Olive oil is a key component of the ‘Mediterranean Diet’. When combined with a plant-focused, low carb diet, it helps people from many countries live long, healthy lives. This page looks at the benefits of olive oil.
You can add olive oil to your diet in many ways. It can be used to cook with, to make salads tastier with a drizzle – or you can drink a spoonful on its own. It is a fat, rich in nutrients and antioxidants. While not a miracle cure, olive oil has significant health benefits.
Before you start gulping down olive oil, keep in mind that it is calorie dense. A tablespoon is packed with energy, providing 120 calories. You won’t get the benefits by adding this to an already calorie rich diet – especially if this is made up of ‘bad’ foods like sugar, high GI carbs, bad fats, and excessive meat intake.
Different types of olive give the oils distinctive flavour and colour profiles. A short cut to assessing quality can be found through the name. Olive oil is produced by crushing whole olives. After they are crushed, the oil can be refined one or more times. This is where the definitions including ‘Virgin’ and ‘Extra Virgin’ come into play.
Regular olive oil is a mix. Part is pressed olives, with the rest coming from other sources. Most of it still comes from the olive trees – though I do recommend you check the ingredients list closely to see where else the oils come from.
Virgin olive oil comes exclusively from pressed olives. It can then be refined, removing impurities. This is higher quality, though has still been processed.
If you can afford the higher prices, ‘Extra Virgin’ is the type to go for. This is pure oil, from pressed olives and will not have been processed before bottling. You’ll find this is the tastiest version, with a huge range of flavours to explore.
Look for dark bottles (light starts to break down your oil) and don’t keep it in the fridge (it will go cloudy) for best results.
Olive oil’s health benefits start with ‘good’ fats. Balanced diets need a mix of mono and poly unsaturated fat – and olive oil provides both.
A key component is Oleic Acid, this is a mono (single chain) fat, which is also commonly called ‘Omega-9. The remaining fats are Omega-3 and Omega-6, these are complex fat molecules. Healthy fats reduce inflammation, the root of many health problems. By replacing unhealthy processed fats with olive oil, you’ll put on less weight and enjoy the benefits of heart health, lowered diabetes risk and a boosted immune system.
Not only is olive oil rich in antioxidants, numerous studies have measured this. By reducing oxidation at a cellular level, olive oil is thought to help protect against some cancers, Alzheimer’s disease, and other chronic conditions.
This is not some miracle way to flush out the effects of high sugar or processed foods from your system. Used as a replacement for them over the long terms – a diet high in antioxidants will lead to better resistance to the worst diseases on average.
It is not all about your insides – Olive Oil will also make you look better. The key ingredient is Vitamin E. This is associated with healthy skin and eyes. It also has a role in protecting against heart disease, some cancers and supports the immune system.
Your blood system and bones will get a boost from another vitamin in olive oil. Vitamin K helps with blood clotting (and so wound healing). It is thought to have a role in keeping your arteries clear, and your bones healthy too.
Switching to a healthy diet has a long list of health benefits. Olive oil will benefit you in so many ways, it can be categorised as a ‘Super Food’.
You need to use this as an alternative to your least healthy options. Simply drinking a spoonful a day, while maintaining otherwise bad eating habits, will not work out.
If you do get into the ‘olive oil habit’ you’ll find your heart, immune system, skin, eyes, and long-term ability to avoid serious conditions like cancer and Alzheimer’s will all get a boost.
As an extra benefit, you’ll uncover a world of tastes and varieties which will make meals more varied and enjoyable – and healthier too.
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