Extra virgin olive oil (meaning it has not yet been processed( simply pressed) is packed with health benefits. It is rich in antioxidants, vitamin K and vitamin E. It has monounsaturated fats (i.e. the good kind) like oleic acid and palmitoleic acid, as well as omega-6 and omega-3s, two important polyunsaturated fats that are essential for human health, but that our bodies don't create.
It is not just what's in olive oil that makes it great for us, but what's not. Olive oil is free of the two carbs and cholesterol.
So, what exactly are those compounds and how do they help our bodies?
THE HEALING PROPERTIES OF OLIVE OIL
The magic of olive oil appears to stem from its anti-inflammatory properties. Although inflammation is a natural and necessary bodily response to a threat against your immune system, too much inflammation can be a bad thing.
Chronic inflammation leads to heart disease, Alzheimer's, arthritis and other diseases. Olives contain polyphenols that can help reduce chronic inflammation by preventing organ tissue damage.
Extra virgin olive oil helps with the following health issues:
The main type of fat in olive oil, monounsaturated fatty acids, enhance risk factors related to heart disease such as high blood pressure, and therefore may help lower your risk of developing heart disease.
Monounsaturated fats have been found to lower total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels and cholesterol levels. And while it lowers bad cholesterol, it does not diminish decent cholesterol (HDL). Extra virgin olive oil has a higher percentage of these health superstars than any other oil.
1 study in patients with high blood pressure found that olive oil reduced blood pressure significantly and reduced the need for blood pressure meds by 48 percent. Olive oil also contains phytochemicals that lean blood, decrease inflammation of blood vessels, prevent oxidation of fats from the bloodstream, protect blood vessel walls, and dilate the blood vessels which enhances circulation.
The Food and Drug Administration recommends two tablespoons each day to reduce the risk of heart disease.
People who have olive oil are also at a lower risk for strokes -- the second most common cause of death in the developed nation. Strokes are caused by insufficient blood flow to the brain. Vitamin K, found in olive oil, plays an important role in helping blood clot.
Various studies have revealed that the prevalence of cancer is much lower in Spain, Italy, and Greece than in northern Europe or even the United States. Studies suggest that Mediterranean consumption of olive oil is the reason for their healthier lives.
Both olives and olive oil contain substantial amounts of compounds known as"anticancer agents" like squalene, terpenoids, and oleic acid, or oleocanthal. When researchers at Rutgers University added oleocanthal to cancer cells in the lab, it destroyed the cancer cells less than an hour without harming the healthy cells.
A study published Annals of Oncology in 2005 revealed that oleic acid -- the principal monounsaturated fat in olive oil -- greatly decreased the rise of aggressive breast tumors in test tubes.
Oleic acid is also exceptionally resistant to oxidation. Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of cells within the body, which can be caused by oxidative damage due to free radicals. Extra virgin olive oil is high in antioxidants called polyphenolic compounds which are responsible for maintaining the enzymes that fight free radicals within the body. Vitamin E, which olive oil also contains, also helps restrict free-radical production.
A diet high in monounsaturated fatty acids is also good for those who are at risk for type 2 diabetes, as research shows that they benefit insulin levels and blood sugar control.
In 2016, scientists from Temple University published amazing findings regarding olive oil's ability to prevent cognitive decline and preserve memories.
Affecting nearly 44 million people globally, Alzheimer's is the most common neurodegenerative disease and a leading cause of dementia. It causes a buildup of amyloid-beta plaque in certain brain cells. In their experiment, the scientists from Temple revealed that Alzheimer's affected mice with an olive oil rich diet had lower levels of amyloid plaque and performed better on cognitive tests.
Research also joins olive oil and weight loss. There's a large misconception that all fat is bad and leads to weight gain. In reality, unsaturated fats are beneficial to our health and monounsaturated fat, found in extra virgin olive oil, can assist the body's breakdown of stored fat. We ought to steer clear, nevertheless, of trans fat and eat just limited amounts of saturated fats.
Several studies indicate that a Mediterranean diet helps people shed weight and keep it off. Others have shown that people eat less when they consume monounsaturated fat. Therefore, dressing your BBQ sides in extra virgin olive oil is a small step you can take if you want to keep off the pounds!
BEWARE WHICH OLIVE OIL YOU BUY
There you have it. Olive oil is basically liquid gold in terms of how powerful a health punch it packs.
Yet, not all olive oil is created equally. A lot of the olive oil on the market is lower quality, extracted using chemicals, or diluted with other cheaper oils. To reap the health benefits, you want to buy extra virgin olive oil grown responsibly and without chemicals.
Olive oils labeled "virgin" or "extra virgin" have been pressed or extracted from olives by mechanical or physical means. Not using chemicals or heat ensures that the olive oil remains unaltered and that it retains its nutritional value.
You should always opt for extra virgin olive oil for dressing salads, pasta, or anytime you are not heating it up. Extra virgin olive oil is the freshest and highest grade, which means it has the shortest shelf life. Bottles labeled with just"virgin olive oil" are lower in quality, more acidic, and may have flavor defects.
Even then -- regulations aren't rigorously enforced. Too many companies place"extra virgin" on their labels dishonestly, without interfering with the standards. Unfortunately, companies routinely put profits over quality products and their customers and often lie about the source of their olive oil. Because of that, it's important to purchase from a company that you know and trust.