Reap the benefits of this anti-inflammatory food with these cooking tips.
Looking for an easy, yet delicious, way to improve your diet? Eat like a Greek! Experts believe the Mediterranean diet—lots of produce, fish, nuts and whole grains—is loaded with anti-inflammatory ingredients. A key player? Olive oil! In fact, a study in Arthritis & Rheumatism found this healthy fat can inhibit pro-inflammatory enzymes associated with arthritis pain. Here’s how to reap the benefits of this joint-friendly food.
1. Extra-virgin olive oil
Extra-virgin—which results from the first pressing of the olives—may be the priciest pick, but in return you’ll reap the most joint-healthy benefits, found researchers in Barcelona, Spain. That’s because the olives are physically pressed, not chemically processed, which preserves their antioxidants and anti-inflammatory oils.
Flavor: Fresh and fruity, rich olive flavor
How to use: Great for cold dishes (extra-virgin olive oil tends to burn too quickly for cooking). Drizzle directly onto salads or pastas; use in marinades or sauces for meat, fish, poultry and vegetables; use to dip bread.
Get the real thing! There are quality standards in Europe monitoring the use of an “extra-virgin” label, but the U.S. does not currently have strict regulations. So if you’re willing to invest in a bottle, go with a European brand, and look for details—date of harvest, use-by date, address of the estate where it was made.
2. Virgin olive oil
This oil results from the second pressing of the olives.
Flavor: Slightly acidic, slightly less olive-y
How to use: Good for cooking—brush on meats prior to grilling or broiling—but also may be flavorful enough to use straight out of the bottle on salads and veggies.
3. Pure olive oil and olive oil
These are usually a blend of refined and virgin olive oils. Refined olive oil, which is lower quality, refers to olive oil that has been chemically treated to neutralize poor flavor or acidity.
Flavor: Light olive flavor
How to use: These tend to lack a strong flavor, so they’re best used for sautéing, searing and pan-frying.
Do you like your olive oil…
Fruity? Opt for a Spanish variety. Golden yellow in color, it also has a nutty hint.
Herbal? Pick up an Italian oil, which tends to be dark green with grassy, herbal undertones. A majority of olive oil is produced from olives grown in Spain, Italy and Greece. But some also hail from France and California.
Strong? Go Greek.
The enemies of olive oil are air and sunlight, which causes loss of flavor and depletes antioxidants. The solution: Store the oil in a cool, dark place, out of direct sunlight (a room-temp cupboard is good). And look for olive oil in bottles made from dark green glass, which helps protect it from light.