Mediterranean populations have some of the lowest rates of cardiovascular disease and the longest life spans of any in the world. Additionally, Italians, Greeks, and other individuals from these areas thrive on a diet that contains up to 40 percent fat.
However, most of this fat is monounsaturated Olive Oil, and the health boons of this polyphenol-rich oil continue to stack up. Let’s take a closer look at 3 better known benefits of Olive Oil.
Olive Oil May Weave Off Alzheimer’s Disease
Epidemiological studies have long displayed that individuals who follow a Mediterranean diet that includes Olive Oil and other healthy foods have a lower risk of developing dementia.
Additionally, a recent study discovered that when laboratory mice which generally developed Alzheimer’s disease ate routine chow enriched with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, they performed better on tests of memory and learning.
Moreover, their brains were drastically less likely to develop beta-amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles, which are telltale signs of Alzheimer’s disease.
Olive Oil Can Aid In Lowering Blood Pressure
In a study conducted in Italy, a diet rich in extra-virgin olive oillowered blood pressure dramatically in patients with mild to moderate hypertension - and in some cases reduced the need for medication.
The study also included individuals with moderately high blood pressure (less than 165/104 mm Hg) on antihypertensive medication. Participants were assigned to a diet containing either Extra Virgin Olive Oil or sunflower oil. Six months later, they were crossed over to the other diet for another six months.
The Olive Oildiet assisted in reducing blood pressure to a much larger extent than the sunflower oil diet, allowing patients to cut their drug requirements by an average of 48 percent.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil is also a concentrated source of polyphenols, potent antioxidants that protect LDL cholesterol from free radical damage and help keep the inner lining of the arteries healthy and free from plaque buildup, which also has positive effects on blood pressure.
Olive Oil Helps Reduce The Risk Of Stroke
Researchers conducted a study to determine if consuming high amounts of olive oil (as both a cooking oil and a salad dressing) was somehow related to a lower incidence of strokes. After following participants who had no history of stroke for five years, the researchers later discovered that those who used the most Olive Oilhad a 41 percent lower risk of stroke than those who never consumed it.
In a second evaluation, those with the highest blood levels of oleic acid (a type of fatty acid in olive oil) had a 73 percent risk reduction compared to those with the lowest levels.
This makes perfect sense. As noted above, Olive Oil increases levels of nitric oxide, which helps keep blood pressure in check, and high blood pressure is one of the most significant risk factors for stroke. Furthermore, olive polyphenols are potent antioxidants that prevent LDL cholesterol oxidation and stave off atherosclerosis, another stroke risk factor.
Finally, research recommends that Olive Oil also helps prevent platelets in the blood from sticking together, thus reducing the formation of blood clots that could lead to a stroke.
How to Take Advantage Of The Essential Benefits Of Olive Oil
To ensure you’re getting all these health benefits, use only extra-virgin olive oil. To keep it fresh, store it in a cool, dark cupboard or in the refrigerator (bring to room temperature before using as it will thicken and possibly solidify).
Use olive oil as your primary oil for cooking, marinades, and salad dressings. It’s fine to heat it. Monounsaturated fats are relatively stable—just keep the heat low to medium when sautéing.
Generally, a good rule of thumb for salad dressings and marinades is three parts Extra Virgin Olive Oil to one to two parts citrus juice or vinegar of your choice, plus fresh or dried herbs and seasonings.
For example, three tablespoons olive oil, two tablespoon red wine vinegar, 1 clove minced garlic, a dash of dried red peppers, salt, and pepper makes a light and delicious vinaigrette.
Do Olive Oil Benefits Have To Be Brand Specific?
Our Olive Oil experts highly suggest that you make sure what you are purchasing is the real deal. A food fraud study published in the Journal of Food Science found that olive oil was the most adulterated food item available.
For example, mislabeled countries of origin, misstated ingredients on labels, addition of less expensive seed, nut, and vegetable oils, questionable purity — these issues have been around for years.
Real Extra Virgin Olive Oil is simply the oil from mechanically pressed olive seeds — no heat or chemical processes can be used. To help ensure freshness, look on the bottle for a harvested date. In a perfect world, your olive oil should be less than a year old.
If stored in great conditions, olive oil can keep for up to two years.) A brand with the International Olive Oil Council (IOOC) or the California Olive Oil Council (COOC) stamp of approval is probably legitimate.
If you can, visit a store that specializes in olive oils where you can do an onsite taste test.
Finally, only buy olive oil in dark bottles, which helps preserve freshness and prevent oxidation and rancidity.