Healthy Fats: Learn About Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Fats in the diet are highly disputable. You'll see people arguing about animal fats, seed oils and almost everything in between. But one of the distinct and few fat’s which a handful of people agree is actually good and healthy for you is extra virgin olive oil.

This oil, part of the Mediterranean diet, is a traditional fat that has been a dietary principle for some of the world's healthiest populations.

There is actually quite a bit of research behind the health effects of olive oil. Overall, these studies show that the fatty acids and antioxidants in it have a few powerful health benefits, such as a reduced risk of heart disease.

What is Olive Oil And How Is It Made?

Olive oil is oil that is pressed from olives, the fruits of the olive tree.

The process is incredibly simple... you just press the olives and the oil comes out.

But there is still one major problem with olive oil... it isn't always what you think it is. Some lower quality versions can be extracted using chemicals, or even diluted with other cheaper oils.

Therefore, buying the correct type of olive oil is incredibly important.

Usually, the best type of olive oil is extra virgin olive oil. Extra Virgin Olive Oil is extracted using natural methods and standardized for purity and certain sensory qualities like taste and smell.

Olive Oil which is truly extra virgin has a unique taste and is high in phenolic antioxidants, the main reason why (real) olive oil is so great for you.

You also have have the regular, refined or "light" olive oils, which have often been extracted with solvents, treated with heat or even diluted with cheaper oils such as soybean and canola oils.

For this reason, the only type we typically recommend is extra virgin olive oil.

Nonetheless, do keep in mind that there is a tremendous amount of fraud going on in the olive oil market and it is essential to buy from a reputable seller. Even oil that is labelled as "extra virgin" may have been adulterated with cheaper oils.

Nutrient Composition Of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Extra Virgin Olive Oil is extremely nutritious and great for you. Extra Virgin Olive Oil 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.

But 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.

In addition, a few of the main antioxidants are the anti-inflammatory oleocanthal, as well as oleuropein, a substance that protects LDL cholesterol from oxidation.

An assortment of individuals have criticized olive oil for having a high Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio (over 10:1), but do keep in mind that the total amount of polyunsaturated fats is still relatively low, so this shouldn't be a cause for concern.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil Contains Anti-Inflammatory Substances

It is said and often believed that chronic inflammation is among the leading drivers of many diseases.

This includes:

  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Diabetes
  • Alzheimer's
  • And arthritis

It has been speculated that one of the 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, primarily 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. There is also a study displays as a result that substances in olive oil can reduce expression of genes and proteins that mediate inflammation.

Keep in mind that chronic, low-level inflammation is usually fairly mild and it takes years or decades for it to do damage. 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.