Fats and oils have gotten a bad rep in the health and fitness community for the longest time. However, not all of them are bad. Olive oil is, in fact, one of the good guys.
Firstly, this oil is synonymous with the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet. On top of that, it is a darling in maintaining healthy glowing skin. And not to forget, the different medicinal properties that this liquid gold has.
What are the nutrients in olive oil?
So, why is olive oil such a powerhouse? For starters, all these amazing benefits are only found in cold pressed extra virgin olive oil.
The other methods of extracting olive oil of heating and using chemicals destroy its nutritional value. When these methods are used phenols antioxidants get destroyed.
Note that these antioxidants are what make olive oil the healthiest oil in the world.
In addition to these antioxidants, olive oil is rich in vitamin E which is a fat-soluble nutrient that boosts the immune system and prevents infections. It also has a moderate amount of vitamin K that makes the blood clot.
For a 100-gram olive oil, the saturated fat is 13.8% and monounsaturated fat is 73%. To top it off, it has 9.7% omega-6 and 0.76% omega-3.
Consequently, these properties of olive oil have a lot of benefits for the body.
What are the health benefits of olive oil?
The benefits of olive oil are found in its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. So let’s get started and explore the many benefits of olive oil.
1) Protect against cardiovascular diseases
Scientists were once puzzled at the low rate of heart diseases among the people living along the Mediterranean. Upon research, they concluded that their diet protected them from cardiovascular diseases.
It has come to be popularly referred to as the Mediterranean diet. This diet is rich in fruits and vegetables, nuts and whole grains and has olive oil as its main source of fat.
Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fats that reduce LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol. Firstly, there are two types of cholesterol. HDL and LDL. LDL (low density lipoprotein) is the bad guy. Too much of it clogs the arteries and it increases the risk of heart diseases.
On the contrary, HDL (high density lipoprotein) is the good guy. The antioxidants (polyphenols) in olive oil increases HDL. In turn, the HDL carries the LDL from the arteries to the liver where it is used or excreted.
2) Protect against weight gain and obesity
Unfortunately, obesity has become an epidemic in the world. For example in America, about 40% of the adult population is obese. It is a complex public health issue, however, with good nutrition; a large part of it can be handled.
Weight gain occurs because of consumption of foods high in saturated fats and simple sugars. Coupled with no activity. Fats like butter, ghee, lard, vegetable fats, and margarine are in this pot.
Conversely, olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fats. Replacing it as the main source of fat in a diet will prevent weight gain. Also, it can be used to lose weight.
3) Prevent strokes
A stroke happens when blood flow to the brain is cut off. According to the World Health Organization, stroke is the second most common cause of death after heart diseases in developed countries.
Numerous studies have been done that have shown consumption of olive oil reduced the risk of stroke. However, researchers have not been able to pinpoint the particular elements that give this protection.
Though, this should not be a deterrent not to consume olive oil.
Olive oil has oleic acid and an antioxidant called oleocanthal. These two are an amazing tag team in fighting inflammation.
There are two types of inflammation; acute and chronic. In acute, the symptoms are characterized by pain, redness, immobility, swelling, and heat (P.R.I.S.H). While in chronic inflammation the symptoms are usually slow to show and may take months or years.
Sadly, chronic inflammation has become the leading cause of diseases such as cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, metabolic syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis and many more.
To relieve chronic inflammation a drug like ibuprofen is used. Upon research, scientists have found out that oleocanthal, an antioxidant in olive oil has the same effects. 3.4 tablespoon (50 ml) of extra virgin olive oil has a similar effect as taking 10% of the adult dosage of ibuprofen.
On the other hand, oleic acid (C18:1), a monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid which makes up 55 to 83% of olive oil also aids in inflammation fighting.
5) Prevent gastric ulcer
Studies by scientist have concluded that phenols which are contained in olive oil can inhibit bacterial growth especially Helicobacter pylori. These bacteria among others have been shown to cause inflammation inside the gastric and cause gastric ulcer. Consuming extra virgin olive oil can prevent stomach inflammation because of its anti-bacterial effect
6) Reduce the risk of cancer
It has been observed that there are lower incidents of cancer in Mediterranean countries than in Northern America countries. Particularly; stomach, colon, breast, prostate, pancreas and liver cancer. All of these have been linked to diet.
How does cancer occur?
To begin, let’s go back to our 9th-grade chemistry class. What is an atom? An atom is the basic building block of matter, and cannot be chemically subdivided by ordinary means. Additionally, atoms are composed of three types of particles: protons, neutrons, and electron.
We human beings are made up of atoms. These atoms join together to become molecules which form you and me. When an atom or molecule loses an electron it becomes a free radical.
The natural reaction of the free radical is to “steal” an electron from a healthy atom. Once it has “stolen”, the “victim” atom steals from another atom. It thereby sets off a domino effect of “stealing”.
It is important to note that free radicals play an important role in the body’s normal cellular processes. But here is the problem. A high concentration of free radicals is dangerous to the body.
It can cause damage to all major elements of cells including DNA, proteins, and cell membranes. The damage on DNA is what causes cancer. So where does free radical come from?
Poor diets are one of the many contributing factors of free radicals. Luckily, olive oil can come to the rescue. As pointed out earlier, olive oil is rich in phenols antioxidants.
These antioxidants counter free radicals and neutralize their damage. Studies have shown a diet rich in olive oil has shown to counter cancer progression and in some deterred its development.
7) Relieving skin conditions
Skin is the largest organ of the body. It serves a barrier to protect internal organs of the body, regulates body temperature, relay sensation among other functions.
Nevertheless, it can suffer from infections and diseases. Conditions such as dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis are just but a few of these conditions. These conditions cause the skin to be inflamed.
The skin becomes dry, itchy, flaky, red, sore and painful. However, topical application of olive oil has been shown to improve these conditions. It has tyrosol, beta-sitosterol, and squalene which are antioxidants that reduce the production of inflammatory compounds.
In addition, the vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids in olive oil lock in moisture and prevent the skin from drying out. Additionally, it is antibacterial and fights of harmful bacteria on the skin.
To boost its effectiveness as a moisturizer, add olive oil in the bath water. Soak for at least 15 minutes. 2 tablespoons of Epsom salt can be added.
8) Promoting dental health
Put 1 tablespoon of organic extra virgin olive oil in your mouth. Swish it for about 20 minutes, 5 minutes being the minimum. Afterward, spit and rinse your mouth with warm water and brush your teeth with all natural fluoride free toothpaste.
This dental activity is called oil pulling. It is an ancient Ayurvedic ritual that promotes oral hygiene. It reduces tooth cavities, gingivitis and eliminates bad breath.
Olive oil is antibacterial. It is able to fight Streptococcus mutant bacteria which causes tooth decay and protects the tooth enamel. Additionally, it fights bacteria that cause sinuses, sore throats, colds, and flues.
9) Reducing tearing
One of the biggest fears of women when considering birth is tearing. Fortunately, by massaging the perineum area with olive oil from 34 weeks reduces the risk of tearing.
Rub some olive oil on the perineum area. Insert your thumb about 3-4 centimeters into the vagina. Then press downwards towards the bowel and side to side and a full clockwise movement. Keep the pressure for at least 1 minute.
Furthermore, during home births, olive oil has been used to ease a tight birth canal. However, it is best to consult with your doctor and make an informed choice.
10) Treating yeast infections
At least 75% of women will suffer yeast infection in their lifetime. It is caused by the overgrowth of candida a fungus in the vagina. Also called candidiasis, it causes vaginal itching, burning and discharge.
Yeast infections are usually treated using antifungal creams or pills. However, ozonated olive oil has been considered one of the best natural remedies.
It is produced by bubbling ozone into olive oil for 3-6 months. This makes the olive oil to turn into an off-white paste that can be applied to the skin
When applied to the skin it slowly releases oxygen. A process that can last up to 12 hours. It eventually creates a healthy balance of candida and relieves inflammation.
This amazing salve does not stop in treating vaginal candidiasis. It also treats bruises, swollen gums, diaper rash, works as a moisturizing facial conditioner, reduces scarring, removes makeup, treats sunburn of the skin, insect bites and stings. Furthermore, it can be used as a natural underarm deodorant and a natural remedy for treating hemorrhoids, sore muscles (rub as a massage paste), cellulite reduction, wrinkles, ringworm, bed sores, cuts, carbuncles, tinea versicolor, and dermatitis.
11) Treating burns
In Hatay/Antakya and middle Anatolia in Turkey, a mixture of olive oil and lime has been used for centuries to treat burns. This salve clears burns without a trace.
The mix has antibacterial properties in that fight of bacteria preventing the infection of the wound. Additionally, it also help prevents contracture.
Scientist have also found out that the ingestion of olive oil accelerates the healing time of burns
After a shower, apply extra virgin oil. This liquid gold penetrates deep into the skin and moisturizes it. It is particularly, softens skin in very dry areas like the elbows and feet
13) Improve libido
The Romans and the Greeks used it as an aphrodisiac. It is believed it increased blood flow in the erogenous zones and stimulated sexual hormones that boosted libido.
14) Boost immunity
Extra virgin olive oil is rich in antioxidants. They play an important role in boosting the immunity of the body. Consuming a diet, with olive oil as its main source of fat, boost the body’s ability to fight pathogens and infections.
15) Clearing earwax build up
Did you know one of the main causes of temporary hearing loss is wax build up? To clear the excess wax, dip a cotton swab in olive oil. Next, use it very carefully to soften the excess wax and remove it. It also helps with earaches.
16) Treat lice
The head louse (Pediculus humanus capitis) is very common preschool and elementary school children. It is caused by poor hygiene.
A simple remedy of olive oil will kill the lice. Apply the oil on the child’s head and leave for 40 minutes. Thereafter, shampoo twice, to get rid of the lice. Dry the hair and apply the olive oil to moisturize it.
Take home message
Despite the bad rep that oils have been getting, olive oil is healthy. Given all the preventive and curative benefits of olive oil; it is prudent to incorporate it into our diets.