Recently, people are interested to know how specific foods and a balanced diet promote health. The prevention of chronic disease such as heart disease and cancer is of major concern. As part of this trend, healthy eating especially the Mediterranean diet are becoming more popular. The Mediterranean diet is known for the high consumption of olive oil which has so many benefits.
Olive oil is a very important dietary component that we should not omit from the diet. However, not all fats are the same. Some are bad, raising the blood cholesterol and leading to cardiovascular disease. Others are good and heart healthy. Olive oil belongs to the good fats category, and below are the reasons why.
Health Benefits of Olive oil
Heart Health and blood pressure:
According to Mayo clinic, monounsaturated fatty acids or MUFAs such as olive oil help lower your risk of heart disease. They lower the LDL levels which is the bad cholesterol that clogs the arteries leading to heart disease.
This was also confirmed by studies done in UC Davis in 2015 on using olive oil as medicine. These studies showed that a daily consumption of extra-virgin olive oil helps in lowering blood pressure and LDL while increasing the levels of HDL.
Reduced risk of cancer:
Another study published in 2011 showed that an intake of olive oil protects against many types of cancer. It’s not clear however whether this is due to the MUFAs or to the antioxidants components of olive oil.
Increased olive oil consumption has also been linked to decreased risk of chronic inflammation, which is the root cause of major illnesses. These include neurological disorders (including Parkinson’s and Alhzeimer), obesity, diabetes, arthritis and cancer.
Better digestive health:
Olive oil facilitates overall digestion and absorption of nutrients including fat soluble vitamins. Also the anti-inflammatory properties, antibacterial and antimicrobial activities of olive oil also offer positive effects on gut health. Researchers have found olive oil compounds to have significant antibacterial activity against several strains of Helicobacter pylori, which causes peptic ulcers and gastric cancers.
Is it safe to cook with Olive oil?
While the health properties of raw extra virgin olive oil are well known, its qualities and characteristics when used for cooking do not disappear. A recent study done at the university of Barcelona, in February 2020, suggested that EVOO maintained a good level of benefits when cooked. Cooking decreased the levels of phenols by 40% to 120 degrees Celsius and 75% to 170 degrees Celsius, compared to raw olive oil. However, cooked EVOO still meets the parameters of the EU’s health claim.
The research has found extra virgin olive oil to be the safest vegetable oil to cook at high temperatures. It also helps the absorption of phenolic compounds found in vegetables when cooked together. This adds to the health benefits of both.
Consuming Olive oil has a wide range of protective benefits. However, you must remember that all fats are dense in calories and can cause weight gain. You have to make sure to use them only in moderation. Replace the bad fats such as butter and margarine with healthy MUFAs for a better health!