did her siblings (including my great Aunt Gogoula who is still going strong). It was always clear that their diet of fresh local produce, enhanced by local Greek olive oil, contributed to their longevity.

But what is it about Greek olive oil that brings such incredible nutritional and health benefits? I’ve delved into the science to understand just how it improves and protects our health…

The Proven Health Benefits of Greek Olive Oil

Greek Olive Oil and Heart Health

We all know that high cholesterol is a significant risk factor when it comes to heart disease, strokes and coronary artery disease.

A plethora of studies affirm that regular consumption of olive oil, particularly the extra virgin variety hailing from Greece, is associated with a diminished risk of heart disease and stroke.

Often described as ‘healthy’ fats, monounsaturated fats reduce the risk of
these cardiovascular conditions, and these good fats make up 70-85% of the
total fat content of Greek olive oil.

They play a pivotal role in refining cholesterol levels by elevating HDL (good) cholesterol and curbing LDL (bad) cholesterol, thereby forestalling atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease.

The Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Greek Olive Oil

Chronic inflammation underlies a range of conditions from arthritis and diabetes to asthma and inflammatory bowel disease.

Greek olive oil contains potent anti-inflammatory compounds such as oleocanthal, which have an action akin to ibuprofen in inhibiting inflammatory enzymes. 

Lowering the Risk of Some Cancers

The nutritional profile of Greek olive oil helps to protect against a number of different cancers in a variety of ways.

For instance, if breast cancer is a concern, you’ll be glad to know that oleic acid, the main monounsaturated fatty acid in olive oil, has been shown to regulate the behaviour of breast cancer cells, reducing risk.

The polyphenols found in Greek olive oil, such as hydroxytyrosol and tyrosol, are powerful antioxidants, helping to protect against free radicals and shield against other cancers.

Greek Olive Oil and Brain Health

I was thrilled to learn that cognitive decline in old age isn’t something we have to accept. Phew!

The Mediterranean diet, wherein Greek olive oil holds a prime position, is renowned for its cognitive benefits and the mitigation of age-related cognitive decline. The high levels of monounsaturated fats in olive oil are beneficial for brain health. Studies suggest that olive oil consumption may help preserve cognitive function and reduce the risk of age-related cognitive decline, Alzheimer's disease, and other neurodegenerative disorders.

A steady intake of Greek olive oil within a Mediterranean dietary framework holds promise in preserving cognitive acumen and staving off memory impairment with advancing age.

Greek Olive Oil and Digestive Health

Research has shown that olive oil can increase the diversity of the gut microbiota,” says Caroline West Passerrello, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. This is another way in which polyphenols help – a study published in the journal Food & Function found that polyphenols, a type of compound found in extra virgin olive oil, can be directly absorbed by the intestine, improving immunity and reduced inflammation.

I've selected some of the very best Greek olive oil for you

If you’re still reading, I’m guessing you don’t need to be convinced of the joy of a bottle of very special, extra virgin Greek olive oil in your kitchen.

But how do you know which one to choose?

Luckily for you, I’ve done the research.

The Greek House Interiors is proud to offer a selection of exceptional Greek Olive Oils: Itania Greek Extra Virgin Olive OilMitira Lesvos Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Psaltiras Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

And there’s more! Coming soon: our family’s very own exceptional olive oil

The very olive groves that my Yiayia enjoyed – in the tiny village of Epitalio – are still owned by my family.  Each year we harvest the olives before taking them to be locally pressed.

Having kept it to ourselves for generations, we’re now making “Zoubaki Extra Virgin Olive Oil” available to you. I’m so excited to be launching it later this year.

If you’d like to hear when it’s added to the site, just join our mailing list. (I promise we won’t bombard you, and you can unsubscribe any time.)

Until then...

… enjoy whichever Greek olive oil you choose knowing you are doing something wonderful for your health.

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