Olive oil is one of the most popular oils in the world and has been used for centuries. Today, it is well-known for its health benefits. Buyers beware, however: Not all olive oil you see on the grocery store shelves is made equal. This is everything you need to know about olive oil, including how to choose one that actually has the reported health benefits.
What Is Olive Oil and How Is It Made?
It is produced from olives, which are fruits that grow on trees. The fruit is crushed to extract the oil, which is then filtered and bottled. Olive oil comes from an olive nut (hence its name). The fruit itself consists of a green outer layer containing chlorophyll and polyphenols – compounds known as phenols responsible for giving the leaves their green coloration. Inside this layer sits the fleshy pulp which surrounds each seed within its shell – these seeds are what we eat when consuming olives as part of our diet (and they also give us our oil). (1)
Many different types of olive oil are available, including extra virgin, light virgin, and pure olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil is the highest quality available, as it has no more than 1% acidity and comes from the first pressing of olives. This means that it’s also very fresh, with a fruity aroma and flavor – perfect for dipping bread into! Light virgin olive oil has a slightly lower acidity (2%) level than extra virgin, but is still of very high quality. It has a fruity aroma and flavor similar to extra virgin olive oil but slightly lighter in color and consistency. Pure olive oil is the least expensive option – it’s made by pressing olives multiple times until they release their oil content.
The Health Benefits of Olive Oil
Olive oil has become the holy grail of healthy oils in the last couple of decades. This started with the boom in the popularity of the Mediterranean Diet. This trend, however, proved to be a good one, as olive oil is truly quite good for you. These are some of the top benefits of olive oil:
Good Source of Monounsaturated Fats
Olive oil is a good source of monounsaturated fats. These are considered “good” fats because they can help lower LDL cholesterol levels in the blood. These fats have been shown to be anti-inflammatory and can improve blood flow to the brain. They are also considered good for your heart. The best part about olive oil is that it’s not just one type of monounsaturated fat but a blend of them all! This makes it even better for you than other oils like canola oil or sunflower oil. (2)
High Antioxidant Content
Olive oil contains antioxidants that can help lower your heart disease risk. These antioxidants, called polyphenols, work by stopping free radicals from attacking the body’s cells. This helps prevent cell damage and reduces inflammation. Polyphenols are also responsible for olive oil’s anti-inflammatory properties, which can help to lower your risk of heart disease. Olive oil is also high in vitamin E, which is another antioxidant that helps protect against oxidative stress and free radical damage. (3)
Read: The Health Benefits of Black Seed Oil
May Help Prevent Strokes
Although it’s not clear exactly how olive oil can help prevent strokes, it may have something to do with its ability to lower blood pressure. Olive oil has also been shown to reduce inflammation in the body, which is another risk factor for stroke.
Helps Prevent Liver Disease
Olive oil has been shown to protect the liver from oxidative stress and free radical damage, which can help prevent liver disease. Research also shows that olive oil may help lower levels of certain liver enzymes in people with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Olive oil may also help to improve insulin sensitivity, making it useful in preventing Diabetes as well. (4)
May have anti-cancer properties
Olive oil has been shown to help prevent the growth of some types of cancer, including breast and prostate cancers. The antioxidants in olive oil may also be able to kill off free radicals that cause DNA damage. This can help prevent the development of tumors as well as other diseases linked to oxidative stress. Olive oil may also help prevent cancer by lowering insulin and glucose levels in the blood. This can help prevent certain kinds of cancer that are more likely to develop in people with diabetes. (5)
How To Use Olive Oil
Olive oil can be used in a variety of ways. You can cook with it, use it as a salad dressing or drizzle it over vegetables and pasta. Olive oil can also be great for baking, depending on the recipe. You can use olive oil to make mayonnaise, hummus, and other dips. Olive oil is also good for making homemade butter and margarine substitutes. You can even use it as a moisturizer for dry skin or hair care products.
How To Tell A Good Olive Oil From A Fake
There are some simple ways to tell if your olive oil is fake. The first thing you can do is check the color of the oil. Genuine olive oil will be green or dark green in color, and it may have specks of white sediment at the bottom. If the oil is very light in color but claims to be extra virgin, then it may not be pure olive oil. You should also look for labels that say “extra virgin” or “cold pressed” on them, indicating that your oil is pure and of higher quality. Check for a “harvest date” – only the best bottles of pure extra virgin olive oil will list it on the bottle. (6) Finally, make sure that the olive oil hasn’t been watered down or mixed with other oils such as canola or vegetable oil. Look for bottles that have a third-party verification seal.
Keep Reading: 17 Foods High in Magnesium You NEED in Your Diet (see list)
- “How Is Olive Oil Made?” Olive Oil. Stephanie Eckelkamp. November 30, 2020.
- “Is extra-virgin olive oil extra healthy?” Harvard. Howard E. LeWine, MD. November 1, 2021
- “Olive Oil.” Examine. Kamal Patel, MPH, MBA. September 28 2022.
- “Best Liver Health Diet.” Dougcookrd. Doug Cook RDN MHSc. February 28, 2019.
- “Olive oil intake and cancer risk: A systematic review and meta-analysis.” NCBI. Christos Markellos, et al. January 2022.
- “Seven Ways to Tell If Your Olive Oil Is Fake.” Epicurious. Janet Rausa Fuller. May 25, 2017