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Benefits of olive oil
Olive oil dates back to around 2,500 BCE, an essential fat used by cooks everywhere today. However, it was until about the fourth or fifth centuries BCE used for cooking purposes.
Modern olive oil comes in grades, Extra Virgin (EVOO), the most expensive of them, Virgin and Refined olive oil. Given these quality grades, there are different price points as well, and therefore vulnerable to fraud, specially with EVOO.
Extra virgin olive oil is the most expensive of olive oils. However, once you consider the process of producing one liter of EVOO, its high price starts to make sense.
Olive oil health benefits
Known for its rich flavor, versatility, and health benefits, EVOO is an excellent ingredient to keep in your kitchen cupboard. Not only is easy to use for roasting, frying, baking, or sautéing, but it also contains antioxidants and heart-healthy fats.
Plus, its many health benefits have been proved in numerous studies. Actually, some researchs suggest that it could protect against heart disease, combat cancer, and alleviate inflammation.
The potential benefits and uses of extra virgin olive oil stack up against other common cooking oils.
Olive Oil is rich in healthy monounsaturated fats
Olive oil is the natural oil extracted from olives, the fruit of the olive tree. About 14% of the oil is saturated fat, whereas 11% is polyunsaturated, such as omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. But the predominant fatty acid in is a monounsaturated fat called oleic acid, making up 73% of the total oil content.
Studies suggest that oleic acid reduces inflammation and may even have beneficial effects on genes linked to cancer. Also, monounsaturated fats are also quite resistant to high heat, making extra virgin olive oil a healthy choice for cooking.
Olive oil contains large amounts of antioxidants
EVOO oil is fairly nutritious, and apart from its beneficial fatty acids, it contains vitamins E and K. But olive oil is also loaded with powerful antioxidants.
These antioxidants are biologically active and may reduce your risk of chronic diseases. They also help protect your blood cholesterol from oxidation, two benefits that may lower your risk of heart disease.
Olive oil has strong anti-inflammatory properties
Chronic inflammation is thought to be a leading driver of diseases, such as cancer, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, arthritis and even obesity.
Extra-virgin olive oil can reduce inflammation, which may be one of the main reasons for its health benefits. The main anti-inflammatory effects are mediated by the antioxidants.
Key among them is oleocanthal, which has been shown to work similarly to ibuprofen, an anti-inflammatory drug. In fact, some scientists estimate that 50ml of EVOO has a similar effect as 10% of the adult dosage of ibuprofen.
Olive oil may help prevent strokes
Stroke is caused by a disturbance of blood flow to your brain, either due to a blood clot or bleeding. In developed nations, stroke is the second most common cause of death, right behind heart disease.
The relationship between olive oil and stroke risk has been studied extensively. A large review found that olive oil was the only monounsaturated fat associated with a reduced risk of heart disease.
Olive oil is protective against heart disease
Heart disease is the most common cause of death in the world. Observational studies conducted a few decades ago showed that heart disease is less common in Mediterranean countries.
This led to extensive research on the Mediterranean diet, which has now been shown to significantly reduce heart disease risk. Extra virgin olive oil is one of the key ingredients in this diet, protecting against heart disease in several ways. It also lowers inflammation, protects LDL cholesterol from oxidation, improves the lining of blood vessels and may prevent excessive blood clotting.
Interestingly, it might lower blood pressure, which is one of the strongest risk factors for heart disease and premature death. In one study, olive oil reduced the need for blood pressure medication by 48%.
If you have a family history of heart disease, you may want to include plenty of EVOO in your diet
Health benefits of olive oil
Olive oil is not associated with weight gain and obesity
Eating excessive amounts of fat causes weight gain. However, numerous studies have linked the Mediterranean diet, rich in olive oil, with favorable effects on body weight. In a 30-month study in over 7,000 students, consuming olive oil was not linked to increased weight.
Olive oil may fight Alzheimer’s disease
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common neurodegenerative condition in the world. Actually, one of its key features is a buildup of so-called beta-amyloid plaques inside your brain cells.
One study in mice showed that a substance in olive oil can help remove these plaques. Additionally, a human study indicated that a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil benefitted brain function.
Keep in mind however that more research is needed on the impact of olive oil on Alzheimer’s.
Olive oil may reduce Type 2 Diabetes risk
Olive oil appears to be highly protective against type 2 diabetes. Several studies have linked olive oil to beneficial effects on blood sugar and insulin sensitivity.
A randomized clinical trial in 418 healthy people recently confirmed the protective effects of olive oil. In this study, a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil reduced the risk of type 2 diabetes by over 40%.
The antioxidants in olive oil have anti-cancer properties
Cancer is one of the most common causes of death in the world. Mediterranean countries have a lower risk of some cancers, and many researchers believe that olive oil may be the reason.
Antioxidants in olive oil can reduce oxidative damage due to free radicals, which is believed to be lead to cancer. In particular, many test-tube studies demonstrate that compounds in olive oil can fight cancer cells.
But again, more research is needed to determine whether olive oil in fact reduces your risk of cancer.
Extra virgin olive oil benefits
Olive oil can help treat rheumatoid arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease characterized by deformed and painful joints. Though the exact cause is not well understood, it involves your immune system attacking normal cells by mistake.
Olive oil supplements appear to improve inflammatory markers and reduce oxidative stress in individuals with rheumatoid arthritis. It seems particularly beneficial when combined with fish oil, a source of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids.
In another study, olive oil significantly improved handgrip strength, joint pain and morning stiffness in people with rheumatoid arthritis.
Olive oil has antibacterial properties
Olive oil contains many nutrients that can inhibit or kill harmful bacteria. One of these is Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium that lives in your stomach, can cause stomach ulcers and stomach cancer.
Test-tube studies have shown that EVOO fights eight strains of this bacterium, three of which are resistant to antibiotics. Besides, a study in humans suggested that 30 grams of extra virgin olive oil, taken daily, can eliminate Helicobacter pylori infection in 10–40% of people in as little as two weeks.
Make sure to get the right type
Buying the right kind of olive oil is extremely important. Actually, extra virgin olive oil retains some of the antioxidants and bioactive compounds from olives. For this reason, it’s considered healthier than the more refined variety of olive oil.
Even so, there is a lot of fraud on the olive oil market. In particular, many oils that read “extra virgin” on the label have been diluted with other refined oils. Therefore, examine labels carefully to ensure you’re getting real extra virgin olive oil. And it’s always a good idea to read ingredients lists and check for quality certification.
At the end of the day, quality extra virgin olive oil is incredibly healthy. Due to its powerful antioxidants, it benefits your heart, brain, joints and more.
It may be the healthiest fat on the planet
Factors in the price of olive oil
EVOO endures very specific processes and standards the oil has to meet to its production. For instance, EVOO must have no more than 0.8% acidity and must be crafted ONLY by pressing the olives.
Another characteristic of more expensive olive oils is “cold-pressing,” at temperatures no greater than 86 degrees Fahrenheit. EVOO, specifically, should never come in contact with heat or chemicals during its milling. Actually, less expensive olive oils will have higher levels of acidity, as well as more refined processes, “bad” for the oil.
Finally, most olives are grown in the Mediterranean and the biggest olive oil producers hail from this region as well. Therefore, U.S. consumers are paying the price of an import. Remember, olives are hand-picked, and it takes aroung 8,000 olives (26 lbs) to produce just 1kg of oil!