Heart disease is one of the biggest killers in the world, and a serious cardiac incident requires huge changes in attitude, lifestyle and diet. Everybody knows that saturated fats and a sedentary lifestyle are major contributors to the problem, but we never seem to do anything about it. Most people seek a wonder-food that will provide an easy answer, fooled by news-papers producing headlines promoting the next ‘Big Thing.’ These fads last for a few weeks, until the next super-food comes along, or genuine research proves the pseudo-science wrong. Cardiac diets are big business, yet the cheapest and simplest of all is the most effective.
The only way to reduce the likelihood of serious cardiac conditions, and speed up recovery, is to make a dietary change. Unfortunately, this is the one thing that people are reluctant to change, falsely perceiving that healthy food means no flavour. Fortunately, there is one way of changing your diet whilst actually improving the taste. The ‘Golden Food,’ as any Mediterranean knows, is Greek olive oil. Replacing saturated fat in your diet with Greek olive oil conveys major health benefits for cardiac patients, whilst tasting divine.A Greek Breakfast, of tomatoes and Feta, drizzled with oil, is a healthy start to the day.
At this point, I must point out that I am not a dietician. Any dietary change, for a cardiac patient, requires specialist advice. Olive oil is a great food for helping patients with heart disease, but every individual case is different.
Greek Olive Oil – Omega Oils and Health Benefits for Cardiac Patients
The Greeks have one of the lowest incidences of heart disease in the world, and one of the longest average life spans in Europe, at 79 years. This is attributed mainly to their balanced and healthy diet, but also to their liberal use of Greek olive oil, a healthy mono-unsaturated fat.
The key to the health benefits of Greek olive oil is a group of compounds known as ‘phytochemicals.’ These give many health benefits by; thinning the blood, reducing inflammation of the blood vessels, and reducing the levels of cholesterol. An American Journal of Medicine article reported a total cholesterol reduction of 13.4% in cardiac patients, when saturated fat was replaced with unsaturated fat.
Other compounds, called polyphenols, prevent hardening of the arteries and reduce plaque deposits, as well as mop up harmful ‘free-radicals.’ Oleocanthol is a wonderful anti-inflammatory, reducing the chance of cardiac problems, and also alleviating rheumatic conditions. The media, a few years ago, promoted the benefits of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fats. This is true, but it is important that the diet contains the correct ratio. Olive oil and oily fish are the only foods to provide the correct proportion of these fats.
Greek olive oil is not only beneficial for patients with heart problems. It is strongly linked with lowering the risk of cancer, especially in the bowel. As part of a balanced diet, it reduces the chances of developing Type II Diabetes. Good quality oil gives all of these health benefits, without compromising upon flavour. Instead of spending a fortune upon cholesterol reducing spreads, drizzle olive oil onto your bread, simple and effective traditional Greek folk medicine.
The Best Greek Olive Oils
The best olive oil is the Extra Virgin type, combining health benefits with a beautifully rich flavour. Many consumers avoid buying ‘cloudy’ oil, containing floating sediment, but this is by far the best oil. Most of the good chemicals are contained within the sediment, as well as the intense taste sensation. Good quality olive oil does not degrade when heated, maintaining all of the flavour and health benefits for cardiac patients.
Naturally, I am biased, and believe that Greek olive oil is the finest and most flavoursome. The best Greek oil comes from Crete; it is guaranteed to be organic, and tastes nutty and smooth. The next best comes from Kalamata, in the Peloponnese. If you cannot find or afford Greek oil, do not worry – Italy, Spain, California and Australia, as well as a host of other countries, produce good oil.
It is false economy to buy cheap oil, because the production method and the straining remove a lot of the goodness. Pay a little extra and use the best oil that you can afford. Even better, adopt a Mediterranean diet, with fresh vegetables, fruit, red wine and good bread. The simplest foods become divine with a drizzling of oil. I love a Greek Salad drenched in fine oil, or some Feta cheese, tomatoes and herbs on olive oil drenched bread. My favourite food of all is a plate of fresh greens, served with olive oil and lemon juice.
There is one downside to olive oil; although olive oil as part of a balanced cardiac diet is wonderful, it is still a fat. If your doctor has advised you to lose weight, you still need to follow a dietician’s plans. Replace the saturated fat in your cardiac diet with Greek olive oil, instead of using it as an excuse to coat all of your food in lashings of oil.
If you have no problem with weight, fire away – it tastes wonderful. I must post some nice vegetarian Greek recipes sometime!