A Healthy Fat - Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Extra Virgin Olive Oil is part of the Mediterranean diet, and is a traditional fat that has been a dietary core of the Med Diet and some of the world's healthiest populations.
There is a bit of research behind the health effects of olive oil. These studies show that the fatty acids and antioxidants in it have some essential health benefits, like reduced risk of heart disease.
What Is Olive Oil and How Is It Created?
Olive Oil is oil that is pressed from olives, the fruits of the olive tree. The process is quite seamless. One simply presses the olives and the oil comes out. But there is still one drastic problem with Olive Oil, it isn’t always the same. Some lower quality “olive oils” can be extracted using chemicals, or even diluted with other cheaper oils.
As a result, purchasing the ideal type of olive oil is incredibly critical. Generally, the best type is Extra Virgin Olive Oil. It is typically extracted using natural methods and standardized for purity and certain sensory qualities such as taste and smell.
In addition, Olive Oilthat is truly extra virgin has a distinctive taste and is high in phenolic antioxidants, the main component why (real) olive oil is so beneficial. Then we have regular, refined or "light" olive oils, which have often been extracted with solvents, treated with heat or even diluted with cheaper oils like soybean and canola oils.
Real "extra virgin" olive oil is 100% natural and very high in antioxidants. A handful of the lower quality Olive Oils have been processed and adulterated with cheaper oils.
Nutrient Composition of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Not only does it taste good, but Extra Virgin Olive oil is also fairly nutritious. It contains modest amounts of Vitamins E and K and plenty of beneficial fatty acids.
This is the nutrient content of 100 grams of olive oil:
- Saturated fat: 13.8%.
- Monounsaturated fat: 73% (most of it the 18 carbon long oleic acid).
- Omega-6: 9.7%.
- Omega-3: 0.76%.
- Vitamin E: 72% of the RDA.
- Vitamin K: 75% of the RDA.
Nonetheless, where extra virgin olive oil really stands out is in its content of antioxidants. These substances are biologically active and some of them can help fight serious diseases.
A few of the main antioxidants are the anti-inflammatory oleocanthal, and oleuropein, a substance that helps protect LDL cholesterol from oxidation.
Olive Oil is very high in monounsaturated fats and contains a good amount of vitamins E and K. True Extra Virgin Olive Oil is packed with antioxidants, some of which have powerful health benefits.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil Contains Anti-Inflammatory Substances
It is believed that chronic inflammation is among the leading causes of a handful of diseases. This includes heart disease, cancer, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, Alzheimer's and arthritis.
It has been thought in the past that one of the main mechanisms behind olive oil's benefits, is its ability to fight inflammation. There is some evidence that oleic acid itself, the most prominent fatty acid in olive oil, can reduce inflammatory markers like C-Reactive Protein.
But the main anti-inflammatory effects seem to be mediated by the antioxidants in olive oil, mainly oleocanthal, which has been shown to work similar to ibuprofen.
Researchers estimate that the amount of oleocanthal in 50 ml (about 3.4 tablespoons) of Extra Virgin Olive Oil has an effect similar to 10% of the adult ibuprofen dosage for pain relief.
Overall, eating plenty of extra virgin olive oil may help prevent this from happening, leading to a reduced risk of various inflammatory diseases... especially heart disease.
- Alexis Barros