Have you ever wondered what the health benefits of extra virgin olive oil are? After all, this product is everywhere today, and every health guru recommends it.
But what makes it so special and unique? How can you add it to your diet? A thousand questions arise.
We’ve put together this post to help you understand it better and start using it more easily. Let’s dive in.
The Health Benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
These are some of the many health benefits of olive oil: (1)
- The most impressive health benefit of extra virgin olive oil has to do with its rich nutritional profile. Specifically, it is rich in monounsaturated fats and antioxidants. It is packed with polyphenols, which are a powerhouse anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory.
- Monounsaturated fats appear to be vital for reducing systemic inflammation and lowering the risk of certain cancers. Antioxidants are essential for preventing oxidative stress, which often accelerates aging and increases the risk of certain diseases.
- Research also links extra virgin olive oil to cardiovascular health, a lower risk of strokes and heart attacks, weight loss, brain health, a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease, and much more (2, 3, 4).
- Plus, olive oil is resistant to heat, which makes it an excellent cooking option.
How to Buy Extra Virgin Olive Oil In The Store
Buying extra virgin olive oil isn’t that complicated, but you should look at a few things before choosing.
- Bottle – Look for a dark, glass bottle as this helps to preserve the olive oil. But this is not always easy to find. If you find it, great. If not, look for something close. And look for a small bottle if you’re buying for personal use (not a restaurant), as you’ll want to use the bottle within a few months (see next bullet).
- Age / “Best By” Date – It should have the “Best By” or “Sell By” date. Olive oil does not age well, so try to use within two months of purchase. Never buy the monster bottles you see at wholesale stores (Sam’s, BJ’s), unless you’re an Italian restaurant. For most people and families, you’ll want to buy a smaller bottle to use within a few months. It might not be the most economic, but it’s the healthiest.
- Cold Pressed – This means no heat was used to remove the oil from the olives. This is key, as adding heat to the process adversely affects flavor and aroma.
- Origin – The best olive oil is produced and packaged in a single country. There are some products that say “Product of (country)” – this generally means it was packaged there, but not necessarily produced there.
- Look for a stamp that suggests USDA organic.
Of course, it’s challenging to find one that meets all criteria, so look for a brand that comes closest to that.
How to Add Extra Virgin Olive Oil to Your Nutrition
The most obvious way to add extra virgin olive oil to your diet is to use it for cooking. It is much healthier than butter, and tastes better also! For example:
- Bread (dip in olive oil)
- Roasted meat
- Oven-baked chicken (put 1/16″ in the bottom of a pan)
- Oven-baked salmon (heavily coat the pan bottom)
- Roasted eggplant
- Smoothie recipes (with most recipes you barely taste it)
There are many delicious recipes to choose from. Plus, you can also add extra virgin olive oil to your salads instead of more traditional oils like sunflower oil.
If you’re the type of person who just wants to get it done and forget about it, you can also consume a tablespoon of olive oil daily. But make sure to wash it down with water because it leaves an after taste in your mouth.
If you are on a busy schedule, and often times eat on the go, then a tablespoon of olive oil might be the way to go. Just watch the calories! One tablespoon has 120 calories, so it’s supremely healthy, but high in calories.
The Bottom Line
The health benefits of extra virgin olive oil are many. Besides its many effects on our cardiovascular system and metabolism (1), consuming it regularly is also great for your skin and hair, and it can help with weight control.
But olive oil is also high in calories, so we emphasize the point above – a single tablespoon has roughly 120 calories. This is because the oil is pure fat. But keep in mind…pure, healthy fats. Be mindful of this fact and don’t go overboard because the calories add up fast.
Speaking of that, a healthy dose for most people is a tablespoon per day.
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- Oil, A. O. (n.d.). 12 surprising health benefits of olive oil. North American Olive Oil Association. https://www.aboutoliveoil.org/12-surprising-health-benefits-of-olive-oil
- American Heart Association News. (2020). Olive oil may lower heart disease risk. American Heart Association. https://www.heart.org/en/news/2020/03/05/olive-oil-may-lower-heart-disease-risk
- Using Olive Oil in Your Diet May Prevent a Stroke. (2011). American Academy of Neurology. https://www.aan.com/PressRoom/Home/PressRelease/960#:%7E:text=After%20considering%20diet%2C%20physical%20activity,six%20years%20compared%20to%202.6
- Temple University Health System. (2017). Extra-virgin olive oil preserves memory, protects brain against Alzheimer’s. ScienceDaily.https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/06/170621103123.htm