Extra Virgin Olive Oil is said to be the best choice to provide your body with a healthy fat. Whether it is true or not, we will find the answer in this article.
What is olive oil and how is it made?
Olive oil is extracted from olives, the fruit of olive trees. Among all kinds of olive oil, Extra Virgin Olive Oil has the highest quality and is the most expensive one. It has the taste of fresh olives and is as pure as it was just harvested from the trees.
This oil must be processed through mechanical means without any kind of solvent. The production is sterile and is controlled at a temperature that does not degrade the quality of the oil (below 86°F, 30 °C).
Nutrient composition in Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Extra Virgin Olive Oil is rich in nutrients. It contains a considerable amount of vitamin E, K, and beneficial fatty acid. One tablespoon (13,5g) of olive oil has:
- Saturated Fat: 14%
- Monounsaturated fat: 73% (mainly oleic acid)
- Vitamin E: 13% of the daily value
- Vitamin K: 7% of the daily value
Extra Virgin Olive Oil has a great antioxidant effect. Antioxidants are biologically active, and some of them can help fight serious diseases. The main antioxidants in the oil include oleocanthal, oleuropein, a substance that protects LDL (bad) cholesterol from oxidation.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil contains anti-inflammatory substances
Chronic inflammation is considered one of the leading causes of many diseases, including heart diseases, cancer, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and arthritis. Some studies show that olive oil has anti-inflammatory effects. Oleic acid, a fatty acid in olive oil has been found to reduce inflammatory markers like C-reactive protein. However, the oil’s main inflammatory effects are due to antioxidants, primarily oleocanthal, which has been shown to work like ibuprofen, a popular anti-inflammatory drug.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil and cardiovascular diseases
Cardiovascular diseases, such as heart diseases and stroke, are some of the most common causes of death in the world. Many observational pieces of research show a low number of deaths from these diseases in some areas, especially countries in the region of the Mediterranean Sea.
This observation leads to an increasing interest in the Mediterranean diet. Studies on the Mediterranean diet show that it can help prevent heart disease. In a major study, it reduced heart attacks, strokes, and death by 30%. Extra Virgin Olive Oil protects against heart diseases through many mechanisms:
Reducing inflammation: Olive oil prevents inflammation, a major cause of heart disease.
Reduces oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol: The oil protects LDL particles from oxidative damage, a key factor in the development of heart disease.
Improves blood vessel health: Olive oil improves the function of the endothelium, which is the lining of the blood vessels
Helps manage blood clotting: Some studies suggest that olive oil can help prevent unwanted blood clotting, a key feature of heart attacks and strokes.
Lowers blood pressure: One study in patients with elevated blood pressure found that olive oil reduced blood pressure significantly and lowered the need for blood pressure medication by 48%.
Other health benefits of olive oil
Although olive oil is studied mostly for its effect on heart health, it also has other health benefits.
Olive oil and cancer
Cancer is a common cause of death and is characterized by the uncontrolled growth of cells. Studies found that people living in Mediterranean countries have a low risk of cancer, and some predict that olive oil is associated with this.
One potential driver of cancer is oxidative damage due to harmful molecules called free radicals. However, extra virgin olive oil is high in antioxidants that reduce oxidative damage. The oleic acid in olive oil is also highly resistant to oxidation and has been shown to have beneficial effects on genes linked to cancer. Many studies have observed that compounds in olive oil can help fight cancer at the molecular level.
Olive oil and Alzheimer’s disease
Alzheimer’s disease is the world’s most common neurodegenerative disease and a leading cause of dementia. One feature of Alzheimer’s is a buildup of protein tangles called beta-amyloid plaques in certain neurons in the brain.
A study in mice observed that a substance in olive oil can help clear these plaques. Additionally, a controlled study in humans showed that a Mediterranean diet enriched with olive oil improved brain function and reduced the risk of cognitive impairment.