12 Shocking Health Benefits Of Olive Oil

It is always an unexpected joy if something so unbelievably delicious proves to be so unbelievably good for you--and if you haven't learned that about olive oil still, you're about to!

Olive oil has been a staple of Mediterranean civilizations for thousands of years, dating back to the Ancient Greeks and Romans, and it remains the most popular cooking oil from the area to this day. In fact, nutrition experts believe the Mediterranean basin is home to some of the longest-living populations precisely because their typical daily diet is so abundant in healthy fats from olive oil, nuts, and fatty fish.

Compared to other cooking oils, olive oil has the unique potential to deliver a one-two cure to chronic and degenerative diseases from the potent polyphenol compounds found in extra virgin olive oil and the high percentage of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) found in all grades. As a result, olive oil consumption has been associated with everything from enhanced cholesterol levels to better mood to stronger bones.

Here are some of the most exciting research-backed health benefits:

It's packed with antioxidants.

Extra virgin olive oil is a particularly abundant source of polyphenols, natural bioactive compounds with antioxidant properties that are found in plant foods like fruits, veggies, and olives. Polyphenols benefit health, in part, because they combat oxidative stress--a type of stress within the body that damages lipids, proteins, and DNA in a way that contributes to heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and dementia.
Two abundant polyphenols present in olive oil are hydroxytyrosol and oleocanthal, which have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, cancer-fighting, neuroprotective, and antimicrobial properties.

It strongly promotes cardiovascular health.

Olive oil is considered heart-healthy for (many) good reasons. In the frequently cited PREDIMED study, individuals who ate a Mediterranean-style diet that included 4+ tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil each day had a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease, and their combined risk for heart attack, stroke, and death from heart disease was around a 30% lower than individuals who ate a low-fat diet.

EVOO has also been linked to cholesterol levels and reduced blood pressure. Oleic acid (the most abundant MUFA in all olive oil grades) and various polyphenols are likely to thank, given their ability to decrease inflammation and oxidative stress, and modify cholesterol levels in the bloodstream.

But you don't have to consume 4tablespoons of olive oil per day to reap the benefits. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says there's credible evidence to support the claim that consuming 1 1/2 tablespoons of oleic acid-rich oils, such as olive oil, may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, given they replace fats/oils higher in saturated fat and do not increase the total amount of calories you eat in a day.

It may reduce risk of certain cancers.

While no food is a magic bullet for cancer prevention, olive oil intake may be one reason cancer rates are normally lower in Mediterranean countries. Findings from a recent 2020 study suggest that extra virgin olive oil causes changes in gut bacteria that are associated with prevention of colorectal cancerand previous research has revealed that women who eat the olive oil have a tendency to have a decrease risk of colon cancer and breast cancer.

A variety of elements of olive oil have demonstrated anti-cancer properties, including oleic acid, hydroxytyrosol, oleocanthal, phytosterols, and squalene.

It encourages healthy memory + brain function.

Oxidative stress is implicated in the progression of neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's disease. But extra virgin olive oil's polyphenols--particularly oleocanthal--function as powerful antioxidants that may help offset this effect.

A 2019 research on animals found that oleocanthal-rich olive oil helped restore healthy blood-brain barrier function and decrease neuro-inflammation in a way that may slow the development of Alzheimer's.

It encourages healthy mental outlook + mood.

Olive oil's brain-nourishing nourishment can help elevate your mood, too. In fact, fascinating studies from 2010, 2017, and 2019 all encourage a growing body of research indicating Mediterranean-style diets can actually help treat depression!

In one of the studies, 30% of participants entered remission for their moderate to severe depression after a 12-week Mediterranean diet intervention that included olive oil. Additional research suggests that olive oil's beneficial fats support the central nervous system, assisting nerves function properly and increasing amounts of the mood-supporting neurotransmitter serotonin.

It combats pain + inflammation.

Olive oil may be a particularly good addition to your diet if you suffer from arthritis or another chronic inflammatory condition. For one, monounsaturated fats have been shown to reduce amounts C-reactive protein, an inflammatory marker that's elevated in conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Extra virgin olive oil also contains the polyphenol oleocanthal, which has demonstrated anti-inflammatory properties similar to ibuprofen. Some experts believe that regular intake of oleocanthal-containing foods may reduce risk for risk for inflammatory diseases.

It may improve bone health + strength.

From the weird-but-true category: A 2018 study revealed increased bone density among women who had the maximum intake of olive oil--outcomes that held true even after accounting for the women's intake of bone-building calcium and vitamin D.

Inflammation in the body can actually turn on osteoclast cells, which break down bone, but researchers speculate that olive oil's anti-inflammatory polyphenols may trigger mechanisms that assist in preventing bone breakdown and stimulate bone formation.

It encourages a healthy intestine microbiome.

Your gut microbiome influences everything from digestion to disposition to the appearance of your skin, so keeping it healthy is in your very best interest! Great news: Olive oil's polyphenols may reduce inflammation of the GI tract and foster the development of good bacteria, according to a 2019 review. Specifically, researchers found that eating about 1.5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil per day helped elevate populations of healthy bifidobacteria in the gut.

It encourages a healthy immune system.

Whether you're attempting to avoid a cold, curb risk of cancer, or manage an autoimmune illness, a healthy immune system is vital. And, turns out, your immune system really likes healthy fats!

A 2015 research found that eating 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil every day was associated with greater expansion and activation of T-cells, immune cells that attack foreign invaders. On the other hand, eating an equal amount of corn oil, butter, or soybean oil did not have these benefits. Greater levels of polyphenols and MUFAs in EVOO would be to thank. Some researchers also think it may have a beneficial impact in helping fight infection from COVID-19

It balances blood sugar and may help prevent diabetes.

Healthy fats are a key dietary component for anyone trying to prevent or manage type 2 diabetes.

At a 2017 study, people who ate the most olive oil had reduced fasting blood sugar and a 16% reduced risk of developing diabetes. All fats help slow the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, which can maintain blood sugar stable, but research suggests the main monounsaturated fat from olive oil, oleic acid, may be particularly protective against insulin resistance. Saturated fats, on the other hand, can promote inflammation and have a harmful effect on beta cells, the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas.

It may help you lose weight.

Because olive oil helps maintain blood sugar levels stable, it can help curb cravings that may otherwise lead to overeating and weight gain--another reason to ditch your fat-free salad dressing in favor of EVOO and vinegar!

A study from 2018 found that obese women who added 1+ tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil for their morning meal lost more body fat and had a larger fall in blood pressure compared to women who added soybean oil to their breakfast. Earlier research has indicated that high olive oil consumption in the context of a Mediterranean diet doesn't cause weight gain.

Of course, olive oil is still a calorie-dense food, so your very best option is to use it to replace less healthy fats in your diet.

It is the healthiest oil you can cook with.

Contrary to popular belief, EVOO actually has a moderate-to-high smoke point of 350⁰F to 410⁰F, however, smoke stage does not correlate to how stable a cooking oil is under heat. Research from 2018 indicates that extra virgin olive oil is the most stable cooking oil, resisting degradation better than oils with a high smoke point.

This means that you can use extra virgin olive oil for sautéing, stir-frying, baking, and even frying. Thanks to its abundance of heat-stable MUFAs and polyphenols, olive oil counteracts the oxidative stress caused by heat and reduces the formation of unhealthy compounds, like free radicals.

But what really puts olive oil apart as a cooking oil? A 2015 study found that cooking vegetables such as tomato, eggplant, and pumpkin in extra virgin olive oil actually promoted the antioxidant content of these vegetables!

The most important thing is that olive oil is incredibly nutritious, and no other cooking oil compares in terms of flavor, versatility, and head-to-toe health benefits. So go ahead, give your meals and recipes a good drizzle (or even glug) of this liquid gold.