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Known for its rich flavor, versatility, and health benefits, extra virgin olive oil is an excellent ingredient to keep in your kitchen cupboard. Not only is it easy to use for roasting, frying, baking, or sautéing, but it’s also jam-packed with antioxidants and heart-healthy fats.

In addition, it’s been studied extensively for its many health benefits, with some research suggesting that olive oil could protect against heart disease, combat cancer, and alleviate inflammation.

Is Extra Virgin olive oil good for you?

Olive oil is a type of oil that has been extracted from olives, the fruits of the olive tree, pressed to extract their oil. However, modern methods involve crushing the olives, mixing them, and then separating the oil from the pulp in a centrifuge.

There are several grades of olive oil, which vary in terms of their nutritional content and the amount of processing that they undergo.

  • refined olive oil
  • virgin olive oil
  • extra virgin olive oil

Extra virgin olive oil is the least processed variety and is often considered to be the healthiest type of olive oil. It’s extracted using natural methods and standardized for purity and certain sensory qualities, such as taste and smell. In addition to its unique flavor and aroma, extra virgin olive oil is rich in disease-fighting antioxidants and has been associated with a wide range of potential health benefits.

The oil’s main antioxidants include the anti-inflammatory oleocanthal, as well as oleuropein, a substance that protects LDL (bad) cholesterol from oxidation. Chronic inflammation is believed to be among the leading drivers of many diseases, including heart disease, cancer, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and arthritis. Also, oleic acid, the most prominent fatty acid in olive oil, has been shown to reduce inflammatory markers like C-reactive protein (CRP)

What makes it so healthy?

In addition to its impressive antioxidant content, extra virgin olive oil is loaded with monounsaturated fatty acids, a type of healthy fat that has been linked to several benefits. In particular, research suggests that monounsaturated fatty acids could benefit heart health and may even help protect against heart disease.

olive oil good for you

Extra virgin olive oil also contains a good amount of vitamins E and K in each serving. Vitamin E is an essential nutrient that doubles as an antioxidant, while vitamin K plays a key role in bone health, blood clotting, heart health, and more.

Still, making extra virgin olive oil a regular part of your diet could help protect against damage in the long run, leading to a reduced risk of various inflammatory diseases, including heart disease.

Interesting also that death from these diseases is low in certain areas of the world, especially in Mediterranean countries, where olive oil is a major part of people’s diets.

This observation spurred interest in the Mediterranean diet, which is supposed to mimic the way the people in that region eat. Therefore, extra virgin olive oil protects against heart disease via numerous mechanisms:

  • Reduces inflammation
  • Lowers oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol
  • Improves blood vessel health
  • Helps manage blood clotting
  • Lowers blood pressure

Many studies continue to confirm the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet, which cuts the risk of heart disease and stroke. The diet’s nutritional benefits probably come from various sources, but the generous use of olive oil appears to be a key contributor.

Olive oil and cancer

Studies have shown that people living in Mediterranean countries have a fairly low risk of cancer. In this sense, one potential contributor to cancer is oxidative damage due to harmful molecules called free radicals. However, extra virgin olive oil is high in antioxidants that reduce oxidative damage.

Olive oil and cancerOleic acid, in particular, is also highly resistant to oxidation and has been shown to slow the growth and spread of cancer cells in some test-tube studies.

Therefore, regular consumption of olive oil might also be associated with a lower risk of developing breast cancer or cancer of the digestive system.

However, still, more recent, high-quality research is needed to understand the effects of olive oil on cancer when enjoyed as part of a healthy, well-rounded diet.

Olive oil and Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease is the world’s most common neurodegenerative disease and a leading cause of dementia. One feature of Alzheimer’s disease is a buildup of proteins known as beta-amyloid plaques in certain neurons in the brain.

Animal studies have found that extra virgin olive oil and some of the compounds it contains could help preserve brain function by preventing the buildup of these proteins. Additionally, some studies show that following the Mediterranean diet, which is typically rich in olive oil, may also be associated with a reduced the risk of dementia and cognitive impairment.

Olive oil may improve mood

As part of a healthy diet that includes a high intake of fruit, vegetables, wholegrains and oily fish, olive oil has been found to play a role in reducing the risk of depression.

Cooking with olive oil

Olive oil contains mostly monounsaturated fatty acids, which have only one double bond, therefore, olive oil is fairly resistant to moderate heat. A 2017 review noted that olive oil is comparable or better than other vegetable oils for frying foods at temperatures ranging from 356–374°F (180–190°C). Overall, olive oil seems to be very safe, even for cooking at moderate temperatures.

Also, several studies have found that diets enriched with olive oil may be beneficial for weight management and could even help reduce body fat. Still, although olive oil may help promote weight control, it’s important to keep in mind that oil is high in calories.

Nutritional profile of olive oil

One 1 level tbsp (11ml) serving provides:

  • 99 kcals / 407 kJ
  • 11g fat
  • 6g saturates
  • 0g monounsaturates
  • 9g polyunsaturates
  • 56mg vitamin E

 

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And if you liked Is olive oil good for you? please read How to lose weight with olive oil?.

Source: Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Benefits, Vs. Other Oil, and More (healthline.com)

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