For thousands of years, olive oil has been an essential part of the Mediterranean diet. Olive trees are found mostly in the Mediterranean region. But with growing awareness of olive oil’s health benefits, its popularity is soaring around the world. It is produced by pressing whole olives.
Olive oil is a rich source of different polyphenols like simple phenols, terpenes, flavones, hydroxycinnamic acids, anthocyanins, flavonols, flavonoid glycosides, lignans and hydroxybenzoic acids. These polyphenols work as both antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients in the body.
Moreover, this plant oil is unique in terms of its fat composition. It is mostly made of oleic acid, a monounsaturated, omega-9 fat. It also contains omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids as well as vitamins E and K. Plus, olive oil is naturally free of cholesterol and gluten.
As many lower quality olive oils are available in the market, you need to be very careful when buying it. The best type is extra-virgin olive oil, which is cold-pressed and has the best taste and smell. .
Health and beauty uses of olive oil are numerous, and you can use it both internally and externally.
Here are the top 10 health benefits of extra-virgin olive oil.
1. Lowers Cholesterol Levels
Extra-virgin olive oil can help lower your LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, which can cause narrowing of the arteries. The oil contains oleocanthal as well as oleuropein that protect LDL molecules from oxidative damage which increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.
At the same time, olive oil increases HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol in the body, which plays a protective role and helps prevent unwanted blood clotting, a key reason behind heart attacks and strokes.
To enjoy the cholesterol-lowering effects of olive oil, use this oil for cooking instead of saturated fat.
2. Reduces High Blood Pressure
According to a 2000 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, people on high blood pressure medications may be able to reduce the amount of medicine they take by substituting extra-virgin olive oil for other types of fats in their diet.
Researchers believe that the oleic acid in olive oil is easily absorbed in the body, and thereby lowers blood pressure.
This oil also slows down the aging of the heart due to the presence of healthy monounsaturated fats.
To regulate high blood pressure and enjoy a young and healthy heart, use extra-virgin olive oil for cooking and for making healthy salad dressings or dips.
3. Fights Diabetes
Extra-virgin olive oil is beneficial in the treatment of diabetes and can even help prevent or delay the onset of the disease. It improves blood sugar control and enhances insulin sensitivity. Plus, the monounsaturated fats in olive oil help keep triglyceride levels in check.
A 2011 study published in the scientific journal Diabetes Care demonstrated that the Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil can reduce one’s risk of Type 2 diabetes by almost 50 percent as compared to a diet low in fats.
To manage your blood sugar level and reduce your risk of Type 2 diabetes, include about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in your daily diet.
4. Fights Inflammation
Olive oil works as a powerful anti-inflammatory agent that can help deal with chronic inflammation that causes many diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and arthritis.
According to a 2005 study by Monell Chemical Senses Center, olive oil contains a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agent that inhibits activity of cyclooxygenase (COX) enzymes. These enzymes cause inflammation in the body.
Eating 1 to 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil on a daily basis may help prevent inflammation and reduce the risk of various inflammatory diseases.
5. Protects Your Bones
According to a 2012 study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, people who follow a Mediterranean diet rich in olives and olive oil have a higher level of osteocalcin in their blood. High osteocalcin means better bone density and overall bone health.
Moreover, regular intake of olive oil has been associated with better blood levels of calcium, needed for bone mineralization and the process of calcification. Thus, olive oil is beneficial for people suffering from osteoporosis, who are susceptible to fractures due to reduced bone mass. It can even reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
You can use this oil in your regular cooking or as a massage oil to make your bones healthy and strong.
6. Prevents Cancer
Olive oil can even help lower the risk of certain types of cancer. The polyphenols in olive oil act both as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. This in turn protects cells from oxidative stress and chronic unwanted inflammation and reduces the risk of certain cancers.
Moreover, the antioxidants in olive oil also protect DNA (deoxyribonucleic acids) from oxidative damage. This means better cell functioning in various ways and a decreased risk of cancer development.
A 2008 study published in BMC Cancer revealed new anti-cancer components of extra-virgin olive oil that can trigger cancer cell death and reduce breast cancer risk. Olive oil can also reduce the risk of prostate, respiratory tract, upper digestive tract and colorectal cancers.
Eat just 1 to 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil per day to lower your risk of different types of cancer.
7. Improves Brain Functioning
Olive oil has favorable effects on brain functioning and reduces the risk of cognitive impairment. A 2013 study in France on older adults concluded that visual memory and verbal fluency improved immensely with intensive use of extra-virgin olive oil in cooking and as an ingredient in sauces and dressings.
Another 2013 study, published in The American Chemical Society, found that a phenolic component called oleocanthal in extra-virgin olive oil helps reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. The high monounsaturated fat content in olive oil can even slow down cognitive decline associated with diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s.
In addition, a diet rich in healthy fat reduces the risk of depression.
8. Aids Weight Loss
Olive oil taken in moderation also helps in weight loss. Though it is high in fat, it mostly contains healthy, monounsaturated fats that aid in weight loss and also help reduce belly fat.
In fact, a 2013 study from the German Research Center for Food Chemistry found that even smelling extra-virgin olive oil caused greater feelings of fullness, thus reducing hunger pangs for a longer time. It also reduces sugar cravings.
To combat obesity and promote weight loss, consume 1 to 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil every day.
9. Rejuvenates Skin
Olive oil works as the perfect moisturizer for dry skin. Being rich in vitamins A and E as well as several other minerals and fatty acids, it ensures soft and smooth. It also helps stimulate the process of skin healing.
Moreover, olive oil prevents skin aging, including the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines, and protects the skin from free radical damage. You can even get rid of ugly stretch marks with olive oil.
- Regular body massage with warm olive oil before taking a bath will improve blood circulation and help keep your skin young.
- You can even use olive oil instead of a lip balm to prevent chapped lips during the winter.
- Also, use olive oil as a natural makeup remover.
10. Improves Hair Health
When it comes to hair care products, you simply cannot ignore olive oil. Packed with fatty acids, several antioxidants and vitamin E, olive oil works as a great moisturizer for your hair. It can help treat dry and damaged hair by sealing the cuticles or the outer layers with moisture.
Olive oil is the right solution for hair problems like split ends and frizzy hair. It can even strengthen and add shine to your hair.
To nourish dry tresses, give yourself a hot olive oil head massage.
- Apply warm olive oil thoroughly on your scalp and hair shafts.
- Using your fingertips, massage the scalp for 5 minutes.
- Cover your hair with a warm towel and leave it on for 30 minutes or overnight.
- Shampoo and condition your hair as usual.
- Do this once a week.
- To derive the various health benefits of olive oil, make sure you use extra-virgin olive oil. Needless to say, consume it in moderation.
- Store the oil in an air-tight container, away from heat and light and use it within two months. Research suggests that the nutritional quality of olive oil may be compromised after a period of two months.
- Do not store your olive oil near the stove as the heat may damage it.
- As it has a high smoke point, you can use this oil for high temperature frying as well. After frying, you can filter the oil and use it two or three more times. Use this oil for frying only.