Olive oil has been used for thousands of years as a medicine, as a skin moisturizer, and, of course, to enhance the flavor of certain dishes. High quality extra virgin olive oil tastes incredible and has countless health benefits, but what are the potential risks?
In today’s article we will have a look at the advantages as well as the disadvantages of olive oil, and why you should always get the highest quality. Surprisingly, most olive oil brands sold in grocery stores use highly processed oil blends, so you don’t get the “real deal”…
Pros of olive oil
Olive oil is rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids: omega-6 and omega-3. These have anti-inflammatory properties and are associated with a lower risk for disease such as stroke and heart disease.
The main component of olive oil, however, is omega-9 oleic acid: this monounsaturated fatty acid makes up over three quarters of olive oil. Omega-9 helps you increase levels of “good” cholesterol; it boosts your immune system, it decreases insulin sensitivity, and is good for your brain and overall well being.
As we’ve seen, fatty acids in olive oil help reduce inflammation. Olive oil also contains oleocanthal, a type of phenolic compound which has been shown to have similar anti-inflammatory effects as the common drug Ibuprofen (though you would need to drink a lot of olive oil to achieve the same effect).
If you consume high quality extra virgin olive oil every day, it will help you prevent or reduce inflammation. Some scientific studies have shown that long term consumption of this oil is linked to lower levels of inflammation and a reduced risk of obesity and heart disease.
Olive oil is high in polyphenols, which are one of the richest sources of antioxidants in food. They reduce the risk for chronic disease and promote general wellness. Polyphenols determine the color of many foods and are usually found in fruit and vegetables, though olive oil contains one of the highest amounts.
The polyphenols in extra virgin olive oil are good for heart health, help prevent clogged arteries and reduce bad cholesterol levels. It’s important to note that “bad” olive oil has very few polyphenols, so make sure you always get the best quality (more on this in a minute).
High in vitamins
Olive oil is high in vitamin K and vitamin E, two essential nutrients for the human body. A tablespoon of high quality olive oil contains about a tenth of the recommended daily dose of vitamin K, which has been shown to prevent cancer and contribute to bone health.
A tablespoon of olive oil also contains roughly 13 percent of the recommended daily dose of vitamin E. Vitamin E has antioxidant properties and is good for your eyes, brain, and skin, which is why it is used in many skin care products.
As we saw earlier, extra virgin olive oil is rich in polyphenols, which have many health benefits. According to some studies, these polyphenols can also inhibit certain genes, such as HER2, which produce cancer cells. As a result, olive oil can help you prevent cancer, particularly breast and colon cancer.
Olive oil comes with countless benefits, so consuming a small amount of it every day will help you optimize your health. There are a few things to keep in mind though. The first thing is that you should always buy the highest quality — let’s have a look at the reasons why…
Cons of olive oil
Most companies use blends
If you want to experience all the great health benefits of olive oil, you must choose it very carefully, and read the label before you buy it. First of all, most olive oil brands actually use a blend of different oils, so the product that you buy is not pure.
Secondly, they sell olive oil that is highly processed. Refined olive oil has less polyphenols and less fatty acids; moreover, it tastes very bland, it is odorless, and lighter in color. High quality extra virgin olive oil, on the other hand, tastes amazing and has a wonderful grassy, “green” aroma. In short, don’t buy the cheapest olive oil — not only does it not have the same nutrients, it may actually be bad for you.
High in fat and calories
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s something you have to keep in mind if you are on a specific diet. Olive oil is incredibly calorie dense: it contains 9 calories per gram — roughly 120 calories per tablespoon.
It’s also very high in fats, though if you get high quality extra virgin oil, it will be healthy fats. Unless you have strict dietary restrictions, if you consume one to two tablespoons per day, you’ll be fine.
It’s best consumed raw
Olive oil is best consumed raw; you can heat olive oil at low temperatures, however you should not cook it or fry it as that would change the structure of it. The good news is that compared to other oils, olive oil is more heat resistant, so even at high temperatures, not all nutrients will be lost.
Also: make sure you store it in a cool place, and don’t put it under direct sunlight. If you buy olive oil in a dark colored glass bottle, that will also help keep out the light and preserve the quality.
Advantages of olive oil:
- It’s rich in healthy fatty acids — omega-3, omega-6, omega-9
- It has excellent anti-inflammatory properties
- It’s very high in polyphenols, which reduce the risk for chronic disease and promote general wellness
- It contains a good amount of vitamin E and vitamin K
- It helps prevent cancer, especially breast and colon cancer
Disadvantages of olive oil:
- Most companies use blends — get the highest quality!
- It’s very high in calories and fats
- It’s best consumed raw, though it’s more heat resistant than other oils