There are few things more satisfying than discovering that one of your favorite ingredients is also incredibly good for you – and if you didn’t know already, this is the case with olive oil.

Compared to most other cooking oils, olive oil has the potential to help a wide range of health conditions due to its powerful polyphenol compounds and high percentage of monounsaturated fatty acids.

Therefore, the consumption of olive oil has been linked with everything from improved mood to a reduced risk of heart disease.

With this in mind, our guide will take a closer look at 12 of the most important health benefits of olive oil. We’ll also look to answer a few of the frequently asked questions related to the topic.

Lots Of Healthy Fats

Since olive oil is made up mainly of fat, it’s important to note that the vast majority of the fats are extremely good for you. The predominant fatty acid present in olive oil is oleic acid, with the monounsaturated fat making up around 73% of the total oil content.

Oleic acid has proven to reduce inflammation and can also have many beneficial effects when it comes to limiting the risk of cancer. In terms of the other fats present in olive oil, 14% of the oil is saturated fat, while 11% is polyunsaturated, including omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6.

Supports Immune System

A healthy immune system is vital for avoiding small illnesses such as colds, limiting the risk of cancer, and managing autoimmune conditions. One of the best things you can do for supporting your immune system is to consume a large amount of healthy fats – so there are few foods better than olive oil.

Strong Anti-Inflammatory Properties

Olive oil is a great addition to a diet for people who suffer from chronic inflammatory conditions such as heart disease, cancer, arthritis, type 2 diabetes, and Alzheimer’s.

The strongest anti-inflammatory effects are mediated by antioxidants, with the polyphenol oleocanthal demonstrating many of the same anti-inflammatory qualities as ibuprofen.

Promotes Cardiovascular Health

Heart disease is one of the most common causes of death in the world, and many studies have found that heart disease is significantly less common in Mediterranean countries than anywhere else in the world.

The healthy diet that most Mediterranean communities follow can have a significant impact on these low rates of heart disease, with extra virgin olive oil an essential component.

Not only does olive oil lower inflammation, it also improves the lining of your blood vessels and prevents the oxidation of harmful LDL cholesterol.

Reduced Risk Of Cancer

While no food in the world can provide the magic treatment for cancer prevention, the high consumption of olive oil in Mediterranean countries could be one reason why cancer rates are so low for Mediterranean people.

Several components of olive oil such as oleic acid, oleocanthal, squalene, and hydroxytyrosol have all demonstrated impressive anti-cancer properties, while previous research has proven that women who consume large amounts of olive oil have a lower risk of breast cancer and colon cancer.

Useful Antibacterial Properties

Olive oil is packed full of nutrients that can kill harmful bacteria in the body. One of these is Helicobacter pylori, a bacteria that’s located in the stomach and can cause a range of health issues such as stomach cancer and stomach ulcers. Test-tube studies have shown that extra virgin olive oil can fight eight different strains of the Helicobacter pylori bacterium.

Balances Blood Sugar And Prevents Diabetes

Healthy fats are an essential part of any diet plan that’s trying to manage or prevent type 2 diabetes. This was shown by a recent study that found people who consumed the most olive oil had a 16% lower chance of developing diabetes.

While all fats have the potential to slow down the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream, oleic acid – the primary monounsaturated fat in olive oil – is particularly effective when it comes to protecting against insulin resistance.

Supports Brain Health And Memory

Following a diet that’s high in cold pressed olive oil can support brain function and a healthy memory. This is because the polyphenols present in olive oil can act as powerful antioxidants that counter the effects of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

Improves Mood And Mental Outlook

The brain-nourishing qualities of olive oil can also help to improve your mental outlook and elevate your mood. This is supported by research that suggests Mediterranean-style diets can help to treat depression.

What’s more, the good fats present in olive oil can support the central nervous system, which in turn increases levels of serotonin, the mood-supporting transmitter.

Easy Addition To A Diet

Olive oil is a perfect cooking ingredient for roasting, baking, and sauteing, as well as being used in different sauces, salad dressings, and marinades.

Substituting saturated fat with olive oil is particularly helpful for your health so it’s a good idea to consider some easy food swaps you can make to your diet. Listed below are some of the most popular.

  • Rather than buying a creamy dressing for your salad, you can try ones that are made with olive oil instead.
  • You can replace butter, lard, and bacon grease with cold pressed olive oil when cooking.
  • If using a vegetable dip, make one with hummus and olive oil rather than a blue cheese or ranch dressing.
  • Instead of using butter on your bread, try dipping it in cold pressed olive oil.

Despite many of the useful substitutions listed above, it’s worth keeping in mind that olive oil is still calorie-dense. Therefore, be sure to use it within your daily allowance if you want to avoid unwanted weight gain.

Supports A Healthy Gut

A healthy gut microbiome can improve everything – from digestion to the appearance of your skin. With this in mind, it’s essential to keep it as healthy as possible, and olive oil’s polyphenols can encourage the growth of good bacteria, while reducing any harmful inflammation of the GI tract.

Moreover, research has found that consuming one and a half tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil each day can help to elevate the populations of healthy bifidobacteria that exist within the gut.

Health Benefits of Olive Oil for Hair And Skin

While there’s admittedly very limited scientific research that supports the topical application of olive oil, it still remains an incredibly popular ingredient in several body washes, soaps, and lotions.

Some of the most popular cosmetic uses for olive oil include hair treatment and moisturizer. For example, olive oil can be used to treat split ends and it can also be massaged into your scalp to relieve dryness.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is The Best Time To Consume Olive Oil?

This question often divides opinion with solid arguments for both the morning and evening. Morning advocates believe that taking extra virgin olive oil on an empty stomach is great for jumpstarting digestion and providing optimal absorption into your system.

In contrast, nighttime advocates claim that the natural anti-inflammatory properties of olive oil are at their most effective when the body is in a relaxed, resting state.

Is Olive Oil Or Coconut Oil Healthier?

Olive oil is considerably healthier and more nutritious than coconut oil. This is because it contains a high amount of good fat and very small amounts of saturated fat, whereas coconut oil contains around 80 to 90% saturated fat.

To prove this point even further, experts believe that a typical tablespoon of coconut oil can contain as much as six times more saturated fat than a tablespoon of olive oil.

Why Is It Called Virgin Olive Oil?

The name “virgin olive oil” indicates that the olives have been pressed in order to extract the oil. In other words, the oil is pure and unrefined, with no heat or chemicals used during the extraction process.

What’s The Difference Between Olive Oil And Extra Virgin?

Extra virgin olive oil comes from cold pressed olives that are entirely pure, whereas regular olive oil is made from a blend of cold pressed and processed oils. Extra virgin olive oil is made by grinding olives into a paste and then pressing them to extract the oil.

Rick Zullo

Former doctor, current science teacher, and life-long food lover, Rick's passion for Mediterranean cuisine was ignited while living as an expat in Rome, Italy. 


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