Why Extra Virgin Olive Oil is The Healthiest Fat on Earth
You’ll see people arguing about animal fats, seed oils and almost everything in between.
But one of the few fats that most people agree is healthy is extra virgin olive oil.
This oil, part of the Mediterranean diet, is a traditional fat that has been a dietary staple for some of the world’s healthiest populations.
There is actually quite a bit of research behind the health effects of olive oil.
These studies show that the fatty acids and antioxidants in it have some powerful health benefits, such as a reduced risk of heart disease.
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 right type of olive oil is incredibly important.
The best type is extra virgin olive oil. It is extracted using natural methods and standardized for purity and certain sensory qualities like taste and smell.
Olive oil that is truly extra virgin has a distinctive taste and is high in phenolic antioxidants, the main reason 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.
For this reason, the only type I recommend is extra virgin olive oil.
But keep in mind that there is a lot 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.
If you want to read more about the olive oil fraud and what you can do to find real extra virgin olive oil, read this article.
More on Extra Virgin Oil as a source of Good Fats:
Fats are one of three macronutrients essential to human life and make up a large part of our bodies. We wouldn’t be able to absorb vitamins A, D, E or K without fat in our diets. Healthy fats, such as extra virgin olive oil, can even help you fight stress, improve mood swings, decrease mental fatigue and can actually help you manage your weight. While fat in general gets a bad reputation, not all fats are bad, (in fact they are good), you just have to make the right choices! Harvard School of Public Health recommends some healthy fat intake; as a rule of thumb, out with the bad, in with the good.
EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
The FDA says eating 2 tablespoons of olive oil a day may reduce the risk of heart disease, due to its monounsaturated fat content. Extra virgin olive oil also contains polyphenols which act as antioxidants, reducing the oxidative stress throughout your body. A small amount of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are also present in extra virgin olive oil, which are essential for brain health. Vitamin E (also known as tocopherols), which is great for skin health, is also found in extra virgin olive oil. Many health benefits associated with the consumption of extra virgin olive oil have been discovered, more of which are outlined below.
Traditionally boasting low cholesterol, fewer instances of heart disease and very little obesity, the Mediterranean diet has always been defined by the liberal use of extra virgin olive oil. The average Greek consumes 20 litres a year, compared with just 2 litres per person in Australia, so what other secrets does this nectar of the gods contain?
1. It’s good for your sex life
No wonder the greatest lover in history was Italian: extra virgin olive oil may even improve your sex life. Casanova must have had excellent circulation for all those conquests; olive oil boosts circulation to all areas of the body, including those hard to reach erogenous zones.
2. Weight loss secret weapon
Twenty litres of extra virgin olive oil every year and most Mediterraneans still aren’t fat. According to Leandro Ravetti, Chief Oil Maker of the award-winning Cobram Estate Extra Virgin Olive Oils, a diet rich in extra virgin olive oil may deliver greater and longer lasting weight loss results than a low-fat diet.
3. Diabetes deterrent
Eating extra virgin olive oil as part of a balanced diet may help prevent or delay the onset of diabetes. Ravetti says extra virgin helps “regulate and balance our insulin levels, so you’re not really having those spikes.”
4. Pain relief
Extra virgin olive oil contains a substance called oleocanthal, which has anti-inflammatory agents, meaning olive oil is like a natural Ibuprofen. Research increasingly suggests inflammation impacts a number of chronic diseases, so olive oil’s anti-inflammatory properties grow more compelling all the time.
5. Skin saviour
Extra virgin olive oil helps with anti-ageing, osteoporosis and skin damage. “One that’s proven is that it adds a protective coating on the skin, both through consumption and application,” says Ravetti.
6. Mental agility
Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fat, which research suggests helps prevent or slow down the cognitive decline associated with diseases like Alzheimer’s.
7. It strengthens your immune system
Loaded with antioxidants – vital for strengthening and protecting your immune system – extra virgin olive oil may help you become more resistant to infection. This wide range of important antioxidants isn’t found in other oils.
8. It keeps your body running smoothly
It’s not just vehicles that benefit from a regular oil change; extra virgin olive oil contributes to the operational health of such vital areas as the stomach, pancreas and intestines.
9. Pregnancy aid
Not only can olive oil application assist in avoiding stretch marks, consuming extra virgin olive oil while pregnant may improve your child’s psychomotor reflexes and more.
Since extra virgin olive oil assists in the prevention and/or reduced impact of so many diseases – including certain cancers – it’s no exaggeration to say it may even help you live longer. Not bad for something that’s also delicious.
Extra virgin olive oil consumption can help improve bone mineralization and calcification. It helps the body absorb calcium, which is a key player in preventing osteoporosis, aiding in thickening the bones.
12. Brain : Alzheimer
Studies have shown that oleocanthal, a polyphenol found in extra virgin olive oil, has the potential to reduce cognitive decline that comes with aging, including Alzheimer’s disease. Polyphenols, powerful antioxidants found in extra virgin olive oil, also help to combat the oxidative stress associated with aging.
Oleocanthal, a phytonutrient found in extra virgin olive oil, has been shown to reduce inflammation, a leading cause of cancer. Inflammation is commonly caused by a diet rich in sugar, processed and fried foods, alcohol and environmental toxins such as cigarette smoke. Other components such as squalene and lignans are other properties of olive oil shown effective in defense of cancer.
Symptoms of diabetes can be alleviated by a diet rich in soluble fiber from fruits and vegetables, monounsaturated fats, such as extra virgin olive oil, low in saturated fat and moderate in carbohydrates. It helps to regulate blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity. A Mediterranean diet (see details below), which is rich in extra virgin olive oil, has shown to reduce the risk of type II diabetes by almost 50 percent compared to a low fat diet.
According to Spanish researchers from the University of Navarra and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, a diet rich in olive oil can protect from mental illness, including depression. Fat serves as an important building block for cell membranes. As such it acts as padded protection for organs and cells as well as nerve insulation. In fact, fat comprises 60% of the brain.
Extra virgin olive oil is 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.