Why is extra virgin olive oil healthy? Is it really MORE healthy than regular olive oil? Some swear by it and drink a few spoonfuls every day. But, is this a mere myth, or is there some truth behind it all? We wanted to find out.

Extra virgin olive oil is used in many dishes whether it’s in the cooking process or drizzled on top of different ingredients. Visit Italy and you will be surrounded by extra virgin olive oil enthusiasts. Many Italians keep multiple bottles in their home and go through a liter a week!

Not only is it popular for its taste but many believe it to be very good for our health.

If you were to ask any Italian “Nonna” (a grandmother), they will tell you that extra virgin olive oil has incredible health benefits. And, when you see the higher life expectancy in rural parts of Italy where olive oil is consumed every day, you start to think this could be true.

Well, research was undertaken to discover whether extra virgin olive oil really is that healthy for us. And the results will please every Nonna out there. This has even led the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to classify this olive oil as a medicine.

So, continue reading this blog to find out the medicinal properties extra virgin olive oil has been found to have and a host of other health benefits it may possess.

FDA And Extra Virgin Olive Oil

In 2018, the FDA completed a review that determined that there is credible evidence that the consumption of oleic acid in oils such as extra virgin olive oil, sunflower oil, and canola oil may reduce the risk of heart disease.

This study, conducted in Italy, one of the leading manufacturers of olive oil in the world, found that some fats such as those found in olive oil are not only nutrients but they also boast some amazing health benefits.

Extra virgin olive oil has an optimal ratio between two essential fatty acids – omega-6 and omega-3. Therefore, this oil can help in the prevention of cardiovascular disease, bowel cancer, and certain cognitive issues that are common in the elderly. It has also been found to lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

The FDA review concluded that olive oil contains at least 70% of the healthy oleic acid in every serving. Moreover, it’s the only natural edible oil that contains this.

The University of Bari collaborated with the Italian Association for Cancer Research (AIRC) conducted a study that showed certain conditions can lead to a higher risk of bowel cancer when oleic acid is not present in a diet.

Back to the FDA and the discovery that oils such as extra virgin olive oil can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease is no surprise to many who consume it every day. But, the science behind the study shows that oleic acid inside these oils is monounsaturated fat.

When this is substituted for fats and oils that are higher in saturated fat, the risk of coronary heart diseases is reduced. However, these findings are not conclusive as the FDA stated:

“Supportive but not conclusive scientific evidence suggests that daily consumption of about 1½ tablespoons (20 grams) of oils containing high levels of oleic acid, when replaced for fats and oils higher in saturated fat, may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.

To achieve this possible benefit, oleic acid-containing oils should not increase the total number of calories you eat in a day. One serving of [x] oil provides [x] grams of oleic acid (which is [x] grams of monounsaturated fatty acid).”

So, extra virgin olive oil contains properties that can offset certain diseases such as heart failure. But, as the FDA states, specific doses of around 1 ½ tablespoon or 20 grams of oils that contain high levels of oleic acid are recommended. As with most foods, too much of it can lead to further complications.

Why Is Extra Virgin Olive Oil Healthy?

Extra virgin olive oil is a mainstay in many Mediterranean diets. Research has found that such diets have numerous health benefits on the heart, eyes, and brain function.

When you shop for olive oil, you will usually find the terms “virgin” or “extra virgin” preceding the name. This simply refers to the process in which the manufacturers produced the oil. Compared to standard olive oils, extra virgin olive oil undergoes the least processing.

When olive oil is processed, the manufacturers clean it with chemicals before heating it. Although this process prolongs the oil’s shelf life, it can remove a great deal of the oil’s benefit and flavor.

Research discovered that extra virgin olive oil contains more polyphenols than standard olive oil. These are a form of antioxidant that contains a whole host of health benefits. However, when oil is refined, it is stripped of its polyphenols, vitamins, and many other natural ingredients.

Extra virgin olive oil is not processed as heavily as regular olive oil. This is why it keeps much of its health benefits and is considered a healthier alternative to saturated and trans fats.

Furthermore, many agree that extra virgin olive oil possesses a better taste than more processed olive oils. As well as a fruity, slightly bitter, and peppery taste, extra virgin olive oil contains fewer chemicals and is higher in antioxidants, vitamins, and natural ingredients.

Health Benefits Of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

It’s hard to rival the health benefits of extra virgin olive oil. It’s no surprise that it is a nutritional mainstay for some of the longest living cultures in the world.

Made from the fruit of an olive tree, this il is naturally high in healthy fatty acids. While there are several types of olive oil available today (regular, virgin, and extra virgin), studies have found that extra virgin olive oil holds the most benefits than any other. Some of these benefits include:

  • Acts as an anti-inflammatory
  • Limits the risk of diabetes
  • Boosts skin and hair health
  • Reduces heart issues
  • Protects against the emergence of insulin resistance
  • Reduces high blood pressure
  • Helps weight loss
  • Improves cholesterol levels
  • Improves overall digestion
  • Boosts metabolism
  • Slows down the aging process
  • Fights and prevents gallstones
  • Protects people against osteoporosis
  • Helps mood disorders such as depression

These are just a few of the health benefits extra virgin olive oil has been found to boast.

Oleocanthal is a phenolic compound that is evident in extra virgin olive oil. Researchers believe this is responsible for the tingling sensation you experience when tasting olive oil.

These phenols have anti-inflammatory properties that have similar effects to some painkillers. These also help fight Alzheimer’s disease and can kill cancer cells.

Properties within extra virgin olive oil are said to lower bad low-density lipoproteins while simultaneously improving blood sugar levels and enhancing insulin sensitivity.

In Summary

The compounds and various properties contained in extra virgin olive oil are incredibly healthy.

When combined with a healthy diet that is low in saturated fats and moderately rich in soluble fibers from fruit and vegetables as well as carbohydrates, extra virgin olive oil can ward off a range of illnesses from diabetes to cancer and osteoporosis to certain mood disorders.

According to the FDA, just 1 ½ tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil a day can significantly improve your health and maybe even prolong your life.

Rick Zullo

Former doctor 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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