There have been many studies on the health effects of dietary fat. However, the primary fat in olive oil, monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), is considered a healthy dietary fat. Substituting saturated and trans fats with healthy unsaturated fats like MUFAs and polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) in your diet could give you health benefits.
Remember, though, that even healthy fats like olive oil are high in calories. So, the adage, “Everything in moderation,” applies here.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil And Regular Olive Oil
The difference between extra virgin olive oil and regular olive oil lies in how they are extracted from the olive fruit. Extra virgin olive oil is extracted from pure, cold-pressed olives. Regular olive oil is a blend of cold-pressed and processed oils and has undergone the most processing. The extra virgin olive oil is healthier and better-tasting.
The extra virgin olive oil is best used in salads, dipping, sauces (like pesto), or as a finishing touch to the food on your plate—it’s really not for cooking. For frying and sauteing, you should use regular olive oil instead. Although not possessing the same benefits as the other olive oil, regular olive oil is still healthier than other oils.
Health Benefits Of Olive Oil
The health benefits of olive oil have been studied extensively. It has been established that extra virgin olive oil is healthy; among others, it’s been found to be rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants are essential in preventing cellular damage caused by free radicals. Other health benefits of olive oil are listed below.
Effect On The Cardiovascular System
In the Mediterranean diet, olive oil is the main source of fat. People who subsist on this diet generally live longer. They also seem to have a lower chance of dying from heart diseases compared with people whose diets regularly include heavily-processed food.
The simplest method of replacing unhealthy, trans-fatty acids and animal fats is with olive oil. Olive oil has been shown to improve vascular function and cardiovascular health. Margarine, dairy fat, butter, mayonnaise, and other animal-based fats are better left out of your diet.
Effect On Metabolic Syndrome
Metabolic syndrome refers to a condition that increases your risk of having diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity. In 2019, a study concluded that a diet rich in olive oil could improve a few characteristics of the syndrome, like inflammation, triglycerides, blood sugar, and low-density lipoprotein (LDL, the ‘bad’ cholesterol). Furthermore, olive oil appears to increase levels of the good cholesterol, the high-density lipoprotein (HDL).
Effect on Mental Health
As part of the Mediterranean diet, olive oil has also been shown to have a positive impact on mental health. People who follow the Mediterranean diet have a 30% less chance of having depression. It’s not just for prevention—adopting this diet has been successful in improving symptoms of depression. Olive oil has an anti-depressive effect, and using this as a food supplement can elevate your mood.
Reducing Cancer Risk
Scientists have also shown that olive oil may decrease the risk of having some cancer types, like breast, colon, prostate, and ovarian cancers. Overall, the Mediterranean diet is connected with a reduced risk for several kinds of cancer. While it’s true that the diet has many health benefits, the study nevertheless attributes to compounds found in olive oil as having an essential part in reducing cancer risks.
Olive oil also contains substances that may help reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. Tests reveal that antioxidants in the oil may help protect the body from oxidative damage, inflammation, and epigenetic changes that lead to cancer.
Protection From Alzheimer’s Disease
A 2016 study suggests that incorporating extra virgin olive oil in your diet may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. This could be attributed to the oil’s protective impact on the brain’s blood vessels. Researchers have also identified a particular ingredient responsible for protection against mental deterioration: our old friend, extra virgin olive oil.
The research also shows that regular consumption of olive oil protects your memory and learning ability. The oil also reduces the formation of plaques in the brain and other markers for Alzheimer’s disease.
Extra Protection For The Liver
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, typified by abnormal accumulation of liver fats, is among the top causes of chronic liver disease. Moreover, this disease is also linked to cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Molecules found in extra virgin olive oil may help prevent fatty deposits in the liver or even repair liver damage.
The MUFAs in the oil and its phenolic compound seem to help stop oxidative stress, insulin resistance, inflammation, and other changes that may lead to liver damage.
Undoubtedly, extra virgin olive oil is excellent for your health. It contains powerful antioxidants, and it benefits your brain, heart, joints, and others. Adopting the Mediterranean diet could prove to be beneficial to your health, as this diet focuses on plant-based and unrefined food, as well as fish and plenty of extra virgin olive oil.
However, this does not mean that olive oil is a miracle cure. Replacing animal fats with healthier options like olive oil is the right step toward a healthier heart. But, you should not neglect physical activities, a balanced diet, and regular checkups for overall health.