Olive oil: Understanding the health benefits

Olive oil is a major component of the Mediterranean diet. It’s chock-full of antioxidants. Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) are the main fat found in it, and experts consider them to be a healthy fat.

Olive oil’s antioxidants can help protect the body from cellular damage, which can lead to a variety of health problems and diseases. Extra virgin olive oil has a bitter flavor, but it contains more antioxidants than other types, as it undergoes the least processing.

Learn more about the health benefits of olive oil and some effective methods to use it in this article.

Definition

When cooking, olive oil can be used.

Olive oil is made from the fruit of the olive tree, olives. The Mediterranean region’s traditional crop is olives. Olive oil is made by pressing whole olives.

Olive oil is used in a number of ways, including cooking, cosmetics, medicine, soaps, and as a source of fuel for traditional lamps. Olive oil originated in the Mediterranean, but it is now consumed all over the world.

Olives are preserved in olive oil or salted water in the diet. They eat them whole or chopped, and they use them to make pizzas and other foods.

Olive oil can be used as a bread dip, a drizzling on pasta, in cooking, or as a salad dressing. For medicinal purposes, some people eat it by the spoonful.

Benefits

Olive oil’s health benefits have been researched extensively. Antioxidants in extra virgin olive oil, the highest quality oil available, help prevent cellular damage caused by molecules known as free radicals.

The body creates free radicals during metabolism and other processes. Free radicals may be neutralized by antioxidants.

Oxidative stress may occur when too many free radicals accumulate. This can disrupt cells and can play a role in the development of diseases like cancer.

Cardiovascular system and olive oil

The Mediterranean diet relies heavily on olive oil as a source of fat. When compared to people who follow other diets, people who follow this diet tend to have a longer life span, as well as a lower risk of dying from cardiovascular diseases. Some experts call it “the standard in preventive medicine.”

In a 2018 report, researchers compared the number of cardiovascular events among people who ate a Mediterranean diet, which included olive oil and nuts, to those who ate a low-fat diet.

People who ate a Mediterranean diet, whether it included olive oil or nuts, had a lower risk of heart disease than those who ate a low-fat diet.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Food Safety Authority recommend eating 20 grams (g) or two tablespoons (tbs) of extra virgin olive oil per day to minimize the risk of cardiovascular disease and inflammation, according to the authors of a 2018 study.

Polyphenols in extra virgin olive oil can protect against cardiovascular disease, atherosclerosis, stroke, brain dysfunction, and cancer, according to the findings of a 2017 report. Polyphenols are a type of antioxidant.

Metabolic syndrome

Obesity, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar levels all lead to metabolic syndrome, which is characterized by a group of risk factors that increase disease risk.

Inflammation, blood sugar, triglycerides (fats in the blood), and low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad” cholesterol, were all found to be enhanced by olive oil in a Mediterranean diet, according to the authors of a meta-analysis published in 2019. High-density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good” cholesterol, tends to rise as a result of it.

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Depression risk and olive oil

A rat study published in 2013 indicated that extra virgin olive oil’s ingredients may help protect the nervous system and may be useful in the treatment of depression and anxiety.

Scientists had discovered evidence two years before that people who consumed trans fats, an unhealthy fat found in fast foods and premade baked goods, were more likely to suffer from depression than those who consumed unsaturated fats including olive oil.

Olive oil and the possibility of cancer

Some research has indicated that compounds in olive oil may help reduce the risk of breast cancer, but not all findings back this up.

Olive oil contains compounds that can help prevent colorectal cancer, according to research published in 2019. Antioxidants in olive oil have been shown in lab studies to protect the body from inflammation, oxidative damage, and epigenetic changes.

Alzheimer’s disease

Some scientists proposed in 2016 that eating extra virgin olive oil could help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. This may be due to its ability to protect blood vessels in the brain.

Consuming oleocanthal-rich extra virgin olive oil may help delay or stop the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, according to the authors of a mouse study published in 2019. Extra virgin olive oil contains oleocanthal, a phenolic compound.

Olive oil and the liver

Extra virgin olive oil molecules can help prevent or repair liver damage, according to a review of laboratory studies published in 2018.

The oil’s MUFAs, primarily oleic acid, and phenolic compounds tend to protect the liver from inflammation, oxidative stress, insulin resistance, and other changes that can lead to liver damage.

Olive oil and inflammatory bowel disease

The digestive tract is inflamed in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). IBD includes ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

According to a 2019 study, phenols in olive oil can help improve intestinal immunity and gut health by altering gut microbes. This may be beneficial to people who suffer from colitis or other forms of IBD. More human studies are required, according to the writers, to verify the findings.

Nutrition

1 tbsp (13.5 g) olive oil, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), provides:

  • 119 calories
  • 13.5 g of fat, of which 1.86 g is saturated
  • 1.9 milligrams (mg) of vitamin E
  • 8.13 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin K

It also includes traces of calcium and potassium, as well as polyphenols, tocopherols, phytosterols, squalene, terpenic acids, and other antioxidants including polyphenols, tocopherols, phytosterols, squalene, and terpenic acids.

Dietary tips

When purchasing olive oil, extra virgin olive oil is preferred because it has undergone less processing and is more likely to maintain its antioxidant content. Extra virgin olive oil has a high smoke point of 376 degrees Fahrenheit (191 degrees Celsius), making it suitable for most cooking methods.

Olive oil is classified by the USDA based on its flavor, odor, defect-free status, and acidity.

U.S. Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO): This has an excellent flavor and odor, and a free fatty acid content of 0.8 g or less per 100g (0.8%).

U.S. Virgin Olive Oil: This has a reasonably good flavor and odor, and a free fatty acid content of 2g or less per 100g (less than 2%).

U.S. Virgin Olive Oil Not Fit For Human Consumption Without Further Processing: This is a virgin oil of poor flavor and odor. It is not intended for food use.

U.S. Olive Oil: This is an oil mix of both virgin and refined oils.

U.S. Refined Olive Oil: This is an oil made from refined oils with some restrictions on the processing.

These grades are voluntary. Producers are not required to mark their goods.

Many countries, including the United States, use heat and chemicals to remove impurities from “light” or “extra light” olive oils. When compared to virgin olive oils, the color and taste are lighter. Producers may blend light olive oil with other oils.

Usage tips

Tips for using olive oil include:

  • drizzling it on a salad or adding it to a salad dressing
  • drizzling it on a freshly made bread
  • using it when making bread
  • using it instead of other fats when frying or sautéing

Try the following recipes:

  • Crisp rosemary and olive oil flatbread
  • Spaghetti with olive oil, chili, and garlic
  • Poor man’s potatoes

Frying in olive oil

According to a 2017 study, frying food with olive oil can help sustain and even increase the nutritional value of the food. This is due to the fact that the food absorbs antioxidants from the oil.

Sources

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