Benefits Of Olive Oil
Olive oil is one of nature's powerful gifts that can keep us healthy, strong, and youthful. It is a potent nutritional weapon against coronary heart disease, several cancers, diabetes, arthritis, and more. Thanks to its anti-aging and protective compounds, olive oil has excellent benefits for our skin and hair as well. To get the best out of olive oil, it's important to know the various grades and types of olive oils and how best to use them.
Olive oil enjoys a superstar status in the fields of food, medicine, and beauty. A basic ingredient in the diets of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, olive oil is used today for an astonishing range of purposes – tossing a salad, preventing serious ailments, maintaining healthy skin and hair, fixing sunburn and diaper rash, to name just a few!
The versatility of olive oil has been known since ancient times. Historically, it was used not only for cooking and consumption, but also in cosmetics, medicines, lights, and also for anointing the noble. It is no wonder that Homer called it “liquid gold” while Hippocrates considered it “the great healer”.1
What Makes Olive Oil Special?
Olive oil’s nutritive and therapeutic properties are largely due to its rich content of oleic acid, which is a monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA). It also has valuable minor components such as tocopherols, squalene, phenols, phytosterols, chlorophyll, and carotenoids. The three phenols (hydroxytyrosol, tyrosol, and oleuropein) found in olive oil have powerful antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, vasodilatory, and anti-platelet aggregation properties, making the oil a potent biological treasure.
Together, all these elements form a powerful arsenal against a host of life-threatening ailments like coronary heart disease, hypertension, infectious diseases, cancers of the breast, colon, skin, and prostate, and several inflammatory and degenerative conditions. The vitamin E in olive oil makes it an excellent ingredient for cosmetic and anti-aging products.2
A Bouquet Of Benefits For Your Health And Well-Being
Fighting Disease And Keeping Your Body Healthy With Olive Oil
The Seven Countries Study was a research program in the late nineties tasked “to investigate diet and lifestyle along with other risk factors for cardiovascular disease, across contrasting countries and cultures.” It found that the diet of people living in Mediterranean countries was associated with reduced levels of heart disease and cancer of the breast, colon, and skin. While there were variations in the food habits of these countries, olive oil was a common thread in all of them. Other factors common to the Mediterranean diet were fruits, vegetables, and fish.3
That led to an explosion of interest worldwide in olive oil. Since then, researchers have discovered a treasure trove of health benefits in olive oil. Of all the grades of olive oil, extra virgin olive oil is richest in antioxidants and thereby in health benefits.
Reduce Oxidative Stress
Oxidative stress indicates an imbalance between your body’s antioxidant defenses and the free radicals the body produces. The higher the free radicals in your body, the higher your oxidative stress and your chances of chronic diseases that can harm you. Olive oil’s antioxidant rich phenolic compounds hydroxytyrosol and tyrosol, along with oleic acid and squalene, reduces oxidative stress. This in turn lowers your risk of conditions like coronary disease and cancers of the breast, colon, and skin. It also helps delay aging.4
Prevent Cardiovascular Diseases (CVD)
Research and clinical trials over the years have established that the Mediterranean diet is the most likely diet to prevent coronary heart disease. A 3-year trial studied the effects of a Mediterranean diet rich in extra virgin olive oil, a Mediterranean diet rich in nuts, and a control diet. The health of the over 7,000 participants was followed for another 5 years. The trial proved that participants following the olive oil-rich and nuts-rich Mediterranean diet showed a much lower risk of CVD, diabetes, and stroke.5 A high level of olive oil consumption has also been found to help prevent stroke among the elderly.6
Fight Neurological Damage
Oleocanthal, a compound found in extra-virgin olive oil, has the capacity to cause structural changes in the neurotoxic proteins that trigger some of the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s disease. The changes stop the proteins from damaging the brain nerve cells.7
Food containing olive oil can help control spikes in blood sugar among people with Type-1 diabetes when eating a high-glycemic meal, says the American Diabetes Association. Such patients will benefit from avoiding a diet rich in butter and using extra-virgin olive oil instead.8
Prevent Rheumatoid Arthritis
The typical Mediterranean diet of cooked vegetables and olive oil, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, has long been considered protective against rheumatoid arthritis. Research shows that olive oil has constituents that may effectively manage immuno-inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and inflammatory bowel disease.9 10
Protect The Digestive Tract
Studies indicate that olive oil has antimicrobial properties as well. It can protect your digestive tract from H. pylori bacteria, the main cause of gastric ulcers and which sometimes lead to colon cancer. Olive oil inhibits bacterial growth and can accelerate the secretion of bile and pancreatic hormones to protect the digestive system.11
How Much Olive Oil?
Experts recommend a minimum daily intake of 50 g or about 4 tablespoons to gain the benefits of olive oil.12
Obviously, olive oil alone is not a magic fix for our health problems. Other elements of the “Mediterranean diet” play a role too. Fresh vegetables, greens, whole grains and proteins from lean meats, as well as regular exercise as advised by your doctor all come together to keep you fighting fit and stave off the ravages of time.
Extra-Virgin, Refined, Or Pure? Decoding The Labels
Shopping for olive oil can be quite confusing, given the huge variety displayed on store shelves. Retailed olive oil brands vary hugely in flavor and color. There are several hundred types of olive trees and, typically, the product you buy would be a blend of various oils.
- The taste of olive oil depends on the type of olive tree, stage of ripeness when the olives were picked, the region they are from, and the time of harvesting.
- Olive oil from an early harvest has a robust, full-bodied flavor while a late harvest produces a milder tasting oil.
- The more refining the oil goes through, the higher its acidity. And the greener the color of the oil, the less acid it contains.13
- Free fatty acids are released when olives exposed to too much light, heat, or air break down triglycerides. And that usually happens when the olives have been exposed to attack by fruit flies infected by fungus, or bruised during handling, or stored before processing. Damaged fruits require more chemical treatment, leading to higher acidity. Consequently, the acidity levels of olive oil reflect the care taken by both the farmer and the oil producer.14
Under the International Olive Council (IOC), olive oil is classified and named as per the EU Regulations.15 16
Extra Virgin Olive Oil: This is the oil that comes out from the first press of the best ripe olives. It is pressed by mechanical means, without application of heat or chemicals (cold pressed). “First cold-pressed” indicates that the olives have been pressed just once and is a high-grade product. Pale yellow to bright green in color, extra virgin olive oil has a fruity taste. It also has the lowest acid content (less than 0.8 percent) of all the varieties of olive oil. For maximum health benefits, this is the olive oil to put your money on. It’s ideal for salad dressings or can be drizzled cold on a chunk of garlic bread. In cooking, extra virgin olive oil is best used for sautéing.
Virgin Olive Oil: This is the next grade of olive oil. Virgin olive oil tastes almost exactly like extra virgin olive oil but it has a higher acid content. Its acidity, however, should not be higher than 2 percent.
Refined Olive Oil: Virgin olive oil that doesn’t meet industry standards for acidity levels and other parameters such as flavor, taste, and color, is called lampante olive oil and is not considered fit for human consumption. This oil is refined to reduce acidity and remove everything that is not pure oil. Unfortunately, this results in a bland oil that has to be blended with small amounts of virgin olive oil to regain the distinct aroma and taste of olive oil. Acidity of refined olive oil will be around 0.3 percent. Refined olive oil is good for most cooking purposes.
Olive Oil: Also called “pure olive oil”, this blend of refined and virgin olive oil has an acceptable acidity level of 1 percent. Pure, Classic, Light, and Extra-light are all grades of olive oil that differ in taste and color. The names do not indicate any difference in the number of calories as is often believed. Inexpensive but low on flavor, pure olive oil is good for sautéing but not for salad dressing.
Olive-Pomace Oil: This grade of oil is obtained by chemical extraction from the pomace or the solids (fruit pulp, seeds, skin, stems) left after the mechanical processes. This oil is also blended with virgin olive oil to improve the taste and color, and is permitted an acidity level of 1 percent.
Storing Olive Oil
Olive oil becomes rancid easily when exposed to heat, light, and air, so store it in a tightly sealed bottle in a cool, dark space.17
Olive Oil For Healthy Skin
The antioxidative effects of vitamin E combined with its ability to protect cell membranes make olive oil a friend of your skin and hair. It prevents premature aging and strengthens both hair and skin.18 The anti-inflammatory properties of olive oil make it perfect for even those with sensitive skin.
Moisturize Your Face And Body
After exfoliating, massage a small amount of olive oil all over for petal soft skin. Pay special attention to dry elbows, knees, hands, and feet. You can also use olive oil in place of a night cream on your face.19
Get Rid Of Stretch Marks
If you have stretch marks on your thighs or abdomen or anywhere else, mix a teaspoon each of olive oil, wheatgerm oil, and almond oil and apply on the problem areas. Essential oils like rosemary oil and orange oil can be added to the mix too. This is not a quick remedy but it will help.20
Lighten Acne Scars
Add olive oil to your diet and keep your skin clean and moisturized to avoid acne. However, if you have had acne, apply olive oil on the scars. Massage in deep circular motions for about 3 minutes. Keep a steaming bowl of water nearby and lean over it for about 5 minutes to soothe the massaged skin. Wipe your face with a damp washcloth after this. This treatment can be repeated once a week. Your skin cells will be hydrated and dead cells removed. Olive oil does not clog the pores so there is no fear of further acne.21
Soften Those Wrinkles
Take a tablespoon of olive oil and add 2 drops of lemon juice. Apply this on your face every night to soften the signs of wrinkles.22
Protect Yourself From The Sun
Hydroxytyrosol, an antioxidant present in olive oil, helps protect the skin from harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun. So look out for olive oil in organic sun protection lotions next time you go shopping.23
Other Uses For The Skin
- Pour a few drops of olive oil on cotton wool and gently wipe on your face and eyelids to remove make-up.
- Mix sugar and olive oil for an all-natural face scrub!
- Add a few drops of olive oil to your bath water for soft and supple skin.
- A thin film of olive oil works just as well as shaving cream (and keeps your skin happy too).
- Massage a little olive oil into your nails to soften the cuticles for a manicure.
Olive Oil For Healthy And Shiny Hair
The vitamin E and MUFAs in olive oil work wonders for your hair too.
Prevent Hair Loss
A traditional remedy for hair loss suggests warming olive oil infused with a little rosemary oil and massaging the mix on the scalp. A gentle massage can relax hair follicles and increase blood circulation in the area. Good circulation keeps the follicles in good health, leading to healthy and strong hair. You can leave the oil overnight too before washing off in the morning with a gentle shampoo.24
Reduce Split Ends And Hair Damage
Olive oil can protect hair from split ends and the damage caused during washing, when hair absorbs and loses water, leading to what scientists call “hygral fatigue.” Coating hair strands with a thin film of oil may prevent it from absorbing too much water, thus inhibiting this swelling-and-releasing cycle that eventually damages hair cuticles.25
Here’s a simple remedy for combating dandruff with olive oil. Mix two tablespoons each of olive oil, lemon juice, and water. Apply on damp scalp, leave for about 30 minutes, and wash off as usual with shampoo. While lemon juice gets rid of the dry dandruff scales, the vitamin E and fatty acids in olive oil will condition and nourish the scalp – a two-in-one solution!26
Moisturize Dry Hair
Olive oil’s moisturizing effects makes for a good weapon against dry hair. For a deep moisturizing hair mask, take 4 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 whole eggs. Blend evenly and apply over your scalp, massaging gently. Let it stay for about 10 minutes and then wash off as usual.27
References [ + ]
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|7.||↑||Oleocanthal May Help Prevent, Treat Alzheimer’s. Monell Center.|
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