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Olive oil is the residual liquid siphoned from olives of the Mediterranean region. Oil is collected from pressing olives and collecting the extract. While olive oil and extra virgin olive oil (EVOO hereafter) use the same olive type, the process by which the oil is extracted differs. Regular olive oil is extracted by heating the olive and then extracting the oil whereas EVOO is cold-pressed. Regular olive oil is lighter in color and taste, and EVOO is darker in color and stronger in taste. Both olive oil and EVOO are packed with nutrients that are beneficial to your health. Take a look at some of the reasons you might consider incorporating olive oil and EVOO into your diet.
Important Note: Each of the health benefits claimed herein is supported by the most current research at the time of this publication.
Rich in Healthy Fats & Nutrients
Olive oil is packed with heart-healthy fats as well as other powerful nutrients. For starters, olive oil contains approximately 120 calories per 1-tablespoon serving. That calorie content is primarily made up of monounsaturated fat at 73% of the total calorie count; polyunsaturated fat at 11% and saturated fat at 14% make up the remaining calorie count. As you can see, the majority of olive oil’s fat content consists of the heart-healthy monounsaturated fat type. Notably, research indicates that monunosatured fatty acids are beneficial to heart health and can reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease.
Beyond those healthy monounsaturated fats, olive oil and EVOO are rich in vitamins E and K, ringing in at 13% and 7% of the daily recommended intake respectively. Vitamin E is essential to the health of vision, reproduction, blood, brain, and skin as well as doubling as an antioxidant. Vitamin K is essential to bone health and blood clotting. Other olive oil nutrients found in trace amounts include calcium, iron, potassium, and sodium.
General Consensus: 5/5 and here is why. Both olive oil and EVOO are loaded with heart-healthy monounsaturated fats as well as being rich in vitamins E and K.
Packed With Antioxidants
Another important reason to include olive oil and EVOO into your diet is that they’re loaded with protective antioxidants that fend off chronic illnesses by remediating harmful free radicals. Undoubtedly, chronic inflammation is the onus for diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and arthritis. Notably, the antioxidants in olive oil fight inflammation and the result is a reduced risk for chronic illness. Olive oil’s predominant antioxidant is oleic acid which is scientifically connected to reduced inflammation in the C-reactive protein; elevated levels of the C-reactive protein, a sign of inflammation, may indicate serious infection or chronic illness. Other powerful antioxidants contained in olive oil are oleacein and oleocanthal; these two antioxidants have been found in laboratory and animal studies to reduce harmful inflammation. Lastly, olive oil is rich in oleuropein, an antioxidant that reduces the likelihood of bad cholesterol being oxidized.
General Consensus: 3.5/5 and here is why. While much of the research concerning olive oil’s antioxidative effects is devoid of human subjects, the results are promising; more human research is needed, however.
Protects Against Stroke & Cardiovascular Disease
Heart disease and stroke are two of the leading causes of death in the world. Observational studies have long indicated a correlation to a Mediterranean diet, rich in olive oil consumption, and a reduced risk for these diseases. These observations have led to in-depth research of the Mediterranean Diet which simulates the eating habits of the people living in the region for which it’s named. These studies have routinely shown fewer instances of heart disease and stroke.
Notably, olive oil and EVOO have an array of disease-fighting weapons in their arsenals. For starters, the antioxidants reduce inflammation and prevent the oxidation of bad cholesterol, both of which are precursors for heart disease. Other significant ways that olive oil prevents cardiovascular disease is through maintaining healthy blood vessels, the management of blood clotting, and lowering blood pressure; again, the healthy management of each of these functions is essential to heart health. According to several studies, taken together, each of these powerful benefits of consuming olive oil is linked to a significant reduction in the risk for heart disease.
General Consensus: 5/5 and here is why. Olive oil is beneficial to heart health because it’s essential to managing many of the leading precursors for cardiovascular disease.
Contains Anti-Cancer Properties
Another interesting tidbit yielded from a study of a Mediterranean diet is that people living in said region have a low risk for cancer as a result of their high antioxidant intake. As previously noted, the antioxidants contained in olive oil and EVOO fight oxidation of the harmful free radicals that could otherwise lead to cancer. Moreover, laboratory studies have shown oleic acid, an antioxidant found in high concentrations in olive oil, to slow the growth and proliferation of cancer. One study indicated that olive oil is particularly powerful in reducing the risk for breast and digestive cancers.
General Consensus: 4/5 and here is why. While all current research is indicative of olive oil’s anti-cancer effects, more research is still needed to claim this benefit with confidence.
Unlikely Benefits: Further Research Needed
May Fight Alzheimer’s Disease
General Consensus: 2.5/5 and here is why. Early studies suggest that olive oil is made up of antioxidants and vitamins powerful enough to fight Alzheimer’s disease, however, human studies are indicated.
May Kill Harmful Bacteria
General Consensus: 1/5 and here is why. Although olive oil contains polyphenols, or antioxidative plant compounds, that mitigate bacteria, they simply don’t eradicate bacteria entirely.