4 proven health benefits of olive oil

In the global sphere of wellness, olive oil, and particularly extra-virgin olive oil (EVO), has long been known as one of the world’s healthiest oils. In regions where olive oil is part of a staple diet, especially in the Mediterranean, people tend to live longer and in better health. It’s no surprise, considering the numerous health benefits associated with this staple of the kitchen cupboard.  

EVO is an unrefined oil and the highest grade of olive oil you can buy, containing more natural vitamins and minerals, due to the way it is made. Cold-pressed to retain as many valuable nutrients as possible, extra virgin olive oil is rich in polyphenols that act as antioxidants. These antioxidants have been shown to reduce inflammation and help reduce the effects of ageing, particularly on the heart and brain!

But why is olive oil good for you and what else makes it so special? This blog explores the surprising ways this oil can help you lead a healthier life and explains the known health benefits.

1. It is packed with good, healthy fats 

Olive oil is extracted from the fruit of the olive tree and is high in vitamin E, antioxidants and monounsaturated fats, the type of fat linked with lowering harmful LDL cholesterol. Around 14% of the oil is saturated fat and 11% is polyunsaturated fat, including omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. The predominant fatty acid within olive oil is a monounsaturated fat called oleic acid, making up 73% of the total oil content. This main type of fat found in olive oil has been linked to decreased inflammation and a reduced risk of heart disease, with studies suggesting oleic acid may have a beneficial effect on wide number of physiological functions, autoimmune diseases and even cancer.

Reducing LDL cholesterol levels is vital for overall heart wellness as this type of cholesterol can build up in the walls of blood vessels. Reducing this build-up lowers the risk of strokes and developing other cardiovascular problems.

2. It may help with depression

According to recent research, a diet rich in olive oil may have a positive impact on brain health. Multiple studies, completed in Spain, the UK and Australia, found that people who followed a traditional Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil had a 33% lower risk of developing depression than people who ate more processed foods.

Because of the high vitamin E and K content, which is present in olive oil, it may also stave off Alzheimer’s disease. Vitamin K boosts the brains processing speed, keeping the brain sharp as age increases, and vitamin E has been linked to a reduced risk of cognitive decline. Coupled with the emerging evidence that there may be a strong link between what we eat and how we feel, this suggests that a diet rich in certain vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids (all that can be found in olive oil) has a positive impact on the health of our brains.

3. It may improve bone health

Olive oil, especially EVO, has been linked with strengthening bones. The polyphenols found in olive oil (which are effective antioxidants) have protection benefits for human cells, tissues and organs, including the bones. Particular polyphenols within EVO have properties that contribute to the oil’s bone-protective effects, one being its ability to stimulate the production of osteoclasts – cells that work to build and form bone. Osteoclasts help to restore the balance of bone absorption and formation in favour of stronger bones.

Studies have suggested that people who consume EVO regularly could cut their risk of experiencing an osteoporosis-related fracture by 51%.

4. Olive oil compounds may protect against certain cancers 

It’s common knowledge that the food we consume can influence our cancer risk. Increasing our intake of antioxidants that combat free radicals may help us reduce our risk of developing cancer.

Free radicals are associated with several human diseases, including cancer and Parkinson’s disease. They are the natural by-products of chemical processes such as the  metabolism, which when built up can harm the cells of the body, damage DNA and alter genes that can cause cancer. Olive oil’s rich content of powerful antioxidants including vitamin E, carotenoids and phenolic compounds play a vital role in reducing the production of free radicals, minimising their effects in the body.

Countries in which there is a high consumption of olive oil appear to have lower cancer incidences than other countries, such as the UK and USA. Ongoing, well designed observational studies are shedding light on olive oil’s relation to cancer risk, revealing it may have a role in the potential prevention of colorectal, ovarian and breast cancer.

Add a little more olive oil to your diet and reap the fantastic health benefits this extraordinary oil provides.

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