The Health Benefits of Olive Oil
Doctors and nutritionists have recommended the Mediterranean Diet and consumption of olive oil for their health benefits for years. From reducing heart disease and lowering cholesterol to helping prevent certain types of cancer and even Alzheimer’s disease — the case for consuming olive oil over other oils is compelling and researchers uncover more health benefits every day.
But isn’t oil high in calories? Yes, olive oil, like any other oil is high in calories, but it’s healthier than butter and as long as you consume it in moderation, the health benefits outweigh the calories.
Some of the the health benefits of extra virgin olive oil include:
- Prevents Heart Disease and Stroke—According to the FDA, consuming olive oil daily helps reduce the risk of heart disease which causes heart attacks and strokes.
- Lowers Cholesterol—Olive oil is made up of 80% monounsaturated fats which help increase the “good” cholesterol HDL and decrease the “bad” cholesterol, LDL.
- Reduces Blood Glucose Levels to Manage Diabetes—Both the American Diabetes Association and the European Food Information Council recommend olive oil for lowering blood glucose levels to keep diabetes at bay.
- Prevents Colon Cancer—An Oxford University study and a study in the International Journal of Cancer both state that olive oil consumption can protect against certain cancers, particularly colon cancer. The oleic acid in olive oil and other phenols in the oil contain antioxidants that help eliminate free radicals that cause cell damage that leads to cancer. It also improves digestion by cleaning the digestive tract thus improving bowel movements.
- Prevents Breast Cancer—Another form of cancer that olive oil helps prevent is breast cancer. The U.S. National Library of Cancer reports that hydroxytyrosol—a major component of olive oil—helps prevent cancer in postmenopausal women.
- Treats and Prevents Alzheimer’s Disease—Oleancanthal—a natural component of olive oil—may help both treat and prevent Alzheimer’s disease, according to a study conducted by Northwestern University. This component changes the structural make-up of neurotoxic proteins that cause Alzheimer’s.
- Stimulates Weight Loss—The monounsaturated fats found in olive oil, despite the calories, actually make it difficult to gain weight from consuming olive oil. In fact, olive oil has proven to reduce body weight according to many medical experts. In her book, The Best of Everything After 50: The Experts’ Guide to Style, Sex, Health, Money and More, Barbara Hannah Grufferman shares a tip from Mediterranean and Israeli women to drink 1⁄4 cup of olive oil every morning followed by a small glass of water with lemon juice to reduce hunger and help manage weight.
- Reduces Production of Gallstones—WebMD reports that moderate consumption of olive oil—about two tablespoons per day—lowers your chances of developing gallstones. How does olive oil do this? It reduces the formation of gallstones by stimulating the production of bile and pancreatic secretions that keep gallstones from forming.
- Prevents Inflammation—The phenols found in olive oil contain anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties that inhibit the growth of pathogenic bacteria and relieve inflammation.
- Delays Aging—Who doesn’t want to delay the aging process? The antioxidants found in olive oil slow the aging process. You can utilize this fountain of youth by ingesting olive oil or using products containing olive oil for your skin and hair.
Aside from the above benefits achieved by ingesting olive oil, there are many beneficial external uses for olive oil. Use straight olive oil or products containing it for conditioning dry hair, dry skin, treating dandruff, sun burns, wounds or insect bites. You can also substitute olive oil for shaving cream or use it as a make-up remover.