Since the turn of the century, many young people have started to focus more on healthy eating. While some people turn towards homegrown food, GMO-free produce, and organic products, others focus on their cooking methods, such as using extra virgin olive oil. As a result, many people tend to primarily focus on the benefits of extra virgin oil.
While EVOO is considered to be a healthy cooking oil alternative to traditional vegetable oil, many people don’t understand why.
In this article, we’ll go over the benefits of extra virgin olive oil and how it can have positive effects on your physical and mental health.
Let’s jump right in.
What Exactly is Extra Virgin Olive Oil and How is it Made?
For basics, olive oil is the oil extracted from olives that are extracted from the olive tree. It’s considered to be discovered in Greece, thus why it’s considered part of the Mediterranean diet.
The olives are compressed with high pressure until they release their extract. The olives are crushed, mixed, and then separated from the pulp and solid matter to extract the raw oil.
When the olive pomace oil is refined, it’s done in three levels – refined, virgin, and extra virgin olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil is the least refined and processed among the three.
Therefore, extra virgin olive oil is considered the healthiest type because it’s mostly natural and standardized for purity. It even retains the taste and smell of fresh cut grass, green tomato, and even bananas. EVOO has a distinct taste because it is high in phenolic antioxidants – one of the primary benefits of extra virgin olive oil.
Composition of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
The benefits of extra virgin olive oil can be attributed to its nutritional composition. It contains a decent amount of vitamins K and E, and plenty of beneficial monounsaturated fatty acids.
On average, one tablespoon (13.5 grams) of extra virgin olive oil contains the following ingredients:
- Monounsaturated Fat: 73% (mostly consisting of oleic acid)
- Saturated Fat: 14%
- Vitamin E: 12% of the DV (Daily Value)
- Vitamin K: 7% of the DV
Furthermore, extra virgin olive oil has plenty of powerful antioxidants – they can help fight off various diseases and strengthen the human immune system.
The primary antioxidants in extra virgin olive oil include anti-inflammatory oleocanthal and oleuropein – a substance that protects LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) from oxidation.
Lastly, extra virgin olive oil also has a high omega-6 to omega-3 ratio (over 10:1). However, that isn’t any cause for concern because the overall amount of polyunsaturated fats is still considerably low.
11 Health Benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Understanding the natural composition of extra virgin olive oil helps understand how each individual nutrients benefits the human body. The following health benefits of extra virgin olive oil are true for everyone who consumes it.
1. Large Amount of Antioxidants
The natural extraction method and minimal refinement ensure extra virgin olive oil retains most of its nutrients and antioxidants.
EVOO contains over 30 different types of phenolic compounds – powerful antioxidants that protect your body against free radicals. Free radicals are molecules responsible for aging, diseases, and cell damage.
The large amounts of antioxidants fight against inflammation and protect your blood cholesterol from oxidation, effectively reducing the risk of heart disease.
2. Rich in Healthy Monounsaturated Fats
14% of the extra virgin olive oil is saturated fat, and 11% is polyunsaturated fat, including omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids.
However, the majority of the fatty acid in olive oil is oleic acid – a monounsaturated fat that makes up 73% of the total oil content.
A recent study has found that oleic acid reduces any form of inflammation and can have positive effects on genes linked to cancer cells (especially breast cancer).
Since monounsaturated fats are resistant to high heat, it makes extra virgin olive oil a good choice for cooking (extra virgin olive oil has a smoke point of 376F). Furthermore, monounsaturated fats also prove to be beneficial against cardiovascular disease, helping control high blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar levels.
3. Anti-Inflammatory Properties
Chronic inflammation is among the primary drivers of diseases, such as cancer, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Extra virgin olive oil is proven to help reduce chronic inflammation, thus having extensive health benefits.
This anti-inflammatory effect is primarily there because of antioxidants; more specifically, it’s because of oleocanthal – it works similarly to other anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen.
Even having 50 ml of extra virgin olive oil can have the same effect as that of 10% of the adult dosage of ibuprofen.
The oleic acid, the main fatty acid in extra virgin olive oil, can also reduce levels of inflammation in C-reactive protein (CRP). Some studies even show that in the long run, your body can eventually build up a natural defense against inflammation if you continue using extra virgin olive oil in decent quantities.
4. Help Reduce the Risk of Strokes
A stroke is induced because of a disturbance of blood flow to your brain; the disturbance can be caused by bleeding or a blood clot. As a result, strokes are the second most common cause of death in most developed countries, after heart attacks.
Many studies have found that using olive oil may reduce the chances of a stroke by up to 40%. The primary reason is that people who use extra virgin olive oil are essentially increasing the use of heart-healthy fats in their monounsaturated diet.
The combination of healthy fats, reduced oxidative stress, and a healthy diet always leads to better cardiovascular health and a reduced risk for strokes.
5. Protection Against Heart Disease
Being the most common cause of death in the world, people often overlook heart disease by not taking care of heart health.
However, plenty of studies have shown that heart disease is relatively less common in Mediterranean countries, where there’s high consumption of olive oil. While it doesn’t necessarily mean that olive oil plays the only part, it does play a role in reducing heart disease.
Extra virgin olive oil has active compounds that have cardio-protective properties, such as preventing atherosclerosis and lowering blood pressure, among other things.
Studies have found that people who consume high-quality extra virgin olive oil and have a low-fat diet tend to be at a lower risk of heart disease.
Furthermore, extra virgin olive oil protects LDL cholesterol from oxidation, lowers inflammation, and improves blood vessel linings, helping prevent excessive blood clotting. Most importantly, it helps manage high blood pressure.
6. Reduced Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
Extra virgin olive oil also tends to have positive effects on blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity. As a result, it helps ward off type 2 diabetes.
One of the phenolic compounds in EVOO helps in glucose metabolism, improving the effectiveness of insulin.
If you couple the use of EVOO with a Mediterranean diet or a low-fat diet, you can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by up to 50%.
7. Improve Bone Health
Extra virgin olive oil is rich in polyphenols, and it can prevent bone loss with aging. Olive oil helps with bone reabsorption (the breakdown of calcium) and increase bone formation.
As a result, people who consume extra virgin olive oil have a lower risk of bone fractures, especially for older people.
8. Assists in Weight Loss
Some people believe that consuming olive oil can eventually lead to weight gain; however, it’s quite the opposite.
Several studies have shown that diets that include the use of olive oil tend to have favorable results on body weight. Most diets that have extra virgin olive oil eventually lead to weight loss.
The weight loss effects are felt whether you use extra virgin olive oil as cooking oil or just use it for garnishing (for example, on salad dressings).
9. Protection Against Specific Cancers
Cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the world, and your diet can play a huge role in determining if you’re vulnerable to it.
However, Mediterranean countries tend to have lower cancer patients, especially in areas where olive oil is used in large quantities. People in these areas had a lower risk of breast cancer and cancers of the digestive system.
Reduced oxidative damage due to free radicals with the help of antioxidants like oleocanthal plays a role in reducing risk factors of cancer.
While there are many studies to do before the benefits of extra virgin olive oil against cancer are fully confirmed, you should still consider it.
10. Antibacterial Properties
Extra virgin olive oil has nutrients that can effectively inhibit or even kill harmful bacteria in your body.
For example, stomach ulcer and cancer-inducing bacterium, Helicobacter Pylori, can be inhibited with the continuous use of extra virgin olive oil.
Some of the bacteria that extra virgin olive oil can protect you against are even resistant to antibiotics.
Even 40 grams of extra virgin olive oil per day can completely eliminate harmful bacteria in your body.
11. Reduced Risk of Alzheimer’s and Arthritis
Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative condition that is caused by the buildup of beta-amyloid plaques in your brain cells.
Extra virgin olive oil has the capability to reduce or even remove the plaques. Furthermore, a Mediterranean diet rich in extra virgin olive oil tends to improve brain function.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that leads to deformed and painful joints, and it typically happens when your immune system starts attacking seemingly normal cells.
Extra virgin olive oil tends to reduce oxidative stress and improve inflammatory markers in arthritis patients. If you combine EVOO with fish oil, you can increase the anti-inflammatory effects.
Getting the Right Type of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
If you’re choosing olive oil over other cooking oils, such as coconut oil or traditional vegetable oil, make sure you get the right kind.
If you want most out of your olive oil, you should opt for all-natural extra virgin olive oil. You’ll not only get the most benefits but also better taste and aroma.
The benefits of extra virgin olive oil make it a great option for your daily diet. Combine it with a Mediterranean diet, and you’ll be on one of the healthiest diets you can opt for.