Health experts have never taken lightly the consumption of dietary fats, including seed oils, animal fats, or even vegetable oils. They have been met with heated debates and controversies, but that is not the case with extra virgin olive oil.
It is undoubtedly true that extra virgin olive oil is just the healthiest fat on earth. It forms part of the most valued foods in the Mediterranean diet and is highly acknowledged and consumed by health-conscious people. Fatty acids and antioxidants, to mention a few, found in extra virgin olive oil can greatly benefit your health in a number of ways, including reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. This article reviews health bits of extra virgin olive oil.
What Extra Virgin Oil Is and How it is Made
Who doesn’t know olive oil? Definitely, none. The olive tree bears olives, the fruits from which olive oil is extracted. Traditionally, the extraction was very simple as it only involved pressing or squeezing olives to give olive oil. In modern days, the methods are a bit complicated since the fruits are crushed and mixed together, which are then passed in a centrifuge to give out olive oil from the pulp. In many cases, small amounts of olive oil usually remain in the pomace after centrifuging. To extract the oil fully, chemical solvents are used, giving out olive pomace oil – which is tied to negative effects on health.
Olive oil comes in three main grades you can find in the market. They are a refined, virgin, and extra virgin. Choosing the right type among these three is important to staying healthy. Extra virgin olive oil is made with minimum refining or processing than the remaining two. Its extraction only involves natural methods and is subjected to several standardizations requirements to ensure purity, taste, and smell. A true extra virgin olive oil is 100% natural, has a taste that is distinct from other olive oils, and contains high amounts of phenolic antioxidants, which gives it nearly all the health benefits.
Nutritional Profile of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Extra virgin olive oil contains a decent amount of beneficial nutrients and a punch of phenolic antioxidants. It is loaded with vitamins E and K, as well as fatty acids. Food Data Central of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) database indicates that 13.5 g of olive oil contains 14% of saturated fat, 73% of monounsaturated fat (most of which is oleic acid), 13% of the daily recommended intake (RDI) for vitamin E, and 7% of the RDI for vitamin K.
What makes extra virgin olive oil most reputable is its high content of antioxidants. Antioxidants are active compounds that reduce damages caused by oxidative stress as a result of excess free radicals. The most notable antioxidants in this oil include oleuropein which has been shown to prevent the oxidation of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) “bad” cholesterol and oleocanthal which have anti-inflammatory properties. Additionally, olive oil contains more omega-6 fats than omega-3 fat (10:1), which some people have used as a tool to criticize. Fortunately, it contains fewer polyunsaturated fats, which makes such claims lose weight.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil Contains Anti-Inflammatory Compounds
Inflammation is another wing of defense that your body uses to protect itself. This means that inflammation is not a bad thing. However, chronic inflammation has been associated with chronic diseases, including heart disease, metabolic syndrome, cancer, arthritis, and diabetes. Olive oil has many health benefits, all thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties. Studies suggest that oleic acid, the most potent fatty acid in olive oil, can reduce markers of inflammation like C-reactive protein. Nonetheless, the oil’s anti-inflammatory effects are attributed to its high content of antioxidants, particularly oleocanthal, which is claimed to mimic the ibuprofens mode of action. For example, just 3,4 of extra virgin olive oil provides higher amounts of oleocanthal acids which can exert some effects to that of ten percent of ibuprofen dosage prescribed for an adult.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil Heart Disease
Heart disease and other cardiovascular diseases are among the leading causes of death in the world. Observational studies have shown that deaths related to these diseases are low in areas around the Mediterranean Sea. This is because the people living in these places value and follow the Mediterranean diet to the latter. It is speculated that this diet can reduce the risk of strokes, heart attacks, and death by up to thirty percent.
The way extra virgin olive oil prevents heart disease intrigues scientists. They say that it can work in the following ways:
Managing blood clots:
Research has shown that olive oil can eliminate blood clots if they occur at the wrong time. This helps prevent strokes and heart attacks.
The compounds in olive oil prevents inflammation which is key in reducing heart disease risk.
Lowers blood pressure:
Ifelevated blood pressure is left unchecked, it can rupture blood vessels and lead to stroke. Olive oil can restore blood pressure significantly, which reduces the need to take antihypertensive medications.
Can reduce oxidation of LDL “bad” cholesterol:
Oxidation of LDL particles can damage tissues of the cardiovascular system. Olive oil prevents this process and reduces the risk of heart disease.
Improves functionality of blood vessels:
Olive oil improves and supports the healthy function of the endothelium – the inner lining of arteries and veins.
Other Potential Health Benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Many studies done on olive oil have primarily centered on heart health. However, it can benefit your health in other ways.
Cancer prevention: Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of cells. Antioxidants in extra virgin olive oil can help reduce oxidative damage, which is key in cancer development.
Manage Alzheimer’s disease: olive oil can help reduce the number of beta-amyloid plaques which cause Alzheimer’s disease.
Refined, virgin, and extra virgin is the types of commercial olive oil. True olive oil is 100% natural, contains powerful antioxidants like oleocanthal acid that gives the oil its health benefits, and has a distinct taste. Extra virgin olive oil is heart-friendly and can help prevent heart attack and stroke.