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12 health benefits of olive oil

Olive oil is extremely nutritious and packed with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and many other properties. Know the 12 benefits of olive oil and how you can consume it.

Olive oil is believed to be one of the most nutritious oils for health. Known for its rich flavour and taste, olive oil comes from the pressing of olives, a process that preserves its natural goodness and nutritional potency. It contains monounsaturated fats, vitamins E and K, and potent antioxidants like polyphenols. Olive oil not only enhances the flavour of the food but also promotes heart health, fights inflammation, and boosts overall well-being. It can be used in several ways, such as drizzling it over salads or sauteing vegetables, to elevate both taste and nutrition. With so many benefits of olive oil, it is vital to add it to a healthy diet!

Nutritional profile of olive oil

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 1 tablespoon or 13.5 grams of olive oil provides:

  • 119 calories
  • 13.5 g of fat, of which 1.86 g is saturated
  • 1.9 milligrams (mg) of vitamin E
  • 8.13 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin K

Moreover, it offers potassium, calcium, and antioxidants such as polyphenols, tocopherols, phytosterols, squalene, and terpenic acids.

12 health benefits of olive oil

The health benefits of olive oil also include lowering heart disease risk, according to a 2020 study. Additionally, research published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology showed that individuals consuming more than half a tablespoon daily had lower rates of premature death from cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, and other causes compared to those who seldom or never consumed olive oil.

Here are 12 amazing reasons why you should add olive oil to your regular diet:

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1. Rich in antioxidant

Polyphenols, tocopherols, phytosterols, squalene, terpenic acids, and vitamin E are some antioxidants present in extra virgin olive oil, which help prevent cellular damage caused by molecules called free radicals. Too many free radicals can cause oxidative stress, which can lead to cell damage. It may play a role in the development of certain diseases, including certain types of cancer. As per the US Department of Agriculture, 1 tablespoon contains 13 percent of the daily value of vitamin E and 7 percent of the daily value of vitamin K.

Also Read: Is extra virgin olive oil suitable for cooking?

olive oil
Olive oil is a rich source of antioxidants, such as vitamin E and phenolic compounds. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

2. Contains anti-inflammatory properties

Chronic inflammation is a key cause of diseases such as cancer, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, obesity, heart problems, etc. Olive oil contains polyphenols, a natural compound with potent anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce inflammation, providing relief. According to a study published in the journal Nutrients, anti-inflammatory properties can help reduce inflammation, like how ibuprofen, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, works.

3. Has anti-bacterial properties

Oleuropein, a phytoconstituent in olive, has antibacterial properties that may inhibit or kill harmful bacteria. One of these is Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), a bacterium responsible for stomach ulcers, stomach cancer, and other gastrointestinal issues. A 2022 animal study published by Frontiers in Microbiology reveals that extra virgin olive oil may help fight against bacteria and maintain a healthy balance of gut bacteria.

Also read: Is olive oil healthier than good-ol’ sarson ka tel? This is what a nutritionist has to say

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4. Healthy fats

Olive oil is packed with monounsaturated fats, specifically oleic acid. These fats are considered healthy because they can help lower bad cholesterol levels (LDL cholesterol) while increasing good cholesterol levels (HDL cholesterol), thereby improving overall heart health. A study published by Nutrients suggests that oleic acid reduces inflammation and oxidative stress and may even have beneficial effects on genes linked to cancer.

olive oil for lips
Olive oil is great for your heart health. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

5. Good for heart health

Olive oil is the primary fat source in the Mediterranean diet, associated with longer life expectancy and reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases compared to other diets. Olive oil helps maintain healthy blood vessels, reduces inflammation, and improves cholesterol levels, all of which contribute to better cardiovascular health. Consuming 20 grams or two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil each day is good to maintain heart health, as recommended review published by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Food Safety Authority.

6. Improves digestion

Incorporating olive oil into your daily diet can help with digestion. Research from the journal Food and Function shows that polyphenols found in olive oil can be directly absorbed by the intestine. These polyphenols potentially contribute to maintaining a healthy gut microbiota, which is associated with improved immunity and reduced inflammation. For many healthy adults, consuming one tablespoon of olive oil on an empty stomach in the morning may alleviate constipation.

7. Avoid weight gain

Despite being calorie-dense, olive oil can actually help in weight management when consumed in moderation. Its healthy fat content helps increase satiety and reduce cravings for unhealthy snacks, making it easier to maintain a healthy weight. According to a 2018 study by the European Journal of Nutrition, overweight women who incorporated 1 or more tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil into their breakfast experienced greater reductions in body fat and blood pressure compared to those who used soybean oil.

8. Fights against Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most common neurodegenerative conditions that affects people worldwide. While this condition gets worse over time, it is recommended to follow a healthy routine to manage the condition. A 2024 review published by the International Journal of Molecular Sciences found that olive oil may lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline. This potential benefit is because olive oil reduces beta-amyloid plaques, neuroinflammation, and oxidative stress.

Alzheimer's Disease
Olive oil is effective in reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Image courtesy: Adobe stock

9. Reduces type 2 diabetes risk

Consuming olive oil has been linked to a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. The monounsaturated fats in olive oil improve insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control, which are crucial factors in preventing and managing diabetes. A 2017 meta-analysis also demonstrated that olive oil supplementation significantly lowers blood sugar levels and fasting plasma glucose among individuals with type 2 diabetes. Furthermore, another 2019 study published by Diabetes, Obesity, and Metabolism found that daily consumption of 55 mL of oleanolic acid-enriched olive oil reduced the likelihood of developing diabetes by 55 percent in people with prediabetes compared to those in the control group.

10. Anticancer properties

According to the World Health Oraganisation (WHO), cancer ranks among the leading causes of death worldwide. The antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds in olive oil help mitigate oxidative stress and inflammation, both of which contribute to cancer development. A 2022 meta-analysis published by the Public Library of Science One found that people who consumed olive oil were 31 percent less likely to develop cancer.

11. Helps manage bone problems

Olive oil has anti-inflammatory properties, which make it beneficial for people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis and other bone problems. Regular consumption of olive oil can help reduce the joint pain and swelling associated with this condition.

12. Reduces anxiety and depression

Olive oil can enhance your mood, which can help you reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression. The monounsaturated fats and antioxidants in olive oil support brain health and neurotransmitter function, which may help you protect against mental health problems.

The primary difference between olive oil and extra virgin olive oil lies in their extraction process and quality standards. Extra virgin olive oil is derived from the first cold pressing of olives, which ensures it retains maximum flavour and nutrients with no chemical processing. It has a superior taste, lower acidity, and higher concentrations of antioxidants and polyphenols compared to regular olive oil. This makes it a healthier oil than regular olive oil but it also makes it a little more expensive.

Olive oil
Olive oil can improve your overall health. Image courtesy: Pexels

Are there any side effects of olive oil?

Olive oil is generally safe and beneficial but excessive consumption can lead to potential side effects. These include gastrointestinal discomforts such as diarrhoea or indigestion, especially if consumed in large quantities. Side effects of excessive consumption of olive oil also include acne and other skin problems. Moreover, its high-calorie content can contribute to weight gain if not consumed in moderation. While an allergic reaction to olive oil is rare, some people may experience it as well.

Also read: 5 types of olive oils and how to use them for healthy cooking

How to add olive oil to your diet?

To incorporate olive oil into your diet, follow these tips:

  • Use it as a salad dressing. This will increase the consumption of antioxidants, healthy fats, etc.
  • Drizzle it over vegetables before roasting to enhance flavour and nutritional content.
  • It can also be used in marinades for meats or fish.
  • For a Mediterranean diet-based breakfast, drizzle olive oil over whole-grain toast or mix it with herbs for a dipping sauce.
  • You can also drizzle some olive oil on top of hummus to enhance the nutrients and flavor.

Remember to use olive oil in moderation to reap its health benefits without consuming excessive calories.

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