Health Benefits of Olive Oil
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2022

Health Benefits of Olive Oil

Isn’t it amazing when the most delicious option is also a healthy choice? That is the case with olive oil and why I wanted to make it easy to learn about olive oil, it’s health-boosting properties, and how to incorporate it into your diet.

About Olive Oil
To make olive oil, the fruit of the olive tree is pressed. The oil that seeps out is collected. There are three types of olive oil: extra virgin, virgin, and refined (light). They are listed in order of least to most processed.

As with many foods, the less processing the better. So, the healthiest option is extra virgin olive oil, sometimes called EVOO. It has more nutrition than the other types of olive oil do. It’s a common mistake to associate light olive oil with lower calories. It actually has the same amount of calories but is lighter in color and lighter on nutrients.

Olive Oil’s Healthy Properties
Olive oil has
three types of fat, including saturated fat (14%), polyunsaturated fat like omega-6 and omega-3 (11%), and the monounsaturated fat oleic acid (73%). This particular type reduces inflammation and may prevent cancer. 

The second component that makes olive oil so healthy is the antioxidants. These are powerful biologically active nutrients that help lower blood pressure and keep your arteries from hardening. Antioxidants like oleocanthal fight inflammation, which is a major driver of chronic diseases, including cancer, heart disease, stroke, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, and obesity. 

Amazingly, EVOO can also fight harmful bacteria. Helicobacter pylori is a stomach bacteria that can cause ulcers and cancer. Compounds in olive oil are effective in eradicating it. As if that were not enough, olive oil also has a healthy dose of vitamins E and K.

Olive oil is often used in dishes found on the Mediterranean diet, which favors plants over meat. Studies have shown than people who follow this diet have a much lower risk of certain cancers, including colorectal, endometrial, breast, pancreatic, and prostate cancers. The diet has also been linked to improved mood.

While a high-fat diet is often linked to weight gain and obesity, diets high in olive oil are not, despite the fact that it is a fat. One study even linked a diet high in olive oil with weight loss.

Using Olive Oil
Now that you know how healthy olive oil is, you may be wondering how to
incorporate it into your diet. You can drizzle it on salad, bread, cooked vegetables, or pasta. Making your own salad dressing, rather than buying a premade bottle from the store, could be a great healthy change. You can use olive oil in sauces and marinades. Try replacing half or all of the butter in mashed potatoes with olive oil instead. 

Monounsaturated fats like those in olive oil are also quite resistant to high heat, making extra virgin olive oil a healthy choice for cooking. It can also be used in baking. Since olive oil is liquid at room temperature, it makes exceptionally moist cakes compared with those made with butter. Need inspiration? There are also lots of great olive oil-centric recipes.

With all of this information, I hope you won’t wait to incorporate this nutritious and delicious ingredient into your summer meals and those you enjoy all year long.

Kristin Irace, RD, is a registered dietitian with Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, part of Southwestern Vermont Health Care in Bennington.


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