Salad Menu - Health Benefits of Olive Oil

Health benefits of olive oil

When it comes to protecting your health, I can fairly confidently offer these two pieces of advice: Stay off ladders and incorporate olive oil in your diet. The reason behind my first piece of advice is obvious, but for many, the second may not be so clear. After all, olive oil is oil. That means it’s high in fat and calories. So how can it be good for you?

Not all fat is bad (some are even good)

In recent years, we’ve been hearing all types of terms related to fat in foods bantered about. Let’s get a level set on the different types of fat that we consume. In this post, WebMD does a great job outlining the different types of fat. I’ve summarizing their more extensive outline below:

  • Saturated fat, which gets solid at room temperature, and is found mostly in animal-based foods and tropical oils. Butter is a saturated fat. You don’t want too much of this in your diet because it can raise your cholesterol.

  • Trans fat, which has a bad reputation because like saturated fat, it can raise your cholesterol. Trans fat has undergone hydrogenation, a process that increases its shelf life and makes it harder so things like chips are crisper. 

  • Unsaturated fat, which remains liquid at room temperature and is produced mostly from plants. These fats can actually improve your cholesterol. Subcategories of this type of fat include monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat (which can further be broken into Omega-3 and -6 fatty acids). Monounsaturated fat can lower LDL cholesterol—the “bad” cholesterol—without affecting your HDL, or “good” cholesterol. 

Olive oil is a monounsaturated fat, so it’s got the potential to improve the bad cholesterol without negatively impacting the good cholesterol. 

But what other evidence points to olive oil improving health? I looked around and found several studies of the Mediterranean diet, a diet that’s rich in extra-virgin olive oil, nuts and vegetables.

Studies indicate that olive oil improves heart health

Since the 1990s, doctors have recommended that people with heart disease follow a low-fat diet. Dr. Ramon Estruch, of the Department of Internal Medicine at the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona wanted to challenge that conventional approach in a five-year study that pitted the Mediterranean diet against the low fat diet. 

The study results, published online in April 2013 in the New England Journal of Medicine, were so pronounced that researchers stopped the five-year study early. Those who ate a Mediterranean diet high in extra-virgin olive oil had a 30 percent lower risk of experiencing heart health issues like heart attacks or strokes. Interestingly, those who adhered to a Mediterranean diet higher in nuts also experienced a 28 percent lower risk. 

Other health conditions that olive oil may help

Earlier, similar research with some of the same investigators in the later heart health study tested the impact on type 2 diabetes of the Mediterranean diet versus a low fat diet. The study, published in the scientific journal, Diabetes Care, found that a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil reduced the risk of type 2 diabetes by 50 percent. 

For a tremendous amount of information about olive oil and its health benefits, visit http://www.oliveoiltimes.com/olive-oil-health-news. I did find the site’s about page to help determine that the olive oil industry does not own or provide financial support to the site. The site emphasizes that it provides “unbiased and objective” reporting. 

As with everything, moderation is key

After learning more about olive oil, why it’s good for you even though it’s a fat, and what types of health conditions it may improve, it still bears to reason that too much of a good thing is still too much. The heart study considered a diet rich in extra-virgin olive oil to be four tablespoons of it a day. Perhaps use that as a guideline when incorporating this tasty, healthful oil into your diet. And consider preparing one of the many recipes on saladmenu.com that call for olive oil. They’re good for you and delicious.