15 Benefits of Heart-Healthy Olive Oil
Olive oil has been dubbed one of the healthiest oils in the world by health experts and dietitians because of its many benefits to health and wellness. (1) It is the cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet and is a nutritional mainstay all around the world. Research reveals more and more about olive oil almost every day. Controlled intake of olive oil has been proven to aid in the body’s optimum health and development. In cooking, olive oil can be used as a healthier alternative for butter or canola oil. It has many household uses as well.
High-quality extra virgin olive oil is well-researched and has been proven to have antioxidants, anti-inflammatory compounds, and heart-healthy components. Consuming olive oil has been linked to lower rates of obesity, heart disease, inflammation, depression and dementia.
What is Olive Oil?
Olive oil is considered as one of nature’s superfoods which the body needs to stay healthy and ward off diseases. It is made from the fruit of the olive tree, and its quality is largely determined by how it is pressed into an oil.
It is composed mainly of monounsaturated fatty acids including oleic acid. Oleic acid is great for heart health and known for preventing oxidative stress. The plant contains anywhere between 70-85% of oleic acid, which is an omega-9 fatty acid.
15 Health Benefits of Olive Oil:
1. Olive Oil Helps in Regulating Blood Sugar
Regular intake of olive oil is said to have glucose regulating effects. With over 300 million already affected by type 2 diabetes, recent research suggests that the tyrosol found in olive oil could be used to manage insulin resistance for diabetic patients. (3)
Incorporating moderate serving sizes of olive oil into a diabetic’s daily diet may give way to better blood sugar levels in the long run, and could act as a preemptive measure for those at risk of developing metabolic diseases.
2. Olive Oil May Help Relieve Discomfort and Treat Eczema
Olive oil acts as a natural defense against fungus and bacteria which are the common cause of diseases including eczema and psoriasis. Eczema is a common skin problem that plagues both adults and children, but is more common along the latter. In fact, eczema can affect even infants and toddlers. According to statistics, more than 10% of the population has been or is currently affected by eczema.
In the U.S. alone, numbers have increased significantly in recent years. As of 2015, an estimated 5.5 million adults and children have eczema. Eczema is characterized by skin dryness and rashes accompanied by itching, blistering, crusting, flaking, cracking and even bleeding. This condition is commonly treated with corticosteroid because of its anti-inflammatory effects. (4)
Researchers looked into the components and activity of olive oil and found that olive oil killed the bacteria responsible for skin reactions. Its antimicrobial effect starts by provoking autolysis of their cells in the exponential and stationary phase. (5)
3. Olive Oil Aids in Weight Loss
The use of olive oil in improving metabolism has been proven by dieticians. (6) It has a component that regulates the digestive tract and improves the function of the thyroid. Dysfunctional thyroid is one of the reasons why a person gains weight uncontrollably, which can lead to obesity.
A study conducted on 44 overweight women found olive oil to be an effective weight loss agent. Split into two groups, one with a low-fat diet and the other with an olive-oil based diet both totaling 1500 calories per day. The average weight lost after 16 weeks was 7 kilograms, however the olive oil-based group lost twice as much weight compared to the low-fat diet group, in addition to better triglyceride levels and higher levels of “good” cholesterol. (7)
4. Olive Oil Improves the Body’s Ability to Absorb Nutrients and Vitamins
Regular intake of olive oil will help the body in absorbing vitamins and minerals easier. (8) Upon the ingestion of fat-soluble vitamins, they move from the mouth into the stomach, then on to the small intestine. It is the dietary fat found in olive oil that carries the vitamins to the intestine where they are absorbed until such time that the body requires them.
The body requires an adequate amount of minerals such as magnesium and calcium in order to maintain a healthy skeletal system. A team of experts also recently conducted a study on the effect of olive oil on cholesterol levels. Studies show that olive oil has properties which have the same effect on cholesterol as certain medications.
5. Olive Oil Promotes Cardiovascular Health
Olive oil is rich in saturated fats and saturated fats contain lauric acid. Lauric acid helps in regulating the cholesterol level and blood pressure as well. Olive oil is also useful in lowering cholesterol, strengthening the body’s immune system, stabilizing blood sugar, and improving blood circulation.
Recent studies show that olive oil contains chemical compounds which can help fight various types of cancer, protect the body from cardiovascular and inflammatory diseases, and aid in the treatment of diabetes. (9)
6. Olive Oil Maintains the Skin’s Youthful Glow
Applying olive oil directly onto skin doesn’t only work on the epidermis, but it reaches the inner part as well. That means that the root causes of skin rashes, allergies and inflammation is treated efficiently.
It has Vitamin E that protects and enhances skin cells. These are essential fatty acids that moisturize and nourish the skin. (10) Olive oil also contains ferulic acid that protects the skin from excessive UV radiation that could cause skin damage and skin cancer. (11) There are also antioxidants that reduce the appearance of wrinkles, among other anti-aging effects.
7. Olive Oil Keeps the Hair Shiny and Healthy
Using olive oil for hair care will keep it healthy and lustrous. Olive oil has Vitamins A and E, which make the hair strands shinier and stronger. When used as a conditioner, it helps keep the natural oils of the hair intact, thus reducing brittleness, split-ends, and frizz. Olive oil is also used to add shine and volume to hair, including minimizing the onset of dandruff. (12)
Instead of using expensive commercial hair treatments, use olive oil instead. Olive oil is easy to apply and it is not greasy and sticky, so there is no problem when it comes to applying it.
Olive oil can also rehydrate your hair especially if you have dry hair or scalp. Even hair stylists use olive oil since it is all-natural but just as effective, if not more so, than commercial hair care products because of its moisturizing, healing and rejuvenating effects.
8. Olive Oil Enhances Memory and Improves Brain Function
Studies have shown that olive oil is actually one of the best brain foods which can help in strengthening the neuron signals in the brain. (13) This means that it prevents in the brain from developing degenerative diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, many health practitioners believe that olive oil is one of nature’s antidepressants.
Consuming olive oil helps the body in producing good hormones in order to lessen symptoms of depression. (14) Olive oil also contains phytoestrogens, which keep the immune system strong and cardiovascular health. Women will find olive oil very effective in alleviating cravings and other symptoms brought on by PMS such as dysmenorrhea, dryness of the skin and migraines. Phytoestrogens may also provide relief for hot flashes in both men and women.
9. Olive Oil is Safe as an Antiseptic
Several antiseptic products have been formulated using all-natural ingredients such as olive oil and vinegar. (15) The potency of its effects and the wide range of uses is quite astounding.
From oral care products, which include toothpaste, mouthwash, chewing sticks, lip balms; to skin care products, which include body wash, hand wash, hand and body lotion, antiseptic creams, cold sore creams; to soap and deodorants, which include body wash soap, organic soap, hand wash foam and tea tree deodorants; these are just a few examples of how olive oil has been incorporated into different products and applications.
10. Olive Oil Keeps the Eyesight Clear
Vitamin A is not only an antioxidant, it also helps in improving the eyesight and preventing degeneration through age due to the presence of omega-3. Those who have developed eye problems may find relief when olive oil is included in the diet. (16)
Omega-3 is a fatty acid that is normally found in the body, but most people require more due to the presence of omega-6 fatty acids in many common foods. Fish like salmon and tuna are rich in omega-3s as well, and like olive oil, reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancers and promotes cardiovascular health to prevent diseases like stroke and high blood pressure. It may even alleviate symptoms of arthritis and provide pain relief.
11. Olive Oil Improves Certain Physiological Parameters
According to clinical studies, people who consume olive oil, including those who follow the Mediterranean diet, are associated with a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease, atherosclerosis, and certain types of cancer. Olive oil phenolics have been shown to have positive effects on physiological parameters such as cellular function, oxidative damage, antimicrobial activity, and plasma lipoproteins.
12. Olive Oil Strengthens the Blood Vessels on a Cellular Level
According to a recent group of studies, olive oil contains a key polyphenol called hydroxytrosol (HT) which lines the blood vessels as a form of protection against reactive oxygen molecules. HT triggers genetic changes that cause the blood vessels to enhance its antioxidant defense system. (17)
13. Olive Oil May Protect Against Skin Cancer
Olive oil, along with the other components of the famous Mediterranean diet, may protect against malignant melanomas. This is the most dangerous type of skin cancer, and its development may be slowed down by consuming olive oil due to its antioxidant content. (18)
14. Olive Oil Promotes Hormonal Balance
Menopause, infertility and PMS are all symptoms related to hormones. When trying to find hormonal balance, incorporating olive oil into your diet for its nutrient and healthy fat content may aid in regulating the pituitary, adrenal and thyroid glands. These all work in conjunction to produce sex hormones responsible for many body processes including estrogen production.
15. Olive Oil May Provide Emotional Health Beneifts
According to researchers, a diet that is rich in olive oil may offer protection against mental illness. Results showed that participants who had a high intake of trans fats, a type of hydrogenated fat that is commonly found in processed foods, were at increased risk of depression compared to participants who did not consume trans fats. In addition, researches found a link between a higher intake of olive oil and a lower risk of depression. (19)
Studies show that a balanced diet is still the best way to supply your body with all the nutrients you need. This includes olive oil in moderate portions. For weight management, make sure to consume adequate amounts of carbohydrates, protein and fat in relation to your body’s energy requirements.
The amount of food you eat should also depend on the activities that you need to do for the day. Incorporating olive oil into your daily meals will allow you to reap the benefits of this wonder food without gaining excess body fat.