The Mediterranean Diet and Olive Oil as Essential Pillars of Health

We seem to live in a world of extremes, where what is tasty and nutritious, soothing and healthful, pleasurable and life-giving, are sometimes presented to us as mutually exclusive. Recent research on the value of the Mediterranean diet, with its strong focus on healthy, Omega-3 fats such as high quality, extra virgin olive oil, have led many of us to rethink destructive myths such as “all fats are unhealthy”, “low fat is the way to go” or “one must suffer for beauty.” Delicious, nutritious olive oil, touted by gourmets and doctors alike as ‘liquid gold’ is the one product that raises no arguments, its benefits having been documented in numerous studies over the past few decades.

Achieving a Healthy Balanced Lifestyle with Olive Oil

You cannot achieve a balanced lifestyle if you toil away at work, day and night, eating little more than a sandwich or heated microwaved meal and a packet of crisps at snack time. Balance in life begins internally – in other words, while you may have your ‘cheat days’ in which you indulge in your favorite dessert or alcoholic beverage, on a day-to-day basis, it is important to consume plenty of seasonal fruits and vegetables, lean protein sources, nuts, and extra-virgin oil to stock up on Omega-3 fats to promote greater heart health. The trick to optimal health, say nutritionists, is to ‘fuse’ the healthy fats in olive oil and other nutrients in food, such as the nitrates in spinach. By doing so, new compounds are formed (in this case a nitro fatty acid), which are important for heart health. In addition to containing Omega-3s, olive oil also contains powerful antioxidants such as oleocanthal and oleuropein, which battle inflammation and protect LDL cholesterol from oxidation, respectively.

The Role of Exercise in a Balanced Lifestyle

We all work hard, but it is important to ensure we make time for physical activity in our lives. Exercise helps keep obesity at bay, reduces stress hormone levels, and improves our mood and energy levels. If you are inactive, start off slowly, with exercises such as yoga and Pilates, which can be adapted to your level. If you are already moderately active, try to ensure you exercise daily, since the effects of sitting down for too many hours at your desk, can increase the risk of stroke and heart disease. Scientists have found that exercising two or three times a week simply isn’t enough if you are seated for various hours. Make sure to get up every hour or so to have a brisk walk around the office or climb up and down the steps, to keep health risks at bay.

Making Time for Mental Health

Stress is a killer, yet too many people lack pro-activity when it comes to keeping their mental health in a good state. To battle stress, take part in holistic activities such as yoga and mindfulness meditation, proven once again in numerous studies to be powerful warriors against stress, fatigue, and anxiety/depression.

For an optimal lifestyle that is as enjoyable as it is healthful, three key areas stand out: nutrition, exercise, and anti-stress activities. When one of these key ingredients is missing, it shows up in your health. Ensure that work never becomes so important that it stops you from leading the beautiful, balanced lifestyle you were meant to.

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