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.
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.
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.
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.
Depression risk and olive oil
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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- Covas, M. I. (2007). Olive oil and the cardiovascular system [Abstract].
- Estruch, R., et al. (2018). Primary prevention of cardiovascular disease with a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts.
- Guallar-Castillión, P., et al. (2012). Food fried in olive or sunflower oil is not linked to heart disease.
- Larussa, T., et al. (2019). Olive tree biphenols in inflammatory bowel disease: When bitter is better.
- Martinez-Gonzalez, M. A. et al. (2018). Mediterranean diet and life expectancy; beyond olive oil, fruits and vegetables.
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- Phaniendra, A., et al. (2015). Free radicals: Properties, sources, targets, and their implication in various diseases.
- Román, G. C., et al. (2019). Extra-virgin olive oil for potential prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Sánchez-Villegas, A., et al. (2011). Dietary fat intake and the risk of depression: The SUN project.
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- What are the health benefits of olive oil? https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/266258
- Soto-Alarcón, S., et al. (2018). Liver protective effects of extra virgin olive oil: Interaction between its chemical composition and the cell-signaling pathways involved in protection.
- Sweilem, B., et al. (2019). Oleocanthal-rich extra-virgin olive oil restores the blood–brain barrier function through NLRP3 inflammasome inhibition simultaneously with autophagy induction in TgSwDI mice.
- Tressera-Rimbau, A., et al. (2017). Dietary polyphenols in the prevention of stroke.
- Tsartsou, E., et al. (2019). Network meta-analysis of metabolic effects of olive oil in humans shows the importance of olive oil consumption with moderate phenolic levels as part of the Mediterranean diet.
- United States standards for grades of olive oil and olive-pomace oil. (2010).