8 Proven Health Benefits of Olive Oil + Best Variant
There is a lot of disagreement on fats in your diet on earth. From the seventies, there was a call for less fat to eat. They would cause overweight, high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease.
Nowadays many scientists come back to this and fats do not appear to be as unhealthy as they thought. But there is one type of fat/oil that everyone always knew is healthy, and that is olive oil.
There is actually no person on earth who claims that it is unhealthy. And that is because olive oil has many healthy effects on the body.
In this article, I will teach you all these benefits.
In addition, you will learn in this article:
- What type of fats olive oil consists of
- Why you can heat your olive oil perfectly
- How this oil improves your cholesterol levels
- Why olive oil reduces the chance of cancer
- Which type of olive oil is the best
Why is olive oil so healthy?
There is always a lot of fuss about fats and oils. There has been a long time that fats oils have only been negative in the news.
This has had everything to do with the fact that there is one big study (Keys from the 60s) that has linked the eating of fats to cardiovascular diseases. And then it is mainly saturated fatty acids, which you mainly find in animal products. You can think of cream butter here. As a result, many people have started to eat more margarine and vegetable oils with the idea that this is much healthier.
If you look at olive oil, olive oil is indeed a healthy alternative. But people are also going to use a lot more sunflower oil, palm oil and corn oil.
In recent years, however, it has come to light that there is no scientific link between eating saturated fats and the risk of cardiovascular disease (source, source). But still, many people eat vegetable oils and use them for baking. And that while it has been found that just the most vegetable oils are not healthy at all. And that has everything to do with the ratio of omega-6: omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-6 ratio: omega-3
To understand why olive oil is so healthy, you first get a little insight into fatology.
You can divide fats into unsaturated fatty acids and saturated fatty acids. You can simply remember that saturated fatty acids are hard at room temperature and 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 in olive oil.
A small side notes: You also have margarine, which actually consists of unsaturated fatty acids but which is hard at room temperature. It has been chemically processed at the factory and mixed with trans fats, making it hard at room temperature. This actually shows how unhealthy this fat is.
This article is about olive oil, so you guessed what kind of fats it contains: unsaturated fatty acids (it is liquid at room temperature). Then you can still make a division between unsaturated fatty acids:
- You have mono-unsaturated fatty acids
- You have polyunsaturated fatty acids
The monounsaturated fatty acids have only one double bond and are therefore also called monounsaturated. The polyunsaturated fatty acids have multiple double bonds and are also called polyunsaturated.
Especially olive oil contains many monounsaturated fatty acids. The rest of the vegetable oils contain many polyunsaturated fatty acids. You can think of sunflower oil, palm oil, corn oil, linseed oil and rapeseed oil. The polyunsaturated fatty acids can then be subdivided into:
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Omega-6 fatty acids
- Omega-7 fatty acids
Most oils consist for the most part of omega-6 fatty acids. And these are just inflammatory oils. These thus stir up all kinds of inflammatory processes in the body, something that you absolutely want to prevent. In contrast, omega-3 fatty acids are precisely anti-inflammatory. These, therefore, reduce the number of inflammatory processes in the body.
Ideally, an oil contains as many omega-3 fatty acids as possible and as few omega-6 fatty acids as possible.
Monounsaturated fatty acids
But olive oil is, therefore, a special case. This contains, in fact, monounsaturated fatty acids. The monounsaturated fatty acid is also called an omega-9 fatty acid, because the double bond is only on the ninth carbon atom.
Olive oil is actually one of the few high-fat products with this type of fatty acids. It also contains a small amount of polyunsaturated fatty acids, but in principle this is negligible.
You have to understand one thing. Most fat-rich products do not only consist of one type of fatty acid but often a combination of different fatty acids.
The profile of extra virgin olive oil looks like this:
- Saturated fat: 13.8%
- Monounsaturated fat: 73%
- Omega-6: 9.7%
- Omega-3: 0.76%
Now that you know what fatty acids olive oil contains, it is time to explain which variant is the best.
Which variant is the best?
But there is still a big problem around olive oil. Some olive oils are made from less qualitative olives or olives that are already oxidizing.
In addition, chemical agents, or other cheap oils are sometimes added during the processing process. And then you absolutely want to avoid it.
That is why it is important to buy the right kind of olive oil. The best variant is extra Vergine/virgin olive oil (both denominations mean the same thing). Vergine means virgin and that means that this oil is the least processed.
This oil comes from the first pressing and that makes him so healthy.
There are four grades in olive oil. I call them below from the highest to the lowest quality:
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Vierge olive oil
- Pomance (Spain) or Sansa (Italy)
Whether an oil may be called extra virgin depends on two things:
- A laboratory test
- A taste test
The laboratory test focuses in particular on the acidity of olive oil. Then it is determined whether the oil is the extra virgin or not. All other olive oils are sold under the names:
- Mild olive oil
- Olive oil for baking and roasting
- Olive oil
You now know which variant is the healthiest and what to look out for when buying olive oil. But what makes olive oil so healthy and which substances are responsible for it?
When I talk about olive oil from now on, I am talking about extra virgin/ vierge olive oil.
Benefit # 1: Olive oil contains healthy fats
You have already learned that olive oil consists mainly of monounsaturated fats (73%). For the rest, there are still about 10% omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, but this is fairly negligible in addition to those monounsaturated fatty acids.
We know that omega-3 fatty acids have an anti-inflammatory effect. And omega-6 fatty acids work just as stimulating. Ideally, there are as few omega-6 fatty acids as possible in an oil.
But what about those monounsaturated fatty acids? What makes these fatty acids healthy or unhealthy?
Research has generally shown that this is a very healthy fatty acid. This fatty acid also appears to have an anti-inflammatory effect and therefore has many positive effects on the body (source).
Olive oil and heating
Besides the fact that extra virgin olive oil contains very healthy fats, it also proves to be good against heat. That is, of course, the biggest debate in recent years. Some fats become less healthy during the heating process. These fatty acids can oxidize during heating, causing them to be damaged. Many people thought that this was also the case with olive oil, but that is not true.
Olive oil contains only one double bond, hence the name singular. And it is especially the double bonds that can be converted by the heat into less healthy substances. So it is mainly the polyunsaturated fats that are not very healthy to bake with.
Olive oil and saturated fats can best be used during cooking because they contain one or no double bonds.
There has been a study where extra virgin olive oil was heated for 36 hours at 180 degrees Celsius. It turned out that this oil was very resistant to damage (source).
Benefit # 2: It contains many healthy antioxidants
In addition to the healthy fatty acids than olive oil contains, it also contains vitamin E and K. It is never wrong to get some extra vitamins.
If you think it ends with that, then you are wrong.
Because like almost all other vegetable products on earth, olive oil contains antioxidants. And antioxidants are healthy for our body.
Antioxidants in vegetables and fruit ensure that they are protected against pest and animal pests. It gives the characteristic strong taste to vegetables and the intense color to fruit. In addition, they are actually slightly toxic substances, which can be used to kill pests.
You would, therefore, think that you would rather not get these substances in your body. But I would think twice about that when you read the following:
- These antioxidants in our body ensure that harmful substances (free radicals) in our body are neutralized. They react with these harmful substances so that they can not damage healthy cells in our body.
- In addition, these antioxidants (read: slightly toxic substances) ensure that our body is put on focus for a while. The body makes certain substances to eliminate these slightly toxic substances. When a large invader (virus or bacterium) subsequently enters our body, our body is better protected against this.
Which different diseases help prevent learning later in this article.
Benefit # 3: Olive oil has anti-inflammatory
Olive oil is known for its anti-inflammatory effect.
And let chronic inflammations are just one of the biggest causes of many diseases.
Olive oil can inhibit these chronic inflammations, thus providing one of the greatest health benefits.
These effects are mainly achieved by the healthy antioxidants in olive oil. One of the baldgriest is called oleocanthal.
And the best part is that this substance has the same effect as ibuprofen, the powerful anti-inflammatory we take when we have a headache for example
A large study that appeared in The Nature showed that 4 scoops of extra virgin olive oil each have an anti-inflammatory dose equal to 10 percent of the powerful action of ibuprofen (source). But then of course without all the unpleasant side effects.
In addition, there are a number of studies that show that monounsaturated fatty acids in olive oil also have an anti-inflammatory effect (source).
All in all, you can eat better enough olive oil to go healthy through life than swallow ibuprofen.
Benefit # 4: It provides a protective effect against Alzheimer’s disease
Chronic inflammations also play an important role in Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common neurodegenerative disease throughout the world. When you hear dementia, most people also think of Alzheimer’s disease first.
This disease is characterized by protein accumulation in the brain, causing healthy brain cells to die off and therefore no longer function. Slowly reduced memory and other functions of the brain. Actually, it is literally aging the brain.
Already quite old then it is only called a decrepit. When you wait long enough everyone is ultimately demented. It is a natural process of our body.
But especially when people are affected with this disease early, think about 60 years, then doctors of Alzheimer’s disease speak.
Now oleocanthal is found to inhibit a substance that causes the clotting of proteins in the brain (source). It reacts specifically with these clumping proteins in the brain and it inhibits inflammatory processes. Both contribute significantly to Alzheimer’s disease.
Benefit # 5: It reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease
Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in many western countries (source). And it is expected that it will soon be number 1.
The risk of cardiovascular disease is strongly determined by various risk factors:
- Bad cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Insulin resistance (type 2 diabetes)
- Overweight (especially belly fat, also called visceral fat)
What does that mean? When cholesterol oxidizes, it is harmful to our body and this is what you want to prevent as much as possible.
Do you want to know more about eating fats and the effect on your cholesterol? Then read the following article:
Above it already showed that inflammation in the body is reduced, and also in cardiovascular diseases, there is chronic inflammation.
Not only does it counteract the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, but studies have also shown that olive oil has a positive effect on blood pressure in patients with hypertension (high blood pressure). Olive oil could reduce the intake of blood pressure medications by 48% (source).
Olive oil also appears to improve the function of the walls of blood vessels (source). This means that the blood vessels become more supple and this reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Yes, these are quite a few scientific studies that show that olive oil is really healthy for the body. If you have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease because it is common in your family, it might be wise to consider adding extra virgin olive oil to your diet.
Benefit # 6: Olive oil can help in weight loss
It sounds very logical when someone says that fat is getting fat.
Fatty food makes you fat. You would think that the word is not used as an indication when someone is fat.
But still, this turns out to be completely wrong.
It is true that fats contain a lot of calories compared to the other macronutrients:
- 1 gram of fat contains about 9 kilocalories
- 1 gram of protein contains about 4 kilocalories
- 1 gram of carbohydrates contains about 4 kilocalories
What most people do is lower the number of fats in your diet so that you can reduce the number of calories more easily. After all, when you consume fewer calories than your body needs daily, you lose weight.
But it is not that simple. Your hormone system also plays an important role in weight loss. In addition, you can eat fewer calories than you need, but when you take them out of junk food, I can guarantee that your weight arrives (and are hungry all day long).
Fat and weight loss
Fats are actually one of the best macronutrients to realize weight loss. Fats have little or no influence on your blood sugar and insulin levels. This also does not increase the number of growth hormones in your blood. These growth hormones normally provide growth and fat storage. In addition, fats have a positive effect on your feeling of satiety. This is in contrast to carbohydrates.
Eating a lot of olive oil is a perfect way to get the right fats. Sprinkle a lot of olive oil with your homemade salad and do not use it too sparingly in the pan.
For example, a 3-year study in which 187 people participated showed that a diet rich in olive oil and its antioxidants caused weight loss (source).
Benefit # 7: Olive oil increases insulin sensitivity
Type 2 diabetes is also an important precursor to cardiovascular disease.
Unfortunately, more and more people are struggling with this. And that does not only have to do with it because it occurs in the family. Generally, people develop type 2 diabetes due to an unhealthy lifestyle. You should think of:
- Eating unhealthy food
- Too little movement/exercise
- Too much stress
You get diabetes because your body becomes insensitive to insulin. This is what they call insulin resistance with an expensive word. This is caused by eating too much bad and unhealthy sugars and carbohydrates.
effect macronutrients insulin saturationHere I mentioned it for a while but fats have little or no influence on your blood sugar and insulin levels. The same applies to olive oil.
A randomized clinical study with 418 non-diabetic participants showed that olive oil offers protective effects against the development of type 2 diabetes. In this study, a Mediterranean diet with a lot of olive oil reduced the risk of type 2 diabetes by 40% (source).
And this also reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. These are closely connected.
Benefit # 8: Olive oil has a protective effect against cancer
And before I finish this article, I want to highlight one big advantage of olive oil.
Cause of death number 1 in the Netherlands is cancer.
So it would be a bit of a shame if I do not treat it in this article. The health benefits of olive oil are quite good, but I will add one last one:
Because the substances in olive oil also have a protective effect against cancer.
The population in the south of Europe generally follow the Mediterranean diet. The Mediterranean diet is characterized by a lot of raw food and a lot of extra virgin olive oil.
What has generally also been shown is that cancer is much less prevalent in these areas than in Western countries. South Europeans, therefore, have a lower risk of cancer and the scientists believe that olive oil has something to do with this.
Cancer is caused by uncontrolled cell growth in our body. This uncontrolled cell growth can occur because of damage to a body cell. The antioxidants in olive oil can limit the damage of these by reacting with free radicals (source, source).
Because of this, these free radicals can no longer cause damage to our body.
There are also many test tube studies available that show that certain substances in olive oil can help to fight cancer cells (source). But before a decision can be made about this, more research needs to be done on people.
A small side note
It is clear that olive oil is healthy. Still, I want to make a small comment.
In many benefits studies have been used in which they have researched certain advantages of the Mediterranean diet.
However, you can not necessarily conclude that olive oil will provide the above benefits. Because in itself the entire Mediterranean diet can take care of that.
Olive oil is part of the Mediterranean diet that is heart-protective, for example. But these are not necessarily reasons to assume that olive oil is actually heart protective.
This diet is characterized by:
- A lot of movement
- Eating lots of fruit and vegetables
- The consumption of many legumes and nuts
- Eating little meat
- Having “siesta” (Long break between work through for example a nap)
When I read all the above points, I read a very healthy diet in itself that has a positive effect on our body.
All in all, you can not just say that olive oil is liable for all the above benefits. But what has been shown is that olive oil, in any case, does not entail negative consequences.
The Mediterranean diet (which is rich in olive oil) shows a lot of benefits from research.
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