I'm Popeye the Sailor Man,

I'm Popeye the Sailor Man.

I'm strong to the finish

Cause I eats me spinach.

I'm Popeye the Sailor Man.

Spinach has been made famous by the rough-around-the-edges Sailor Man. So much so, that we often forget about his counterpart "Olive Oyl." Let's take a moment to shine the spotlight back on olives. After all, behind every strong man, there is a great woman.

First of all, did you know olives are fruit from the olive tree? I guess that makes sense because they have a pit. And if the olives are pressed, olive oil is the fat that can be obtained. But wait! We are always told to cut back on fats and oils. However, olive oil is cut from a different fabric. It is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) which are considered a healthy dietary fat, compared to saturated fats and trans fats.

Here is Dr. Nina's What You Need To Know on the health benefits of olive oil:

Stroke

In addition to being the second leading cause of death in Americans, stroke can be devastating to those who survive it. Consider trading in other oils for olive oil to decrease the risk of this happening to you. One study showed that older people who regularly used olive oil for cooking and as salad dressing experienced a 41 percent lower risk of stroke compared with their counterparts who never consumed it.

Bad cholesterol

Olive oil has an "overwhelmingly beneficial influence on the lipoprotein spectrum." In other words, it has been shown to decrease LDL (low density lipoprotein) or "bad" cholesterol levels and increase HDL (high density lipoprotein) or "good" cholesterol. Too much "bad" cholesterol in your blood results in the build up of plaques inside your arteries and veins. Plaques narrow these blood vessels and decrease blood flow to your heart, brain and kidneys. Because blood carries oxygen which is necessary for the proper function of our organs, blockages can be detrimental. They can lead to heart attacks and strokes.

Dementia

Oleocanthal is a compound found in extra-virgin olive oil. Studies have shown it helps remove the abnormal Alzheimer's disease proteins out of the brain (known as beta-amyloid). Take home note: although oleocanthal is difficult to pronounce and spell, remember olive oil contains a compound that may decrease your risk of dementia.

Blood pressure

Regular consumption of olive oil has been shown to help decrease both the systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Elevated blood pressures increase your risk for stroke, heart attacks, kidney disease and premature death. So drizzle, saute and dip your food with, and into, olive oil.

Diabetes

Diets rich in olive oil, low in saturated fats, moderately rich in carbohydrates and soluble fiber from fruit, vegetables and grains are the most effective approach for diabetics. It helps improve blood sugar control and enhances insulin sensitivity.

Obesity

Although high in calories, olive oil has been shown to help reduce levels of obesity. Studies have shown even the smell or "aroma" of olive oil can create a sense of fullness that results in fewer calories consumed. Talk about a fun appetite suppressant!

Cancer

Olive oil is rich in antioxidants, especially vitamin E, long thought to minimize cancer risk. Among plant oils, olive oil is the highest in monounsaturated fat, which does not oxidize in the body, and is low in polyunsaturated fat, the kind that does oxidize.

The consumption of olives and olive oil dates as far back as 4000 B.C. That's 6,000 years ago. This is another example of age-old wisdom where every generation discovers afresh that there's not much about the human condition the ancients didn't know. In the era of healthcare cost-containment, this is a relatively inexpensive way to help prevent a number of ailments. Imagine being able to avoid opening the medicine cabinet by turning to our kitchen cabinet and Olive Oyl saying "I yam what I yam." And that's tasty and healthy. Mmmm, mmmm, mmmm.

Dr Nina Radcliff, of Galloway Township, is a physician anesthesiologist, television medical contributor and textbook author. Email questions on general medical topics to her at drninaradcliff@aol.com