Nutrition: Top 5 Health Benefits of Olive Oil
Olive oil has multiple benefits in our body. Nutritionist Nicola Shubrook explains the nutritional benefits of olive oil.
Olive oil is the liquid fat obtained from pressing whole olives. The fruit of the tree, native to the Mediterranean, has a unique flavor that depends on the country of origin, some are sweet, others spicy or bitter. The production techniques make it possible to obtain olive oils of different qualities.
Unrefined oils are pure, untreated, meaning no heat or chemicals were used in the extraction process. This generates a purer oil with a more pronounced flavor. Refined oils have been processed to remove defects and are generally lighter in color and milder in flavor.
The extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is an unrefined oil, obtained from the first pressing of the fruit. No heat is used in the extraction process, so it preserves beneficial plant compounds called polyphenols. It is considered the best quality, EVOO, and it is the most expensive. It also has a more pronounced flavor and a darker color.
Olive oil has multiple benefits for our body
May improve heart health
Olive oil is a key part of the Mediterranean diet, and much research has been done to prove its benefits (especially those of EVOO) on heart health. These include its ability to lower blood pressure and improve cholesterol levels, two factors that help reduce the risk of heart disease.
A major review of these studies showed that olive oil was the only source of monounsaturated fat associated with reduced risk of stroke and heart disease
May reduce inflammation
Inflammation is believed to be one of the main factors behind some of the most common chronic diseases, including Alzheimer’s and Type II Diabetes. Research into the role of antioxidants and their anti-inflammatory effect, including oleic acid found in olive oil, found that these play a key role in reducing inflammation and marker inflammation , known as C-reactive protein (CRP).
Olive oil is rich in polyphenols, one of which is called oleocanthal. This compound seems to share the same pharmacological activity as ibuprofen and acts as a natural anti-inflammatory. Interestingly, this helpful property has been associated with positive changes in people with rheumatoid arthritis.
May improve mood
As part of a healthy diet that includes a high intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fatty fish, olive oil has been found to play a role in reducing risk of depression.
May improve brain function
A 2015 study found that in older populations, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with olive oil or nuts was associated with improved cognitive function and may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.
May protect against chronic diseases
Other early research suggested that olive oil and its high polyphenol content may have a protective effect against type 2 diabetes and certain forms of cancer . However, more research is needed before firm conclusions can be drawn.
Olive oil is safe for everyone
Olive oil is a staple food for many of the world’s healthiest populations. It is considered a good option for most people. That said, rare cases of allergies have been reported, although these are usually to olive pollen rather than the oil from the fruit.
Due to its caloric density, olive oil should be used sparingly and substituted for other fats in the diet.