As olive oil is one of the most popular products in today’s world, peoples are curious about the health benefits of olive oil extra virgin. Why extra virgin?
In short, depending on the manufacturing process, olive oil has got several types. Among them, extra virgin olive oil is the most nutritious. Because, in this case oil is extracted from olives fruits in such a way that all naturally occurring nutritional ingredients remain intact.
However, it’s always a matter of joy if something delicious turns out to be healthy too-and if you are unaware of those health benefits, you’re about to!
Olive oil is obtained from the fruit of the olive tree which is rich in healthy fatty acids. It is used in cooking, medicine, cosmetics, soaps and as a fuel in lamps. The health benefits of olive oil are revealed by researchers nearly every other day. Olive oil has been a staple of the Mediterranean diet.
As we know, olive oil comes in three grades in the market based upon its processing before they’re bottled:
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Virgin olive oil
- Regular olive oil
Among these, Extra virgin olive oil is the highest quality olive oil available, extracted from the fruit without any chemical processing therefore it is more nutritious as it is high in healthy plant nutrients.
On the other hand, regular olive oil is processed either by chemical or heat treatment. So, its quality deteriorates mostly and hence, it is less nutritious.
Compared to other oils, olive oil has the unique potential to treat chronic and degenerative diseases.
In this article, I’ll present helpful information about the health benefits of extra virgin olive oil one by one. Let’s get started!
Health benefits of olive oil extra virgin
1. Anti-inflammatory properties:
Olive oil is rich in nutrients that prevent inflammation such as Oleic acid and Oleocanthal. Oleocanthal is an anti-oxidant that works like ibuprofen to relieve pain and reduce fever. Oleic acid, the main fatty acid present in olive oil, reduces the levels of inflammatory markers such as CRP (C-reactive protein). The antioxidants in olive oil may also inhibit the genes and proteins that drive the inflammatory process.
Inflammation is the body leads to chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes mellitus, Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, metabolic syndrome and even cancer. Olive oil, rich in polyphenols, natural bioactive compounds with anti-oxidant properties such as Olecanthal and hydroxytyrosol combat oxidative stress-a stress that damages the DNA, lipids and proteins thus causing diabetes, heart diseases, dementia and cancer. These polyphenols have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial properties and kill cancerous cells and also help prevent Alzheimer’s disease by clearing beta-amyloid plaques from the brain.
2. Anti-oxidant properties:
Unstable atoms called free radicals are produced during metabolism or other processes. If too many free radicals build up they can cause oxidative stress contributing towards ageing, diseases and even cause cancer. Anti-oxidants are compounds that destroy these free radicals thus helping prevent damage to our cells. Olive oil is packed with more than 30 types of phenolic compounds that are powerful anti-oxidants that are biologically active, strengthen our immune system and reduce the risk of diseases
Olive oil is also rich in Vitamin E, an anti-oxidant. Vitamin E is essential for the proper functioning of the immune system which defends the body against offensive organisms. It also prevents blood clotting. Vitamin E also protects the eye and skin, thus making skin and hair healthier.
3. Boosts Skin Health:
Olive oil, rich in Vitamin E, an anti-oxidant improves your skin health by destroying free radicals and treating inflammation, acne and skin dryness. Olive oil rejuvenates your skin by giving it a natural shine and glow from the enriched oil.
4. Slows down the Ageing process:
Olive oil, being rich in antioxidants, slows down the natural ageing process of your body. It is used in several cosmetic products and herbal therapy. It improves your skin elasticity by increasing collagen production. Olive oil also prevents skin sagging and wrinkle formation to give your skin a youthful appearance.
5. Boosts Nail Health:
Vitamin E in olive oil is excellent for promoting your nail health. Just dab cotton dipped in olive oil on your nails religiously and then see the wonders!
6. Promotes Hair Growth:
Olive oil, being rich in Vitamin E makes your hair strong thus preventing hair fall. Olive oil moisturizes your scalp and reduces irritation and dandruff. It also smoothens and strengths the hair. Massaging the scalp regularly with olive oil also fixes the problem of split ends.
7. Antibacterial Properties:
Olive oil is rich in nutrients that can kill or inhibit bacterial growth. One of these bacteria is Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium that lives in your stomach and can cause stomach ulcers which may even lead to stomach cancer. Studies have shown that olive oil fights against 8 strains of this bacterium, 3 strains of which are even resistant to antibiotics. Another study showed that consumption of extra virgin olive oil helped get rid of H.pylori within a period of 2 weeks.
8. Protection against Diabetes:
Healthy fat is key component for preventing or managing type 2 diabetes. Olive oil is highly protective against diabetes. It balances your blood sugar levels by slow absorption of glucose into the bloodstream which helps keep blood sugar levels stable and may help in lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes.
The main monounsaturated fat in olive oil, oleic acid is protective against insulin resistance and helps improve insulin sensitivity. Olive oil also contains Vitamin K which is necessary for healthy blood coagulation in the body and to maintain blood calcium levels.
Evidence shows that an olive oil-rich diet with a moderate amount of carbohydrates and fruits, vegetables, pulses and grains is most effective in maintaining blood glucose levels in patients with type 2 diabetes.
9. Reduction in Cardiovascular problems and Stroke:
Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death worldwide. Studies have shown that the Mediterranean diet with olive oil as the key ingredient, reduces the risk of heart diseases and increases life expectancy. Olive oil is considered heart-healthy as it contains 70% monounsaturated fatty acids that help in lowering bad cholesterol and polyphenols (anti-oxidants) which protect against atherosclerosis, stroke, cancer and brain dysfunction by reducing inflammation, oxidative stress and modifying cholesterol levels in the bloodstream. Polyphenols in olive oil also promote arterial wall elasticity and prevent the hardening of blood vasculature.
Olive oil lowers bad cholesterol: LDL and because of its anti-inflammatory effects, prevents oxidation of bad cholesterol, protecting the arterial lining from cholesterol build-up and narrowing called atherosclerosis which can cause a Heart attack. These fat plaques may dislodge from arterial lining and disrupt the blood flow to vital organs such as the brain causing stroke. Thus olive oil is rich in MUFAS and anti-oxidants to protect against heart diseases and stroke.
10. Reduction of High Blood Pressure:
Regular use of olive oil decreases blood pressure both systolic as well as diastolic as it is evident by researches on the Mediterranean diet with olive oil as the key component.
11. Reduction of High Cholesterol Levels:
Olive oil is packed with several health benefits. About 70% is composed of monounsaturated fatty acids and 14% of unsaturated fats while 11% is poly-unsaturated such as omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. It is rich in omega-3 fatty acid which improves HDL levels. Olive oil reduces serum triglyceride levels, LDL levels and total blood cholesterol levels.
LDL is low-density lipoprotein also known as bad cholesterol because it increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. On the other hand, it promotes HDL, high-density lipoprotein which is also called good cholesterol due to its scavenging action on plaques and toxins from the bloodstream.
12. Metabolic Syndrome:
Metabolic syndrome is defined as a condition characterized by a group of risk factors that increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. These conditions include high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar levels, excess fat deposition around the waist and abnormal serum cholesterol or triglyceride levels.
Research has shown that olive oil in the Mediterranean diet improves the features of metabolic syndrome such as increased blood sugar levels, triglycerides, high LDL, low HDL and inflammation.
13. Anti-Cancerous properties:
Cancer is one of the most common causes of death in the world. It is known that what and how we eat, can influence cancer. People in the Mediterranean region have a lower risk of cancers of the digestive tract and breast. Researchers believe that it might be due to the consumption of olive oil.
Cells and tissues are damaged as a result of oxidative stress by free radicals which leads to cancer. Laboratory tests have found that antioxidants in olive oil help protect the body against inflammation, oxidative stress and epigenetic changes. Various components of olive oil have anti-cancerous properties such as oleic acid, hydroxy-tyrosol, oleocanthal, phytosterols, and squalene.
Olive oil triggers changes in the bacteria of the gut that are associated with the prevention of colorectal cancer. Researches showed that women who consume olive oil tend to have a lower risk of colon and breast cancer.
14. Aids in Weight loss:
Olive oil isn’t associated with weight gain and obesity as it is rich in mono-saturated fatty acids which actually help you reduce weight. Because olive oil maintains the blood sugar levels by slow absorption of glucose into the bloodstream, it curbs your cravings that lead to overeating and weight gain. Olive oil also lowers bad cholesterol and increase the blood anti-oxidant levels.
Earlier researches showed that high olive oil consumption in the context of a Mediterranean diet doesn’t cause weight gain. Olive oil is still rich in calories so better is to replace unhealthy fats with healthy fats (mono-saturated fatty acids-MUFAs as in olive oil) in the diet.
15. Aids in Digestion:
Olive oil boosts the metabolic process and helps in the process of digestion. It can work wonders for your gastrointestinal tract and colon. Olive oil stimulates the digestive tract to allow smooth passage of food through the colon, thus used as a medicinal oil in order to clean the digestive tract and to improve bowel movements in constipation.
Olive oil supports healthy gut flora. Gut flora has an impact on everything from digestion to mood to skin appearance, so it should be kept healthy. Polyphenols in olive oil reduce Gastrointestinal tract inflammation and promote the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut.
16. Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD):
Inflammatory bowel disease is the inflammation of the digestive tract. IBD has two types: Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
Studies have shown that olive oil is enriched with phenolic compounds may help boost intestinal immunity and gut health by changing the gut flora which may help prove beneficial in patients of IBD and colon inflammation.
17. Protection against Liver damage and Gallstones:
Mono-unsaturated fatty acids, MUFAs mainly oleic acid and phenolic compounds present in olive oil help prevent inflammation, oxidative stress, insulin resistance and other changes that cause liver damage.
Recent studies have shown that moderate consumption of olive oil may actually lower the chances of developing gallstones because olive oil reduces serum cholesterol levels.
18. Protection against Osteoporosis:
Olive oil strengthens bones and boosts bone health. High consumption of olive oil improves bone mineralization and calcification. Olive oil helps calcium absorption and prevents osteoporosis. Inflammation is the body turns on osteoclasts, which are bone destroying cells. Olive oil, due to its anti-inflammatory effect because of the presence of polyphenols, triggers mechanism that help prevent bone resorption (breakdown of calcium), stimulate bone formation and may prevent bone loss with ageing. Researches suggest that consumption of extra virgin olive oil reduces the risk of bone fractures.
19. Helps Treat Rheumatoid Arthritis:
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune type of disease that is characterized by pain in joints and bony deformity. The exact mechanism is not known but it is believed that our normal cells are attacked by our body defence system.
Supplements of olive oil can improve inflammation levels such as CRP and help in the reduction of oxidative stress among people affected with rheumatoid arthritis. If you combine fish oil with olive oil, you will get better results. Because fish oil is also rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. Researches have shown improvement in handgrip strength, joint pain and morning sickness with the use of combined supplements in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.
20. Fights against Mood disorders and Depression:
Mood or cognitive disorders occur when the brain does not get enough happy hormones such as serotonin or dopamine, these are important neuro-messengers vital for mood regulation, good sleep and thought processing. Healthy fat such as olive oil is anti-inflammatory, maintains a hormonal balance that prevents neurotransmitter dysfunction. Olive oil’s brain nourishing nutrients can help elevate your mood. A good amount of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are good for brain and memory power. A study showed that the Mediterranean diet is associated with less depression and less cognitive decline (loss of brain function and memory).
21. Alzheimer’s disease:
Oxidative stress causes the progression of neurodegenerative disorders such as, Alzheimer’s disease. In Alzheimer’s disease, there’s a build-up of beta-amyloid plaques inside brain cells. Olive oil is rich in polyphenols such as oleocanthal (potent anti-oxidant) kills free radicals and helps prevent neurodegeneration. A study on the animal model showed that oleocanthal rich olive oil restores healthy blood-brain barrier function and reduces neuro-inflammation which slows down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
The Health benefits of olive oil extra virgin are continuously presenting new scientific information day by day. No doubt to confess that olive oil is full of nutrients and the mainstay of the Mediterranean diet. It has anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and anti-cancerous properties which prevent inflammation, chronic diseases and even certain types of cancers. Regular consumption of olive oil contributes to health and longevity.