Olive Oil: Good for the Body Inside and Out

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Olive Oil. Who knew how versatile this simple ingredient is? It is something good for our bodies, both inside and out.

As part of our diet, I don't think there is anything better than olive oil. It is high in antioxidants, including vitamin E. Antioxidants are nutritional powerhouses that protect against age-accelerating free radicals.  And anything against age-acceleration, I am all for! I have heard many times that to have healthy skin or hair, you need to start with the inside first! Since my husband has a heart condition, I have used olive oil in our diet for years. I make most of my salad dressings with it (in place of canola oil) and drizzle it over our salads and pasta. It's a great for dipping bread in; I add freshly ground salt and pepper. This is a big hit with company! My recipe for simple vinaigrette is:

1 part vinegar
2 parts olive oil
season to taste

You can use any vinegar. Both balsamic and red wine vinegars are very nice. The seasonings I usually use are freshly ground salt and pepper. To take it up a notch, I will add a little Dijon mustard and maybe a little of minced garlic or shallots. I like to put the ingredients in a small jam jar, cover tightly and shake! shake! shake!

I think all of us have heard about the Mediterranean diet, right? This diet incorporates the basics of healthy eating used by countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Research has shown that the traditional Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of heart disease. There are also studies that showed following this diet was associated with a reduced risk incidence of cancer and Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease. The key points of this diet are:

-getting plenty of exercise
-eating prmarily plant-based foods, such as fruits and  vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts.
-replacing butter with healthy fats such as olive oil.
-using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods.
-limiting red meat to no more than a few times a month.
-eating fish and poultry at least twice a week.
-drinking red wine in moderation (optional)

And another interesting part of the key points that I saw repeated again and again was the importance of enjoying meals with family and friends. The 'happiness' component is huge!

I invite you to visit the Mayo Clinic website for more information. Its address is: www.mayoclinic.com/health/mediterranean-diet.

It is well known that olive oil is rich in life-giving monounsaturated fatty acids. About 75% of that monounsaturated fat is oleic acid, which is very stable (meaning that it stays healthy & pure) even at high temperatures. Because the olive oil resists oxidation and does not turn unhealthy at higher temperatures makes it far healthier for frying. Our body processes oleic acid easier than other fatty acids.

Now that we have covered a little bit on the benefits of olive oil for the inside of the body, let's start with the outside. Olive oil skin care is nothing new. In fact, it's an ancient beauty secret. Discovered over 5000 years ago, olive oil quickly became an essential component of skin care.

The Egyptians, Greeks, Phoenicians, and Romans all took full advantage of this prized oil. Today, we observe the beautiful skin of Mediterranean women. Many claim their secret is the oil of this tiny fruit. It is known to promote a smooth, radiant complexion, helps maintain elasticity of skin, heals dry, brittle nails and softens cuticles and even conditions and adds shine to hair. Our own Makeup Artist to the Stars, Karen Hall, loves, loves, loves olive oil and is always suggesting it as a beauty ingredient. If you have ever seen Karen on the show and wondered what her age is, I can tell you she is over 60 and looks 40! So, of course,  I asked her to give me some of her hints and this is what she sent me:

1. Eat it! The results will show on the outside!
2. Use it as a moisturizer on face and body; replace those chemically laden lotions!
3. Use a few drops on dry hair as a hair dressing; it will make your hair shine, and help to keep dryness at bay.
4. Like cures like, so if you have buildup of oil on your scalp, you can rub some in, really well, before shampooing.
5. When cooking, rub a bit on your nails; especially before and after doing dishes to protect them.
6. Mix some with a bit of baking soda and use to exfoliate, gently on face, but also for elbows and feet.

I have been using some of her suggestions for the past couple years and very happy with the results. Fingers crossed that when I turn 60 next year, I look 40!

In addition to being a natural, hypoallergenic way to moisturize skin, extra virgin olive oil has the added advantage of providing strong antioxidants, like Vitamins A and E that help repair and renew skin that has been damaged from overexposure to sun, air pollution, and other modern-day environmental hazards like cigarette smoke and fast food. These antioxidants have the natural ability to stimulate cells and return skin to a firmer, smoother, and healthier state.

Olive Oil Skin Moisturizer
Whether applied to face or body, olive oil will penetrate deep into the skin and provide a long-lasting shield of moisture to keep skin smooth and supple. Used either as a night cream or daily moisturizer, it is best applied to damp skin, when water can help reduce any feeling of greasiness. Adding a little lemon juice can provide a more bracing and refreshing feeling. The natural benefits can take a bit longer to be absorbed into the skin than most lightweight packaged skin products. But the advantages can be longer lasting, too. If you have a favorite moisturizer that works well for you, on those extra dry days, you may consider adding a little olive oil to it for an extra boost. You can get an intensive facial treatment by mixing two-parts olive oil with one-part vinegar. The vinegar combats skin discoloration and bacteria and the olive oil moisturizes. Apply the mixture on your face and leave on overnight. Rinse face in the morning. You can also apply this to your whole body before sleeping if you want that 'all over' moisturizing treatment.

Olive Oil Exfoliate
Karen has suggested mixing baking soda with olive oil as an exfoliate, but you know I have to mention my sugar scrub or this wouldn't be MY article! My recipe calls for any oil of your choice, but I have to admit that 90% of the time, I use olive oil because Karen told me to! It is a very simple recipe:

1 cup sugar
¼ cup olive oil
3 TBS honey

Combine ingredients in a metal or plastic bowl and use immediately in shower. I usually apply it after doing my normal routine; that way the olive oil is still on my skin. Be sure to blot, not rub, with a towel so you can let that olive oil seep into your skin.

Olive Oil Nail and Cuticle Care
Olive oil makes a perfect, simple solution for dry nails and cuticles. Simply rub a few drops into the cuticle area and around the nail. Cuticles stay plump and moist, and nails respond with a natural shine. If you have extra dry nails and cuticles, try soaking your fingernails in warm olive oil for about 10 minutes. For stained nails, try adding a little lemon juice.

Olive Oil Makeup Remover
Just add a few drops to a cotton pad and gently remove makeup from face and eyes. This works just as well as many commercial brands. It can leave your skin a little sticky and oily, so if you want, you can use your usual cleanser. When I use my cleanser, my skin usually feels a little taut, but after using olive oil to remove my makeup, my skin actually felt very clean and smooth. There is also a belief that olive oil is good for conditioning eye lashes.

Olive Oil Hair Care
When used on hair, olive oil can be considered two products: a deep conditioner and a dandruff controller. I, personally, have very thin, fine hair so don't use this. Keeping my hair short helps it stay in good condition. But. Our wonderful Karen uses it on her hair, which is very thick and naturally curly. I know the Arizona dry weather can be harsh on hair and if that's your experience, you may consider using olive oil. Here are a few suggestions that I found:

For a simple oil treatment, warm several tablespoons of olive oil (warm, not hot). Rub into scalp and hair. Cover with a shower cap or small plastic bag. Leave on for 20-30 minutes. Shampoo; it may take more than one or two shampoo washes to get the oil out. It may also make your hair a little 'droopy' but after a couple of days, it will feel and look great.

On those days where you don't have time for a deep treatment, moisten your fingers with a tiny bit of olive oil and apply lightly to the tips of your hair.

So, taking a hint from those beautiful women of the Mediterranean countries, we need to incorporate more olive oil in our diets for our bodies; INside and OUTside!!