Olive Oil Basics
You get olive oil from grinding or pressing whole olives and collecting the oil that seeps out. You can use olive oil in all kinds of dishes. You can cook with it, drizzle it on bread, pasta, or salads, or use it as an ingredient in baked goods. Best of all, it comes with a whole host of health benefits.
Scientific Name – Olea europaea
Family – Oleaceae
Native – Mediterranean Basin
Other Names – Jaitun Ka Tel (Hindi), Mafuta (Swahili), Olyf Olie ( Afrikaans), Zayt Alzaytun (Arabic).
From ruling our kitchens to taking over the cosmetic world, olive oil has become a rage all over the world in recent times.
Types of Olive Oil
Olive oil comes in one of three types, or grades: extra virgin, virgin, and refined (light). They’re labeled based on how much processing they go through before they’re bottled and sold. Refined olive oil is the most processed of the three.
- Virgin Olive Oil – The most popular variety, virgin olive oil is a well-known cooking oil with a surprisingly low acid content. It is best suitable for people who want to enjoy the benefits of olive oil without spending a bomb.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil – Made by cold pressing olive fruit, this oil is considered to be the best for our body. But mind you, not everybody can afford to use extra virgin oil due to its high cost.
- Pure/Refined Olive Oil – This oil is actually an amalgamation of refined and virgin olive oils. It has a high acidic content, and hence is unsuitable for use.
Which Is Healthiest?
The olive oil that goes through the least amount of processing to make is extra virgin olive oil (EVOO). Because of this, EVOO has more nutrition than virgin or refined olive oils do. For example, it’s high in healthy plant nutrients called phytochemicals that may help fight cancer and heart disease. So to get the most from your olive oil, reach for the EVOO.
Benefits of Olive Oil
1. OLIVE OIL IS RICH IN HEALTHY MONOUNSATURATED FATS
Olive oil is the natural oil extracted from olives, the fruit of the olive tree.
But the predominant fatty acid in olive oil is a monounsaturated fat called oleic acid, making up 73% of the total oil content.
Monounsaturated fats are also quite resistant to high heat, making extra virgin olive oil a healthy choice for cooking.
SUMMARY: Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated oleic acid. This fatty acid is believed to have many beneficial effects and is a healthy choice for cooking.
2. OLIVE OIL CONTAINS LARGE AMOUNTS OF ANTIOXIDANTS
Extra virgin olive oil is fairly nutritious.
Apart from its beneficial fatty acids, it contains modest amounts of vitamins E and K.
But olive oil is also loaded with powerful antioxidants.
SUMMARY: Extra virgin olive oil is loaded with antioxidants, some of which have powerful biological effects.
3. OLIVE OIL HAS STRONG ANTI-INFLAMMATORY PROPERTIES
Chronic inflammation is thought to be a leading driver of diseases, such as cancer, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, arthritis and even obesity.
Extra-virgin olive oil can reduce inflammation, which may be one of the main reasons for its health benefits.
The main anti-inflammatory effects are mediated by the antioxidants. Key among them is oleocanthal, which has been shown to work similarly to ibuprofen, an anti-inflammatory drug (10).
Some scientists estimate that the oleocanthal in 3.4 tablespoons (50 ml) of extra virgin olive oil has a similar effect as 10% of the adult dosage of ibuprofen (11).
One study also showed that olive oil antioxidants can inhibit some genes and proteins that drive inflammation (12).
SUMMARY: Olive oil contains nutrients that fight inflammation. These include oleic acid as well as the antioxidant oleocanthal.
4. OLIVE OIL MAY HELP PREVENT STROKES
Stroke is caused by a disturbance of blood flow to your brain, either due to a blood clot or bleeding.
In developed nations, stroke is the second most common cause of death, right behind heart disease (13).
The relationship between olive oil and stroke risk has been studied extensively.
A large review of studies in 841,000 people found that olive oil was the only source of monounsaturated fat associated with a reduced risk of stroke and heart disease (14).
In another review in 140,000 participants, those who consumed olive oil were at a much lower risk of stroke than those who did not (15).
SUMMARY: Several large studies demonstrate that people who consume olive oil have a much lower risk of stroke, the second biggest killer in developed countries.
5. OLIVE OIL IS PROTECTIVE AGAINST HEART DISEASE
Heart disease is the most common cause of death in the world (16).
Observational studies conducted a few decades ago showed that heart disease is less common in Mediterranean countries.
Extra virgin olive oil is one of the key ingredients in this diet, protecting against heart disease in several ways (19).
Interestingly, it has also been shown to lower blood pressure, which is one of the strongest risk factors for heart disease and premature death. In one study, olive oil reduced the need for blood pressure medication by 48% (26, 27, 28).
Dozens — if not hundreds — of studies indicate that extra virgin olive oil has powerful benefits for your heart.
If you have heart disease, a family history of heart disease or any other major risk factor, you may want to include plenty of extra virgin olive oil in your diet.
SUMMARY: Extra virgin olive oil has numerous benefits for heart health. It lowers blood pressure, protects “bad” LDL cholesterol particles from oxidation and improves the function of blood vessels.
6. OLIVE OIL IS NOT ASSOCIATED WITH WEIGHT GAIN AND OBESITY
Eating excessive amounts of fat causes weight gain.
In a 30-month study in over 7,000 Spanish college students, consuming a lot of olive oil was not linked to increased weight (32).
SUMMARY: Consuming olive oil does not appear to increase the likelihood of weight gain. Moderate intake may even aid weight loss.
7. OLIVE OIL MAY FIGHT ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common neurodegenerative condition in the world.
One of its key features is a buildup of so-called beta-amyloid plaques inside your brain cells.
One study in mice showed that a substance in olive oil can help remove these plaques (34).
Additionally, a human study indicated that a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil benefitted brain function (35).
Keep in mind that more research is needed on the impact of olive oil on Alzheimer’s.
SUMMARY: Some studies suggest that olive oil may combat Alzheimer’s disease, but more research is needed.
8. OLIVE OIL MAY REDUCE TYPE 2 DIABETES RISK
Olive oil appears to be highly protective against type 2 diabetes.
A randomized clinical trial in 418 healthy people recently confirmed the protective effects of olive oil (38).
In this study, a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil reduced the risk of type 2 diabetes by over 40%.
SUMMARY: Both observational studies and clinical trials suggest that olive oil, combined with a Mediterranean diet, can reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes.
9. THE ANTIOXIDANTS IN OLIVE OIL HAVE ANTI-CANCER PROPERTIES
Cancer is one of the most common causes of death in the world.
People in Mediterranean countries have a lower risk of some cancers, and many researchers believe that olive oil may be the reason (39).
More research is needed to determine whether olive oil in fact reduces your risk of cancer.
SUMMARY: Preliminary evidence suggests that olive oil may reduce cancer risk, but further studies are needed.
10. OLIVE OIL CAN HELP TREAT RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease characterized by deformed and painful joints.
Though the exact cause is not well understood, it involves your immune system attacking normal cells by mistake.
Olive oil seems particularly beneficial when combined with fish oil, a source of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids.
In one study, olive and fish oil significantly improved handgrip strength, joint pain and morning stiffness in people with rheumatoid arthritis (46).
SUMMARY: Olive oil can help reduce joint pain and swelling from rheumatoid arthritis. The beneficial effects are greatly increased when combined with fish oil.
11. OLIVE OIL HAS ANTIBACTERIAL PROPERTIES
Olive oil contains many nutrients that can inhibit or kill harmful bacteria (47).
One of these is Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium that lives in your stomach and can cause stomach ulcers and stomach cancer.
Test-tube studies have shown that extra virgin olive oil fights eight strains of this bacterium, three of which are resistant to antibiotics (48).
A study in humans suggested that 30 grams of extra virgin olive oil, taken daily, can eliminate Helicobacter pylori infection in 10–40% of people in as little as two weeks (49).
SUMMARY: Extra virgin olive oil has antibacterial properties and has been found to be particularly effective against Helicobacter pylori, a type of bacterium that can cause stomach ulcers and stomach cancer.
12. STRENGTHENS BONES
If you thought calcium alone made your bones strong. Here’s news — olive oil too can strengthen the bones.
In a study that involved men consuming a Mediterranean diet, it was found that olive oil might contribute to strong bones. Their blood was found to contain higher levels of osteocalcin, which was an indication of healthy bone formation (17), (18).
13. Aids Weight Loss
Losing weight was never this easy. What if you could lose weight while snacking on your favorite food? No kidding here!
Have your favorite Italian pasta or a salad drizzled with olive oil and watch yourself go from flab to fab.
A study published in the Harvard School of Public Health had supported the efficacy of olive oil in aiding weight loss. The weight loss that occurred due to two different types of diets (a moderate-fat Mediterranean diet that includes olive oil, and a low fat diet) were compared. By the end of the study, only 20 percent of the volunteers in the low-fat group were still following the diet.
14. Helps Dilute Ear Wax
Using olive oil to clean ear wax is a good idea (23).
To prevent the onset of cerumen impaction, experts recommend using olive oil to remove wax from your ears. In most cases, when you try to clean impacted earwax, the hardened wax chunks move further back into the ear canal.
This is where olive oil comes in handy. It helps to soften the cerumen, making it easier for you to remove earwax. Once it has been sufficiently softened, the wax gets broken down into smaller pieces, and often moves to the outer edge of your air canal, where it can be safely and thoroughly cleaned with a soft cloth or tissue.
What You Need
- Olive oil
- A dropper
What You Need To Do
- Heat a small amount of the oil a little above room temperature. Warm olive oil will help break down the earwax. Make sure it is not too hot as it can burn your ear canal. It should be about as hot as your body, and not more than that.
- Fill a clean dropper with just a couple of drops of the oil. You do not need more than ¾ of a standard-sized dropper.
- Gently let the oil drop into your ear canal. Make sure your head is tilted sideways so that your ears are pointed upwards. Squeeze in one drop first, and if it feels alright, slowly dispense the remaining oil.
- Leave the oil to do its work for about 10 to 15 minutes. To help the oil penetrate, shift your ear canal by opening and closing your mouth gently. You can also massage the area under your ear. If you need to move, holding a cotton swab over your ear can prevent the oil from spilling out.
- Once the oil has softened the earwax, turn your head so that the oil can spill out. You can rinse it off by using a dropper filled with warm water to flush the oil out. You can also let water into your ear while showering and then let it drain out.
- Lastly, wipe off any excess oil from the outer part of your ear with a soft cloth or tissue.
You can repeat this method several times a week as required. While a few people say that it should be done two to four times a day, others recommend the treatment only a few times a week. It takes some patience with this remedy as it can take up to two weeks for even minor cases to clear up completely.
15. Perks Up Sex Life
Ever wondered why all the great love stories originated from Italy – the land of olive oil?
It’s no surprise that olive oil is an excellent aphrodisiac (25). A proper massage with olive oil enhances blood circulation to all parts of the body, including the sex organs.
MAKE SURE TO GET THE RIGHT TYPE
Buying the right kind of olive oil is extremely important.
Extra virgin olive oil retains some of the antioxidants and bioactive compounds from olives. For this reason, it’s considered healthier than the more refined variety of olive oil.
Even so, there is a lot of fraud on the olive oil market, as many oils that read “extra virgin” on the label have been diluted with other refined oils.
Therefore, examine labels carefully to ensure you’re getting real extra virgin olive oil. It’s always a good idea to read ingredients lists and check for quality certification.