There's a reason Popeye and Olive loved each other so - spinach fried in olive oil with a squeeze of lemon is delish! That's my theory anyway.Olive oil is one of those essential cooking ingredients, and not just because it's versatile with so many food groups. There have been countless studies praising the health benefits of a diet rich in olive oil. One recent study by The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) found significant differences in cancer rates between northern and southern European countries. Over a period of three weeks subjects from both regions consumed 25 milliliters of olive oil a day. Prior to commencing the trial volunteers from northern European countries urine samples had tested higher oxidative cell damage, which is a red flag for cancer. At the end of the trial period oxidative cell damage was significantly reduced in the northern European volunteers whilst those from southern Europe stayed the same - low. Similar studies have also found the higher quantities of olive oil consumed in the Mediterranean diet have substantial positive effects to health.

Olive oil has 14g of fat per tablespoon. But that doesn't mean you should start using it sparingly. This oil is rich in oleic acid (a monosaturated fat) and phytochemicals (oleurpein and hydrooxylorosol) which are all potent antioxidants. Olive oil is thought to play a role in helping to control weight and diabetes. One way of regulating blood sugar levels is to eat a diet low in carbohydrates but research indicates that monounsaturated fats also have a similar effect.

When it comes to cholesterol it actually has the effect of lowering the bad stuff (LDL) and raising the good type (HDL). For this reason olive oil can reduce blood pressure- an efficient maintenance worker for clean arteries.