Unlocking Olive Oil’s Health Benefits you didn’t know!

There is much controversy worldwide about the role of fats in the diet. Since the 1970s, people have been advised to eat less fat. Fats would lead to obesity, high cholesterol levels and cardiovascular disease.

Nowadays, many scientists come back to it. Fats are not as unhealthy as people thought. However, one type of fat/oil has always been considered healthy: olive oil.

Actually, there is no one in the world who says it is unhealthy. The reason for this? Olive oil has many healthy effects on the body. In this article I would like to explain these benefits.

You will also learn in this article:

  • What fats olive oil is made of
  • Why olive oil can be heated without any problems
  • How this oil improves cholesterol levels
  • Why olive oil reduces the chance of cancer
  • What type of olive oil is best

Content of this article

Why is olive oil so healthy?

There has always been a lot of controversy surrounding fats and oils. For a long time, fats and oils were only in the news in a negative sense.

This is due to a large study (Keys in the 1960s) that linked fat consumption to cardiovascular disease. In particular, this was about saturated fats; these fats are mainly found in animal products. An example of this is butter. Through this study, many people consumed margarine and vegetable oil because they believed it was healthier.

If you look at olive oil, olive oil is actually a healthy alternative. But people also consumed a lot more sunflower oil, palm oil and corn oil at the same time.

Olive Oil’s Health Benefits

In recent years it has become clear that there is no scientific connection between the consumption of saturated oils and risks of cardiovascular disease.. However, there are still many people who consume vegetable oils and use them in baking. This is despite the fact that it has been shown that most vegetable oils are not healthy at all. It has everything to do with the ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids.

Ratio Omega-6: Omega-3.

Fats can be divided into unsaturated and saturated fatty acids. It’s best to remember: saturated fatty acids are hard at room temperature, unsaturated fatty acids are liquid at room temperature. An example of a saturated fatty acid is butter and an example of an unsaturated fatty acid is olive oil.

A small side note: There is also margarine. Although margarine is hard at room temperature, it actually consists of unsaturated fatty acids. This acid has been chemically processed in the factory and mixed with trans fats. That’s why the margarine hardens at room temperature. This also shows how unhealthy this type of fat actually is.

This post is about olive oil, so it’s not hard to guess what fats olive oil contains: unsaturated fatty acids (liquid at room temperature). Unsaturated fatty acids can also be divided into:

  • There are monoenoic acids (monounsaturated fatty acids)
  • There are also polyenoic acids (polyunsaturated fatty acids)

The monoenoic acids only have one double bond. They are therefore called monounsaturated fatty acids. The polyenoic acids have several double bonds and are therefore also called polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Olive oil in particular contains a lot of monounsaturated fatty acids. The rest of the vegetable oils contain a lot of polyunsaturated fatty acids. Examples include sunflower oil, palm oil, corn oil, linseed oil and rapeseed oil. The polyenoic acids can be divided into the following categories:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Omega-6 fatty acids
  • Omega-7 fatty acids

Most oils are mostly omega-6 fatty acids. However, it is precisely these fatty acids that are oils that promote inflammation. So a lot of inflammatory processes are stimulated in the body, something that you definitely want to prevent.

Omega-3 fatty acids have exactly the opposite effect: they reduce inflammation. The number of inflammatory processes in the body is reduced.

Ideally, an oil contains as much omega-3 fatty acids as possible and as few omega-6 fatty acids as possible

Unsaturated monoenoic acids

But olive oil is a special case. Olive oil contains unsaturated fatty acids. This unsaturated monoenoic acid is called omega-9 fatty acid because the double bond is only on the 9th carbon atom.

You need to understand one thing: most high-fat products are not just one type of fatty acid, but often a combination of different fatty acids.

The profile of extra virgin olive oil looks like this:

  • Saturated fats: 13.8%
  • Unsaturated monoenoic acid: 73%
  • Omega-6: 9.7%
  • Omega-3: 0.76%

Now that we know which fatty acids olive oil contains, it’s time to clarify which variant is the best.

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Which option is best?

Olive oil is made from, you guessed it, olives. These fruits are picked from the olive tree and then pressed. This creates olive oil.

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But there is still a big problem surrounding olive oil. Some olive oils are made from poor quality olives or even from already oxidized fruit. In addition, chemical agents are sometimes used or other cheap oils are added in the processing process. Of course you definitely don’t want that.

That’s why it’s really important to buy the right type of olive oil. The best option is extra virgin olive oil. Virgin means natural and means that this olive oil is the least processed. This oil comes from the first pressing, which is what makes this olive oil so healthy.

There are four levels of olive oil. I list them here from highest to lowest quality:

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • native olive oil
  • olive oil
  • Pomance (Spain) or Sansa (Italy)

Whether an oil can be called Extra Virgin depends on two facts:

  • A laboratory test
  • A taste test

A laboratory test examines the acidity of olive oil. A decision is then made as to whether the oil is Extra Virgin or not. All other olive oils are sold under the following names:

  • Mild olive oil
  • Olive oil for baking and frying
  • olive oil

So now you know which variant of olive oil is the healthiest and what you need to pay attention to. But what makes olive oil so healthy? And which substances are responsible for this?

From now on, when I talk about olive oil, I’m talking about extra virgin olive oil.

Health befits of Olive Oil

#1 Olive oil contains healthy fats

You have already learned that olive oil consists largely of monounsaturated fatty acids (73%). It also consists of around 10% omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, but this is relatively negligible next to the monounsaturated fatty acids.

We know that omega-3 fatty acids have an anti-inflammatory effect. And omega-6 fatty acids have an inflammatory effect. Therefore, ideally there are only as few omega-6 fatty acids in the oil as possible.

But what about monounsaturated fatty acids? What makes these fatty acids so healthy or unhealthy?

A study has shown that it is generally a very healthy fatty acid. This fatty acid also has an anti-inflammatory effect and therefore has many positive effects on the body. 

Olive oil and heating

In addition to the fact that extra virgin olive oil contains very healthy fats, it seems to tolerate heat well. This is also the biggest controversial issue in recent years. Some fats become less healthy during the heating process. These fatty acids can oxidize during heating, damaging them. A lot of people thought that this also applied to olive oil, but it doesn’t.

Olive oil only has one double bond. Hence the name: simple. And it is mainly these double bonds that can be converted into less healthy substances by the heat. So it’s mainly the polyunsaturated fatty acids that are not very healthy when it comes to baking.

Olive oil and saturated fats are best used in cooking because they contain one or no double bonds.

There is a study in which extra virgin olive oil was heated to 180 degrees for 36 hours. In this study it was found that this oil has very good heat resistance.

#2 It contains lots of healthy antioxidants

In addition to the healthy fatty acids that olive oil contains, it also contains vitamins E and K. It never hurts to consume a few extra vitamins.

If you think that’s where it ends, you’re wrong.

Like many other plant-based products on this earth, olive oil also contains antioxidants. And these antioxidants are healthy for our body.

Antioxidants in vegetables and fruits ensure that plants can protect themselves against pest infestation. It gives vegetables a typically strong flavor and gives fruit an intense color. These are actually slightly toxic substances that cause vermin to die.

So one might assume that it would be better not to ingest these substances. However, I would think about it again after reading this:

  1. These antioxidants in our body ensure that harmful substances (free radicals) in our body are neutralized. They react with these harmful substances, which means they can no longer harm the healthy cells in our body.
  2. In addition, these antioxidants (slightly toxic substances) ensure that our body is brought back into peak readiness. The body produces certain substances to neutralize these slightly toxic substances. Then, if there is a larger invader (virus or bacteria) in the body, the body is better protected.

The substances in olive oil that have the functions just mentioned are called polyphenols. These polyphenols help our body prevent diseases. 

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You can read about the different diseases it prevents later in this article.

#3 Olive oil has an anti-inflammatory effect

Olive oil is known for its anti-inflammatory effects.

Chronic inflammation is one of the biggest causes of many diseases.

Olive oil can slow down this chronic inflammation, providing one of the greatest health benefits.

These effects are mainly realized by the healthy antioxidants in olive oil. One of the most important is called oleocanthal.

And best of all, this substance has the same effect as ibuprofen, the powerful anti-inflammatory that we swallow when we have a headache, for example.

A large study appearing in Nature shows that taking 4 spoonfuls of extra virgin olive oil daily has an anti-inflammatory effect equivalent to 10% of the potent effect of ibuprofen (bron ) . Of course without all the harmful side effects.

There are also various studies that show that monounsaturated fatty acids in olive oil also have an anti-inflammatory effect. 

All in all, it’s better to eat enough olive oil to be healthy than to swallow ibuprofen.

#4 It has a protective effect against Alzheimer’s disease

Chronic inflammation also plays an important role in Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most widespread neurodegenerative diseases worldwide. When people hear dementia, the first thing that comes to mind is Alzheimer’s disease.

This disease is characterized by an accumulation of proteins in the brain. This causes healthy brain cells to die and no longer function. Memory and other brain functions slowly deteriorate. Actually, it’s literally brain aging.

If you are already at an advanced age, then it is just called an old age complaint. If you wait long enough, everyone will eventually become demented. It is a natural process of our body.

But especially when people are affected by this disease at an early age, think of 60-year-olds, then doctors talk about Alzheimer’s disease.

It has now been found that oleocanthal is a substance that reduces this accumulation of proteins in the brain . The substance reacts with the clumping proteins in the brain and slows down the inflammatory processes. Both contribute to Alzheimer’s disease.

#5 It reduces the probability of cardiovascular disease

Cardiovascular diseases are the number 2 cause of death in Germany. And it is expected that it will soon be the number 1 cause of death. The risk of cardiovascular disease is largely determined by various risk factors:

  • Bad cholesterol levels
  • Too high blood pressure
  • Insulin resistance (type 2 diabetes)
  • Excess weight (especially abdominal fat, also called visceral fat).

Olive oil reduces risks in many of these areas. Oleocanthal has been shown to protect the bad cholesterol in our body from oxidation.

What does that mean? When cholesterol oxidizes, it is harmful to our body. That’s why we have to try to prevent this.

Want to learn more about eating fat and its effect on cholesterol? Then read the following article:

As has been shown above, inflammation in the body is reduced, and cardiovascular diseases are also chronic inflammations.

Not only does it prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, there are also studies that show that olive oil has a positive effect on blood pressure in patients with hypertension (high blood pressure). Olive oil was able to reduce blood pressure medication use by 48%. 

It has also been shown that olive oil improves blood vessel walls . This means that the blood vessels become smoother, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.

That’s why it’s not surprising that people who have a lot of olive oil in their diet are less likely to die from heart failure or stroke. 

Yes, these are some scientific studies that show that olive oil is really healthy for the body. If you are at increased risk of cardiovascular disease because it runs in your family, then it might be a good idea to consider adding a little extra olive oil to your diet.

#6: Olive oil can help you lose weight

It sounds very logical when someone says that fats will make you fat.

Fatty food makes you fat. One would assume that this word is used for a reason to refer to people who are fat.

But this seems completely wrong.

It’s true that fats contain a lot of calories compared to many other macronutrients

  • 1 gram of fat contains approximately 9 kilocalories
  • 1 gram of protein contains approximately 4 kilocalories
  • 1 gram of carbohydrates contains approximately 4 kilocalories

What most people do is reduce the amount of fat in their diet so that they can consume fewer calories more easily. After all, if you eat fewer calories than your body needs every day, you will lose weight.

But unfortunately it’s not that simple. Hormone balance also plays an important role in weight loss. Additionally, you can eat fewer calories than you need, but if you do so by eating fast food, I can guarantee you that you will gain weight (and be hungry all day).

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Fats and weight loss

Fats are actually one of the best macronutrients for achieving weight loss. Fats have little to no effect on your blood sugar and insulin levels. This means that the amount of growth hormone in your blood does not increase. These growth hormones normally ensure growth and fat storage. Fats also have a positive effect on your feeling of satiety, in contrast to carbohydrates. 

Eating lots of olive oil is a perfect way to get the right fats. Add lots of olive oil to homemade salad and don’t be sparing with olive oil in the pan.

A 3-year study of 187 participants showed that a diet high in olive oil and associated antioxidants resulted in weight loss.

#7: Olive oil increases insulin sensitivity

Type 2 diabetes is an important precursor to cardiovascular disease.

Unfortunately, there are more and more people who have to struggle with this. This doesn’t just have to do with hereditary factors. Most of the time, people develop type 2 diabetes due to an unhealthy lifestyle. You should remember the following:

  • Eating unhealthy foods
  • Too little movement
  • Too much stress

You get diabetes because your body becomes insensitive to insulin. We also call this, with a difficult word, insulin resistance. This is caused by consuming too much unhealthy sugar and carbohydrates.

I already mentioned it: fats have little to no effect on blood sugar and insulin levels. The same applies to olive oil.

So olive oil cannot make your type 2 diabetes worse. But it gets even better: it seems that olive oil even has a positive effect on your blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity .

A randomized study with 418 non-diabetics showed that olive oil offers a protective effect against the development of type 2 diabetes. In this study, a Mediterranean diet high in olive oil reduced the risk of type 2 diabetes by 40% .

This also reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. Because there is a strong connection here.

#8: Olive oil provides a protective effect against cancer.

Before I finish writing this article, I would like to mention one major benefit of olive oil.

The major cause of death is cancer.

So it would be a shame if I didn’t address this cause in this article. The health benefits of olive oil are clear. Nevertheless, I will add one final advantage:

Because the substances in olive oil also seem to have a protective effect against cancer.

The population in southern Europe generally eats a Mediterranean diet. The Mediterranean diet is characterized by lots of unprocessed food and lots of extra virgin olive oil.

It turns out that cancer is much less common in these areas than in Western countries. Southern Europeans therefore have a lower risk of cancer. Scientists think olive oil has something to do with this.

Cancer is caused by uncontrolled cell growth in our body. This uncontrolled cell growth occurs due to damage to a body cell. The antioxidants can reduce this damage by reacting with free radicals.

This means that these free radicals can no longer harm our body.

There are also numerous test tube studies that show that certain substances in olive oil help fight cancer cells . But before we can draw a conclusion, more studies on humans need to be carried out.

A little side effect:

Many of the benefits mentioned have been based on studies that relate to the benefits of the Mediterranean diet.

However, we cannot immediately conclude from these studies that olive oil is responsible for these benefits. The entire Mediterranean diet can provide these benefits.

Olive oil is part of the Mediterranean diet. The Mediterranean diet, for example, protects the heart. But this is no reason to conclude that olive oil protects the heart.

This diet is namely characterized by:

  • Lots of esercise
  • Eating lots of fruits and vegetables
  • Eating lots of legumes and nuts
  • Eating little meat
  • Take a “siesta” (long break between work, for example by taking a nap).

In conclusion, we cannot say that olive oil is responsible for all these benefits. However, it has been shown that olive oil does not cause any negative consequences.

The Mediterranean diet (which contains a lot of olive oil) has many benefits according to studies.

Sources:

  1. Olive Oil and Cardiovascular Health
  2. Olive Oil and Inflammation
  3. Olive Oil and Alzheimer’s Disease
  4. Olive Oil and Weight Management
  5. Olive Oil and Insulin Sensitivity
  6. Olive Oil and Cancer

Please note that while olive oil is associated with these benefits, a balanced diet and overall lifestyle choices are essential for maintaining good health.