The health benefits of olive oil are unrivalled, and research reveals more benefits nearly every day. Olive oil is the cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet — an essential nutritional mainstay for the world’s longest-living cultures.
Olive oil is made from the fruit of the olive tree, which is naturally high in healthy fatty acids. There are several types of olive oil on the market today, including extra virgin olive oil, virgin olive oil and regular olive oil — but research shows that extra virgin olive oil benefits are more abundant than the other varieties.
So let’s take a look at 16 health benefits of extra virgin olive oil:
1. Works as an anti-inflammatory
Oleocanthal is a specific phenolic compound found in extra virgin olive oil, and is said to be responsible for the burning or tingling sensation that is experienced when tasting a high quality extra virgin olive oil. The phenols present in olive oil have anti-inflammatory properties, and as such can have similar effects to pain-killers and fever reducers. It can also help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and kill cancer cells; the oleocanthal clears beta-amyloid plaques from the brain.
2. Boosts hair and skin health
Extra virgin olive oil is rich in Vitamin E. Each tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil has about 1.9 mg of Vitamin E, a fat-soluble anti-oxidant that can protect the body against eye and skin problems and in fact make hair and skin much healthier. It has also been shown to protect the body from diabetes, neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s, and lung cancer.
3. Protects against diabetes
It has been demonstrated that a diet that is rich in olive oil, low in saturated fats, moderately rich in carbohydrates and soluble fibre from fruit, vegetables, pulses and grains is the most effective approach for diabetics. It helps lower “bad” low-density lipoproteins while improving blood sugar control and enhances insulin sensitivity.
4. Protects against insulin resistance
Extra virgin olive oil contains vitamin K, which is another fat-soluble vitamin that has its greatest effect on the blood. It is necessary for healthy coagulation and the levels of calcium in the blood. One tablespoon of olive oil a day will fill 10% of the daily recommended intake of Vitamin K, and can help protect against insulin resistance and several types of cancer.
5. Reduces heart problems & diabetes
Natural olive oil contains 70% monounsaturated fatty acid. As a result, it lowers cholesterol accumulation in the blood and reduces heart problems. Olive oil also reduces the risk of diabetes and atherosclerosis.
6. Reduces high blood pressure
Recent studies indicate that regular consumption of olive oil can help decrease both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
7. Improves blood cholesterol levels
Olive oil lowers the levels of total blood cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol and triglycerides. LDL cholesterol is the bad type of cholesterol, which increases the risk of heart attacks and pulmonary heart disease. Extra virgin olive oil, which is rich in almost 40 antioxidant chemicals, helps reduce the oxidation effects of LDL cholesterol.
8. Assists in weight loss
Although high in calories, olive oil has shown to help reduce levels of obesity. Medical experts suggest that it is very difficult to gain weight from the mono-unsaturated fats present in olive oil. Experiments involving Mediterranean olive oil have shown positive results in regards to a reduction in human body weight.
9. Boosts your metabolism
Olive oil boosts the metabolism, the growth of good bone structure, and brain development in children. It is an excellent source of vitamin E, which is very beneficial for older people.
10. Improves digestion
Olive oil is known to aid in the digestive process. It is used as a medicinal oil to clean the digestive tract and to improve bowel movements.
11. Helps in the aging process
Rich in antioxidants, olive oil slows the natural aging process of the human body. Used in cosmetic products and natural herbal therapy, it does wonders for the skin, which gets a natural shine and glow from the enriching oil.
12. Protects against Osteoporosis
A high consumption of olive oil appears to improve bone mineralisation and calcification. It helps calcium absorption and so plays an important role in aiding sufferers and in preventing the onset of Osteoporosis.
13. Prevents gallstones
Recent studies have shown that moderate consumption of olive oil (about 2 tablespoons a day) may actually lower your chances of developing gallstones. An ingredient in olive oil evidently helps reduce cholesterol levels in the blood and gallbladder. Large quantities of olive oil and lemon juice, as well as Epsom salts, are common ingredients in the gallbladder flushes supposedly intended to remove gallstones.
14. Strengthens healthy cell walls
Olive oil contains polyphenol which helps in stronger cell walls. It also increases the elasticity of arterial walls, protecting against various heart conditions.
15. Protects against hypertension
Recent research study suggests that Mediterranean diet comprising of food rich in unsaturated fats (found in olive oil and nuts) and nitrite and nitrate (found in leafy green vegetables) may help protect you from hypertension.
16. Fights mood disorders and depression
Healthy fats, including olive oil, have hormone-balancing, anti-inflammatory effects that can prevent neurotransmitter dysfunction. Low-fat diets are often linked to higher rates of depression and anxiety. Mood or cognitive disorders can occur when the brain doesn’t get a enough “happy hormones” like serotonin or dopamine, important chemical messengers that are necessary for mood regulation, getting good sleep and thought-processing.
We are only just beginning to understand the countless ways olive oil can improve our health, and our lives.