What Are The Health Benefits Of Olive Oil?

Olive oil has been widely recommended as one of the key components of the Mediterranean diet. As you may know, the plant-based eating pattern has received much praise from nutrition experts.

Among the associated health benefits, many studies have highlighted better heart health in particular. While the oil does contain fat, they are the healthy kind — monounsaturated fatty acids or MUFAs.

As opposed to trans fats, this kind actually reduces our levels of LDL cholesterol levels. This would mean a reduced risk of suffering heart attacks, strokes, atrial fibrillation, and death from heart disease.

"In addition, some research shows that MUFAs may benefit insulin levels and blood sugar control, which can be helpful if you have or are at risk of type 2 diabetes," notes Katherine Zeratsky, a registered dietician of the Mayo Clinic. She also cautions how unhealthy foods cannot be made healthier by simply adding olive oil to them.

Research has also shown that extra virgin olive oil or EVOO benefits heart health the most since it contains high levels of antioxidants. It is regarded as better quality compared to ordinary olive oil, though it is more expensive.

Do keep in mind that EVOO is still high in calories — an estimated 120 calories per tablespoon. Use the oil in place of processed oils and butter while cooking, not along with them. 

When making a purchase, opt for the products within 15 months following the harvest date to make sure that oxidization has not taken place. The fresher the olive oil, the higher the polyphenol content, as noted by Casey Seidenberg, co-founder of nutrition education company Nourish Schools.

Polyphenols are antioxidants that help protect your cells from damage. When consumed from plant-based sources, studies have said polyphenols may slow down the progression of neurodegenerative diseases and cancer in addition to the aforementioned cardiovascular benefits.

In a study involving older adults, the Mediterranean diet was linked to a 25 percent lower risk of any cause of death. In other words, researchers suggest that even the elderly may find similar benefits in consuming olive oil as other age groups do.

And according to a randomized clinical trial from 2015, the component "might improve or at least delay" age-related cognitive decline as well. The antioxidants in EVOO may target harmful oxygen-containing molecules and impaired blood vessels, both of which are thought to play a role in worsening cognitive function.

And lastly, you do not necessarily have to use the oil in your food to reap benefits. Allure notes how the presence of "anti-aging antioxidants and hydrating squalene" also make olive oil a great ingredient in beauty products for better hair, skin, nails, etc.