What are the Health Benefits of Olive Oil?

April S. Kenyon

Although many people do not typically think of oil as healthy, some types of oil are better than others and can even produce a number of health benefits. Olive oil is a monounsaturated fat. This type of fat, unlike saturated oils, is capable of decreasing an individual’s risk of developing heart complications. The many health benefits of olive oil also include such factors as the ability to lower cholesterol levels, reduce heart disease risk, lower blood pressure, lessen the effects of diabetes and even inhibit the onset of certain types of cancers.

Olive oil is great for cooking a variety of meals.
Olive oil is great for cooking a variety of meals.

Health experts who recognize the health benefits of olive oil have advised that a daily intake of approximately two spoonfuls can help to reduce the risk of heart disease. One method of achieving this recommended consumption is to substitute olive oil for other non-healthy forms of saturated fats in one's diet. Trans fats and saturated fats, such as butter, partially hydrogenated oils and animal fats, increase the body's levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or "bad" cholesterol. By contrast, these LDL levels are decreased when monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil, are incorporated into the diet.

Olive oil is a good choice for salad dressings.
Olive oil is a good choice for salad dressings.

The primary grades of olive oil are virgin, extra-virgin and pure. Although all three grades are considered to be healthier than saturated fats, virgin and extra virgin are the least processed and are therefore thought to be the most beneficial. These forms of olive oil contain higher levels of antioxidants called polyphenols that promote the health of the heart. Other antioxidants found in olive oil, such as vitamin E, carotenoids and chlorophyll, have also been found to lower blood pressure and decrease the risk of heart disease in individuals who incorporate adequate amounts of olive oil in their diets.

Containers of olive oil.
Containers of olive oil.

Scientists have discovered that the health benefits of olive oil stem primarily from a compound called oleuropein. This compound prevents the oxidization of LDL cholesterol. It is the oxidized cholesterol that most often forms plaque along the walls of the arteries, leading to higher blood pressure and heart complications. By replacing saturated fats with olive oil, one can greatly reduce this oxidization level and subsequent hardening of the arteries.

In addition to the health benefits of olive oil that are associated with the heart, it has also been discovered that the fatty acids found in olive oil are effective in boosting the immune system. The bolstering of an individual’s immune system can help lower the risk of a variety of diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis and even cancer. This is done by allowing the body’s natural defenses to more efficiently fight against attacking bacteria, microorganisms, and viruses.

An olive tree.
An olive tree.

Discussion Comments

fify

Italian and Greek olive oils are my favorite. Different brands can have very different tastes though. It took me some time until I found my perfect brand. I also like olive oils that are exported from several different countries, mixed together and bottled. Because olive oil from certain regions can have a strong and almost bitter flavor, when different ones are mixed, you get a milder tasting olive oil.

I find olive oil to be much lighter than some of the alternatives and I have less stomach upset when I cook with olive oil. I generally use extra virgin olive oil to make salad dressing or to drizzle on sauteed vegetables. When I am cooking, I combine some olive oil and vegetable oil together. You can tell that olive oil is extra virgin from the color, the darker green the color of the oil, the less processed it is. Regular olive oils in stores are basically olive oil and a kind of vegetable oil mixed together. I'm basically doing the same thing when I'm cooking.

burcinc

It's said that people of the Mediterranean live longer than people of any other region in the world. My family is from the Mediterranean and we know so many people here that are ninety years and older. Olives and olive oil is eaten every day in our household. We put it in everything from salads to vegetable dishes. Its eaten basically at every meal and olives are a staple breakfast food and also a snack with bread. We make our own green olives every summer. We collect it and keep it in big jars with salt, olive oil and lemon juice.

We don't only eat olive oil. We use olive oil soap which is very beneficial for the skin, it moisturizes and does not cause any allergies. My mom has very sensitive skin and can only use olive oil soap. I also put olive oil in my hair as a hair treatment. Olive oil has many health benefits, I know I am really lucky to live in a place that is rich in olives and we can consume a lot of it.

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