Staple of the Mediterranean diet, olive oil has many health benefits. This seems counterintuitive because is high in fat – but overall it is considered healthy. That’s because olive oil is mainly composed of monosaturated fatty acids, which are considered the “good” kinds of dietary fats. This is compared to saturated and trans fats (think butter and margarine), which are generally considered unhealthy.
Importance of Healthy Fats
Healthy fats, like the type found in olive oil, can help lower the both risk of heart disease and diabetes. How does olive oil achieve this? By lowering cholesterol, namely the bad cholesterol, and effectively controlling blood sugar. Studies have also shown that people who regularly consume olive oil run a lower risk developing Alzheimer’s and cancer as well.
Olive Oil Decreases Risk of Heart Disease
We already know how olive oil helps steer us clear of heart disease and diabetes, but how does it protect us from cancer? It all comes from a phytonutrient found in olive oil, known as oleocanthal. This phytonutrient work to effectively reduce inflammation in the body, thereby fighting against the incidence of cancer. Additionally, the oil is rich in vitamin E and other antioxidants, fighting against free radicals and minimizing oxidative stress. Oxidation in the body, just like inflammation, has been inextricably linked to cancer, and in this way olive oil is fighting against cancer in two ways.
In addition to these great benefits, some studies have also shown that olive oil protects against rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis. It is still unclear how it fights arthritis (one hypothesis is by reducing swelling), but we have seen that people who maintain diets with olive oil are less likely to develop the painful disorder. Osteoporosis on the other hand is combated by the oils ability to improve bone calcification and mineralization, both essential for hardness and strength.
With all these benefits, and great flavor, it’s hard to see why anyone wouldn’t make use of it daily in their diet. Keep in mind, olive is to replace other bad fats in the diet not add to them. If you can swap one for the other – you are already on the road to a healthy and happy future!