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Olive oil is particularly characteristic of the Mediterranean diet. It is recognized as one of the
healthiest edible oils since it contains less saturated fats, and composes linoleic (omega-6) and linolenic acid (omega-3) essential fatty acids at recommended 8:1 ratio. Olive oil, especially extra virgin, contains tyrosol phenolic compounds such as oleuropein and oleocanthal.
These compounds are responsible for its bitter, and pungent taste. Oleocanthal, oleurpein, and its derivative hydroxytyrosol are nature’s most powerful anti-oxidants. Being a vegetable source, it has very high levels of plant sterols, especially β-sitosterol.
The FDA has approved the following claim for phytosterols: "Foods containing at least 0.4 gram per serving of plant sterols, eaten twice a day with meals for a daily total intake of at least 0.8 gram, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease."
Phyto-sterols competitively inhibit cholesterol absorption in the gut and thereby can reduce total cholesterol levels by 10% to 15%.