Top 10 Health Benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
While extra virgin olive oil is a staple in salad dressings and pesto, we’re here to tell you that you should be using this oil as often as possible!
Extra virgin olive oil uplifts any dish with its delightful fresh taste and exquisite aroma. It’s a versatile ingredient that can be used in anything from cakes to marinades to pasta. It’s also an item that you likely always have on hand.
It’s very different from other oils on the market, due to its wide array of health benefits.
But before we dive into all of its amazing health benefits, let’s take a look at the nutritional breakdown of extra virgin olive oil.
Serving 1 tsp
4.5 g fat (3.3 g MUFA)
0 g carbohydrates
0 g protein
0 g cholesterol
0 g sodium
0 g fiber
0 g sugar
Let’s face it, calorically speaking, extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is comparable to the rest. Whether it’s butter, canola oil, vegetable oil, or any other type of fat, 1 tsp ranges from about 34-41 calories.
Calories aside, extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) has numerous health benefits that surpass other oils on the market. Here are the top 10:
It’s an antioxidant powerhouse
Antioxidants have one main purpose, they fight what’s known as “free radicals.” These free radicals cause oxidative stress in the body, which results in cell damage that is very harmful.
Extra virgin olive oil contains polyphenols that are full of powerful antioxidants. These polyphenols “quench” free radicals by neutralizing them. They also protect healthy cells throughout this process.
Extra virgin olive oils main phenolic compounds are hydroxytyrosol and oleuropein. They’ve shown to have powerful antioxidant activity both in vivo and in vitro.
- Hydroxytyrosol – “Due to its molecular structure, its regular consumption has several beneficial effects such as antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, and as a protector of skin and eyes, etc”.
- Oleuropein – “It shows hepatoprotective role against liver damage induced by hazardous stimuli. has anticancer activity as well as antiviral activity”.
It protects your heart
Give your heart a break! Extra virgin olive oil has been shown to reduce blood pressure and prevent coronary artery disease (CAD) with its omega-3 content.
Extra virgin olive oil consumption decreases total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol (lousy), and triglycerides. It also increases HDL cholesterol (healthy) more than other oils.
It helps manage and prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes has become more prevalent in recent years. About 10.5% of the population have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and 34.5% of the population are pre-diabetic.
It’s a condition caused by insulin resistance of the pancreatic cells. In some cases, the body also stops making insulin, which results in chronically high blood sugar levels.
Extra virgin olive oil lowers blood sugar levels and increases blood insulin levels potentially controlling and lowering the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
It fights inflammation
Inflammation is an immune response to protect the body. It causes swelling and redness at the site of infection. When inflammation becomes chronic, it can lead to various health conditions like arthritis and heart disease.
A randomized control trial performed by a research team demonstrated that olive oil has beneficial effects on reducing biomarkers of inflammation.
Another study discovered that fish oil supplements in combination with olive oil reduced “joint pain intensity, right and left handgrip strength… duration of morning stiffness, and onset of fatigue”.
It helps you absorb fat-soluble vitamins
Extra virgin olive oil acts as a vehicle for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K).
These fat-soluble vitamins rely heavily on fat globules to transport them into cells so they can be used.
These vitamins play a variety of roles in the body, including immune health, eye health, bone health, and skin health.
It’s good for brain health
High intakes of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) appear to be protective against age-related cognitive decline.
Consumption of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) protects memory, improves learning ability, and reduces brain inflammation.
The Mediterranean diet reduces cognitive impairment and neurological diseases like dementia.
It promotes longevity
I bet if you had a nickel for every time someone said “life is short,” you would be rich! It’s true, life flies by faster than most of us want it to. No day is guaranteed, and no one knows when their time is up.
In terms of living longer, one way to reduce multiple comorbidities is to follow the Mediterranean diet and ingest plenty of extra virgin olive oil. A recent study found that this diet improved “physical functioning, general health and vitality”.
It’s a high energy food-satiety
It's a known fact that fat is higher in calories and takes longer for our bodies to break it down. For this reason, it causes the body to feel fuller for a longer period of time because the body can’t convert it quickly into energy.
The Mediterranean diet helps with long term weight maintenance as satiety is met.
It reduces the risk of metabolic syndrome
Metabolic syndrome is defined as “high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol levels. The syndrome increases a person's risk for heart attack and stroke”.
Results of observational studies in Mediterranean countries suggest that increasing adherence to high-fat, high MUFA dietary patterns is associated with decreasing rates of obesity, thus reducing the risk of metabolic syndrome.
It helps fight against cancer
Extra virgin olive oil acts as an antioxidant reducing the risk of genetic mutations and carcinogenesis (formation of cancer).
Both olives and olive oil contain substantial amounts of other compounds deemed to be anticancer agents (e.g. squalene and terpenoids) as well as the peroxidation-resistant lipid oleic acid.
This previously unrecognized property of oleic acid offers a novel molecular mechanism by which individual fatty acids may regulate the malignant behavior of breast cancer cells and therefore be helpful in the design of future epidemiological studies and, eventually, dietary counseling.
Additionally, research has shown that a diet rich in extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) decreased DNA damage compared with a diet high in corn oil.
Now that you are in the loop about all the amazing health benefits of extra virgin olive oil, are you ready to make the switch?
Here are 3 easy ways to add extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) to your meals
- Drizzle it over plain, high-protein, whole milk yogurt, then top it with pistachios and a sprinkle of sea salt
- Coat asparagus and garlic cloves in extra virgin olive oil and roast them until soft. Toss the garlic and asparagus into the blender with cream, salt, and pepper. Top soup with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil for extra flavor and richness.
- Cut ripe tomatoes and combine them with fresh mozzarella and basil. Toss the salad in olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Extra virgin olive oils great taste, nutrient composition, versatility, and endless health benefits make it a great addition to any diet.
Written by Chloe Morill
Reviewed by Kelly Powers, MA, RDN, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who takes a holistic approach to nutrition and health. Kelly is a recipe developer with a food blog highlighting whole foods, simple recipes, and her life in San Francisco. She’s the creator of 52 Weeks, a weekly meal plan program that helps users get back in the kitchen and feed themselves well. Kelly is also a co-founder of Olivaio.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Is extra virgin olive oil better than just olive oil?
A: Extra virgin olive oil is better than just olive oil because it is produced without the use of heat or chemical refining, and contains the highest concentration of olive oil's beneficial compounds with no preservatives or additives that could be harmful to the body.
Q: What is the recommended daily intake for extra virgin olive oil?
A: According to the US FDA, consuming 1 1/2 tablespoons per day will aide in improving health and disease prevention.
Q: Can I drink extra virgin olive oil?
A: Yes! While you can incorporate extra virgin olive oil within foods and recipes, you can also drink it if you like. Drinking extra virgin olive oil daily or regularly may benefit your heart, bone, and digestive health and help stabilize your blood sugar levels.