Olive oil is an essential part of the healthy Mediterranean diet and it tastes so delicious on salads, in pasta and on fish. Discover just seven of the benefits of olive oil to help you make the switch to a better diet and cooking regime.
Olive oil, especially extra-virgin olive oil, has long been known for its many health benefits, and is even said to be the secret to the longer life expectancies of the Mediterranean population. It’s therefore no wonder it has numerous health benefits. Read the seven surprising ways it could help you to lead a fuller, healthier life.
- Olive oil contains good fats, great for heart health
The main type of fat found in olive oil is monounsaturated fat (MUFA). MUFAs have been found to lower your total cholesterol and LDL (the bad) cholesterol levels, and may also help normalise blood clotting. Reducing your LDL cholesterol means your arteries will be less clogged, leading to a lower risk of heart disease and strokes. Replacing butter and margarine with products containing oil, such as Bertolli with butter, will help increase your intake of MUFA.
- It’s packed with antioxidants
Olive oil contains vitamin E, carotenoids and phenolic compounds, all of which are powerful antioxidants. These antioxidants are said to help lower the creation of damaging free radicals in the body. Free radicals are groups of atoms with an odd number of electrons that attach to healthy cells and start a negative chain reaction, and can injure blood vessels, damage DNA and create changes in genes that can lead to cancer.
- Olive oil may help prevent high blood pressure
Just as MUFAs can look after the health of your heart, monounsaturated fats found in olive oil also contain high amounts of an essential fatty acid (EFA) called omega-3. Omega-3 and MUFAs have been shown to keep your heart healthy by helping to lower blood pressure. It is called an EFA because the body cannot make it by itself and therefore we must get it from food sources.
- It may help protect you from depression
According to recent research, olive oil could have emotional, as well as physical health benefits. The University of Navarra and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria conducted a study that included over 12,000 people and found that a diet with a higher intake of olive oil and polyunsaturated fats was associated with a lower risk of mental illness. Early findings suggest cardiovascular disease and depression may share common processes related to diet, but studies are still being conducted.
- Olive oil may play an important role in preventing osteoporosis
There is increasing evidence that olive oil intake may help improve the amount of calcium in the blood, which can have a positive affect on bone density, so it may therefore help prevent osteoporosis from developing.
- It could lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease
Initial studies have shown that an olive oil extract (oleocanthal) may help protect you from the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline, that can often come with aging. More research is needed in that area, but olive oil is also likely to be part of a Mediterranean diet (which also tends to be high in veg, fruit and fish) and there is some evidence that this diet can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease too.
- Extra virgin olive oil reduces inflammation
Extra-virgin olive oil has been found to mimic the effect of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, helping conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. The compound oleocanthal can inhibit pro-inflammatory enzymes – as well as the risk of Alzheimer’s. When studied in relation to rheumatoid arthritis, researchers found the compound had a significant impact on both chronic inflammation and acute inflammatory processes, and they believe 3.5 tablespoon dose is equal to a 200mg tablet of ibuprofen