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Story and science behind the magic of olives

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Did you know that ancient olive trees originated in Turkey?

Well, at least that’s according to my knowledge. Olive trees have made a great impact on the civilizations of the Mediterranean for more than 4,000 years. Olives provide people with food, medicines and nourishing creams. Olives were not only cultivated here in Turkey, they were actually widespread and covered the Mediterranean coast. From Syria to Tunisia, from Greece to Italy, and from Crete to Spain, olives have been cultivated for more than 4,000 years. It was surprising for me to learn the leafy branches of olive trees were even found in Tutankhamen’s tomb. Although Hippocrates called olive oil “the great therapeutic,” in ancient Greece women used olive oil for cosmetic reasons as well. Olive oil was used on ancient Greek women’s skin and hair after bathing as protection from the elements and to maintain a pleasant fragrance.

Moreover, olive oil was also mixed with grounded charcoal to create an eye shadow. The olive tree, or its branch, has been seen as a symbol of peace, victory and the endurance of life itself throughout history for most Mediterranean people. They say that it actually evokes feelings of harmony, vitality, and health. To be honest, my family is one of those who believe in the beneficial effects and beauty of olive trees. The leafy branches of the olive tree were used in powerful figures as emblems of faith and purification. Moreover, the branches were ritually offered to gods as well.

There was magic in olive trees for sure. But it is hard to explain why they were used as symbols of victory, be it when crowns were fashioned for the winners of friendly games or the victors of bloody wars.

Olive oil was so precious that it was used to massage kings and athletes in ancient Greece. Greeks used the dried branches to burn in the blessed lamps of temples, also known as the “eternal flame,” which has become a symbol of the Olympic Games.

Now there are more than 10 million hectares of olive trees planted worldwide, including the ones in my garden. Although olive trees originated in Turkey, Spain is now the largest single producer of olives with an average of more than 6 million tons every year. Italy comes in second with approximately 3.5 million tons and is followed by Greece with 2.5 million tons annually. In the 1950s, Ancel Keys of the University of Minnesota realized that the Mediterranean geography has something special to offer and published an analysis based on data collected over a period of 20 years on the correlation between cardiovascular diseases and eating habits on 12,000 males from Italy, the Greek Islands, Yugoslavia, Holland, Finland, Japan and the U.S.

The results showed that although people residing on the Greek islands consume high amounts of oil, they develop almost no coronary heart diseases and have a longer life expectancy. Keys was the first researcher to link health with regional eating habits and introduced the phrase “Mediterranean diet.”

Although there are 15 countries around the Mediterranean, they all have similar eating habits. But what is the key element of the Mediterranean diet? The answer would be high consumption of vegetables and fruit, a variety of foods in the diet, correct oil choice and consumption of the right carbohydrates. Yet, it is best to insist on mentioning “olive oil” whenever we speak of Mediterranean style eating.

Let’s not forget that the Mediterranean diet is not a completely oil-free diet. It includes olive oil rich in oleic acid known as “healthy fats.” Some research has suggested that olive oil actually helps prevent heart disease. For example, it was shown that triglycerides actually help inflammation and prevent blood clotting while also improving the functioning of veins. Extra-virgin olive oil is proven to increase good cholesterol (HDL) levels. But we recommend the natural extra-virgin olive oil produced by coldpress methods. Both olives and cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil have been studied for their potential beneficial effects on health.

Both have a tremendous effect on blood pressure and cholesterol levels as well as antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Moreover, both olives and olive oil have blood-thinning effects that could in turn help prevent an inappropriate blood clot formation causing embolic events or even heart attacks.

The antioxidant phenols found in olives and olive oil such as hydroxytyrosol aid antimicrobial, blood thinner and blood vessel dilating activity. Anti-inflammatory properties of foods are now very popular in research. Recently, a new phenol named oleocanthal was discovered in olive oil.

Oleocanthal was shown to have a natural anti-inflammatory effect that was scientifically comparable to the actions of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that we use from time to time. If your olive oil has a slightly bitter but flavorful peppery taste, then its concentration of oleocanthal is high enough to say it’s high-quality oil.

Additional research has shown that olive oil might possess qualities which prevent cancer as well. The constituent that is found related to anti-cancer activity is not a phenol itself but a monounsaturated fat, oleic acid. Oleic acid was shown to help inhibiting a gene n a m e d Her-2/neu or Her-2, also known as human epidermal growth factor receptor 2. This gene is overexpressed in aggressive breast cancers. Scientists also believe that in the future olive oil might be used as a supplementary treatment for breast cancer when the Her-2 gene is found to be positive for a type of cancer. Apart from being popular due to their flavor and dark greenish color, Kalamata olives are special for their high phenol constituents. In addition to oleocanthal, Kalamata olives have hydroxytyrosol, which is a phenol that may help in preventing DNA damage. Apart from the off-site beneficial effects, olive oil is also beneficial for the gastro-intestinal system. It may act as a protective agent to the inner layer of your intestines and thus prevent colon cancer!

Additionally, a substance called maslinic acid was found in the skin of olives. Some research has shown that maslinic acid may contribute to increasing programmed cell death in colon cancers, resulting in control of tumor size!

The extract of olive leaves contains the antioxidant compound oleuropein, which is typically removed from olives through curing and could have potential therapeutic effects.

As magical tales of olives are still being told today, scientists are researching the potential health benefits of eating more olives and olive-based products to find other potentially beneficial effects. One of the last ones is oleuropein. Preliminary data suggest this extract can reduce blood pressure almost like low-dose hypertension medicine! And not only this, olive leaves were found to contribute to lowering LDL cholesterol levels as well.

In the traditional Mediterranean diet, you should be eating about 8-10 olives or ingesting 2-4 tablespoons of olive oil a day. You may use olive oil to dip your bread into or use it while cooking food under low heat.

Higher quality oils have a higher smoking temperature. In general, studies also suggest that black olives are higher in phenols and antioxidant activity than green ones.

This obviously doesn’t mean that you should be using olive oil to treat disease but all this should guide us on changing our lifestyles.

If we replace the bad food in our diets with healthier options like olives then we should be living a healthier lifestyle and we probably will continue to spread the magical tales about olives.

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False Facts About Catching a Cold, Flu

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Everyone catches a cold once or twice in the winter and mid-seasons. Although we take precautions to prevent catching a cold, the false facts that we believe to be true misdirect us. To be able to protect ourselves from the disease, it is important to know facts about the disease in the first place

Even though it is getting warmer, changes in temperature have the potential to lead to different diseases. Some of us have already started to feel tired, get the sniffles or become sneezy. Amid the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives, we do not have time to rest and look after ourselves to fight our sicknesses. One should not forget that the most important point in the fight against a cold is to take precautionary measures.

Well, what do you know about illnesses, such as the cold, which affects the quality of our lives immensely? How accurate is the advice that our elders or neighbors give us? One of the most important things to keep in mind is that the source of sickness (for influenza) is not cold weather, but it is microorganisms and viruses. Here are several points about colds that are actually false.

Does going out with wet hair make us sick?

Cold or flu develops after a virus called “rhinovirus” enters the human body. Regardless of the temperature, weather or environmental conditions, once this virus enters into your body through your nose, mouth or other organs, then you will get sick. Otherwise, this virus will not affect you even though it exists in the same place where you are.

In this case, if we go out with wet hair, are we more likely to catch this virus? Well, wet hair only leads you to feel the cold more intensely. That is why this ongoing belief is still popular among people.

A group of American scientists studied the influence of going out with wet hair in cold weather on catching cold or flu. They first asked a group of participants if they believe this factor increases the risk of getting a cold. Some 41 percent of them responded “yes” to this question.

Then they prepared two different settings where the flu virus existed. In one of these settings, there were cold temperature conditions while the other had normal weather conditions. Some of the participants had wet hair and some had dry hair when they entered their own settings.

The result turned out to be very interesting. According to the study, in the same conditions (cold temperature), no difference was observed between the participants with wet hair and those with dry hair regarding their chances of getting cold. The only difference between the two groups turned out to be that the participants with wet hair felt colder than the participants with dry hair.

There are more studies that point out the same results. Thus, it has been scientifically proven that wet hair in cold weather does not increase the chances of getting a cold. Well, you’d better tell your mother about this fact because it is very likely she will resist changing this strong belief about catching a cold.

Do wool caps protect us from getting cold?

I am sure there are thousands of people who spent their childhood wearing woolen caps like I did, thus you became like a pea in a pod with your cap on until the weather gets better. The common belief that woolen caps protect us from getting cold stems from the belief that the fastest and biggest heat loss in the human body occurs from the head when the body starts to lose heat in cold weather, a belief that dates back 50 years.

The U.S. Army Forces conducted various experiments to increase their chances of survival in the perishing cold, to which the soldiers were likely to be exposed. A pretty cold environment was prepared for the experiment guided by scientists. Some volunteer soldiers started to wait in a cold room without wool caps and scientists measured the head temperatures of soldiers at certain intervals. Results show that soldiers lost up to 50 percent of their body heat from the head.

One of the most important reasons why this belief is still popular is the trust in the results of the scientific research. But, does the fact that we lose heat from our head quickly and in large amounts mean that it is the only part of our body that loses heat? Of course, not. If that was the case, only wearing a woolen cap would be enough to protect us from risk of freezing.

Grounding his research in this argument, Dr. Daniel Sessler, president of Cleveland Clinic Research Center, conducted similar a similar study – in cooperation with the U.S. army again – including participants who wore swimsuits in the same conditions. This study showed that almost every part of the human body experiences heat loss at the same level when the body is not protected in cold weather.

Thus, even if we can’t say that wearing a wool cap does not make any difference in cold weather, we can easily say that protecting only the head does not protect us from getting cold.

To sum up, always remember it is microorganisms and viruses that make us sick, not the cold weather itself. We must be especially careful about keeping our hands clean as we are frequently in crowded places and in contact with people who have a cold or the flu. Hands are in constant contact with the mouth and nose, which serve as an entrance point for microorganisms. We must make a habit out of washing our hands especially while it is still cold.

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English Articles

Depression: A Hidden Heart Disease Risk Factor For Women

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Depression is almost twice as likely to affect women than men. Difficulty in sleeping, loss of appetite and fatigue are the most common symptoms, but another lesser-known risk is a higher chance of heart attack

If we have not seen for ourselves a person who has had a heart attack before, the first image that comes to our minds in such a situation is similar to those in movie scenes. In most cases, a man holding his chest suddenly collapses, and the diagnosis is a heart attack. There is a strong public belief that a heart attack is seen in men more than women. This partially true data does not necessarily mean that women are at a lower risk.

The human body generally gives signals about what is happening. The important thing is to interpret these messages correctly and in a timely manner. The male and female bodies are two different systems that process things in different ways. This is why the same disease can show up with different signals in the two sexes. A heart attack is one of them.

If you have problems such as fatigue, heartburn, indigestion, sudden dizziness and lack of quality sleep, it may be a sign that you are at risk of a heart attack. Many women can relate these symptoms to busy work life, stress and city life. These are true, yet your lifestyle may assist in developing such symptoms, which can lead to worse health problems.

Do you constantly feel tired?

Fatigue is one of the most common complaints in our lives. Insomnia, the flu or the side effects of medications can easily cause tiredness, but being able to associate your fatigue with these causes does not mean that the actual cause of your complaints is one of them.

The results of a survey on women who have had a heart attack are quite interesting. More than 70 percent of women who had a heart attack reported that they had a feeling of fatigue that did not go away in the pre-heart attack period.

Do you have trouble sleeping?

There can be many different reasons for lack of sleep, and the vast majority requires regular treatment. If you cannot sleep immediately when you get into bed at night or if it takes too much time, you should be careful. A scientific study on women suffering from a heart attack calls attention to women’s sleep disorders. Almost half of the women who had a heart attack reported that they had suffered from lack of sleep that lasted for a while.

Do you suffer from shortness of breath?

If you are having difficulty doing routine activities during the day and the most obvious change that is bothering you is shortness of breath, never ignore this. Studies have shown that unexpected shortness of breath, which cannot be attributed to a known illness, may be a symptom of a heart attack for women. If you suffer from a cough as well as shortness of breath, this can be a signal you need to take seriously.

Do you suffer from heartburn and indigestion?

Eating habits and existing stomach disorders may cause you to develop heartburn. What should be noted here is whether you have a known illness that can explain your stomach problem. If you have not developed heartburn or indigestion complaints before, do not ignore it.

Another scientific study on women who had a heart attack draws attention to the finding that women who suffer from (unexpected) heartburn and indigestion should be careful. According to the study, almost 40 percent of women who had a heart attack reported that they suffered from heartburn or indigestion before the heart attack occurred.

Apart from heartburn, nausea and vomiting that occur without reason are among the heart attack symptoms for women. A study examining pre-heart attack symptoms showed that women had twice as many stomach and intestinal system diseases as men. In this case, women who have complaints such as heartburn, indigestion, nausea and vomiting that develop without cause should pay twice as much attention as men.

Do you have serious anxiety problems?

Depression, angst and anxiety are frequently experienced among many people. Panic attacks, which have seriously increased in prevalence, are one of the psychological disorders that go along with a heart attack. As I mentioned before, if there is no known cause of the situation you are experiencing, you should take it seriously.

A study on women who had heart attacks call attention to the fact that women suffering from anxiety and angst should be careful. According to the survey, most of the women who had a heart attack said that they suffered from unexpected anxiety and angst in the pre-heart attack period.

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English Articles

A Heart-Friendly Grocery List For Your Next Shopping Trip

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While walking along a supermarket’s aisles, the temptation to buy a variety of food items sets in, not aware that your basket is already full. For a healthy diet especially for the heart, you need a smart grocery list

Having a well-thought grocery list does not only save you time but helps you stick to a healthy diet. The items on your grocery list show how much you prioritize your health without being fooled by the marking hype.

The same thing goes when it comes to your heart health. Avoiding unhealthy food is as crucial as consuming foods rich in nutrients, fiber and healthy fats to prevent heart attacks. We have put together a shopping list for a heart-healthy diet.

The following foods that have been proven to be healthy for your heart should be included on your shopping list.

Beet greens

Are you throwing beet greens in the trash? Don’t! Beet greens is the top item on our list to protect yourself against heart diseases. Studies have revealed many advantages of beet greens for health. Fibers found in beet greens are known to decrease cholesterol absorption. Particularly those who have high cholesterol should definitely take advantage of the health benefits of beet greens. The heart-friendly product also helps stabilize your blood pressure thanks to its potassium content.

Canola oil

Marketed as heart-healthy oil, canola oil, which used to be widely available in local markets is currently a rarity. Made from crushed canola seeds, it has less saturated fat than any of the other oil kinds. It is higher in the omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Studies show that sterols found in the canola plant lowers bad cholesterol levels. Canola oil is also very rich in antioxidants and (thanks to antioxidants) it reduces inflammation in the body. You need to consume one table spoon of canola oil to get the expected benefits.

Bitter chocolate

There are enough studies to make any chocolate lover happy. Findings show that bitter chocolate speeds metabolism and aids weight loss, putting a smile on women’s faces in particular. However, in order to accelerate your metabolism, you need to make sure that your choice of bitter chocolate contains no less than 70 percent cacao.In addition to boosting metabolism, bitter chocolate is also good for your heart. Flavanols found in cacao help your vessels to flex and your blood to dilute, thus, reducing your blood pressure. Flexing your blood vessels is an important factor helping you reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. However, do not forget that bitter chocolate must contain at least 70 percent cacao in order to protect your health.

Garlic

A staple of traditional Turkish cuisine, garlic is usually an indispensable item in the preparation of dishes. Researchers say consuming one clove of garlic – or if you are taking it in powder form, 1 teaspoon – will also provide protection against cardiac diseases. Garlic flexes your muscles and prevents plate formation in vessels and high cholesterol.

Apples

The struggle to lose weight has been one of the most popular subjects in the last few years. A number of scientific studies spotlight the fiber content of apples. There is about 5 milligrams of fiber in an apple – enough to meet (+/-) three-quarters of our daily intake need. Those trying to lose weight must definitely include apples in their diet. There are some other studies revealing that eating an apple a day helps you protect against heart diseases. Apple ranks fifth on our list of heart-healthy products. Scientists say that the high fiber flavonoid content of apples reduces the risk of heart attacks and strokes and lowers cholesterol levels! Consuming an apple a day is crucial for your health.

Olive oil

Used frequently in Mediterranean cuisine, olive oil is deemed as one of the miracles of nature. Very rich in antioxidants, olive oil helps lower LDL (bad cholesterol) levels without affecting HDL (good cholesterol). Therefore, it ranks sixth on this list. In order to benefit from olive oil, you need to consume about 2 tablespoons per day. It is advised to consume it raw by adding it to salads. There are a myriad of olive oil varieties available at supermarkets, which perplexes shoppers. It is very normal that you might not be able to decide which one to buy. The packaging and labels are sometimes confusing. My personal advice is to go for the “natural extra virgin olive oil.”

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