The health benefits of Olive Oil
Article written by our Nutritionist, Stephanie Malouf
Olive oil is a key part of the Mediterranean diet, which is regarded by many as the healthiest way of eating. Thousands of research studies have been done on the Mediterranean diet, many of which associate it with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, obesity and Alzheimer’s disease. So what exactly is olive oil and why is it so good for you?
Olive oil is pressed from fresh olives and is made mainly in the Mediterranean, mostly in Italy, Spain, and Greece. However, we have great producers right here in Aus!
Olive oil is a source of 100% fats, mostly in the form of heart healthy monounsaturated fats. It’s for this reason believed that the Mediterranean diet is associated with reduced rates of heart disease and stroke. Studies have shown that consuming high amounts of monounsaturated fats reduces LDL cholesterol, raises HDL cholesterol and lowers triglycerides levels, a favourable profile for a healthy heart.
Another benefit of olive oil is that it’s a rich source of phenols, which are potent antioxidants. Antioxidants scavenge free radicals in the body, lowering inflammation. Chronic inflammation is believed to be among the leading drivers of chronic diseases. This includes cancer, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, arthritis and obesity.
Research on the Mediterranean diet has also shown that people of the Mediterranean region have a lower incidence of several cancers when compared to other populations. Furthermore, olive oil consumption has specifically been proven to protect against colorectal cancer, breast cancer and skin cancer.
Olive oil also helps to reduce blood pressure through its ability to make nitric oxide more available in the body. Nitric oxide keeps the blood vessels wide and dilated allowing the blood to flow freely. In addition to this, the antioxidant effects from the phenols are also thought to prevent damage to the vessels keeping them strong and functioning.
However, the beautiful benefits of olive oil are not just limited to within the body but also on the surface. Olive oil acts as a great moisturiser, keeping the skin soft, supple and protected against ageing. In a day and age where skin-care products are loaded with toxic chemicals, olive oil is an effective, non-toxic and cheap alternative. A little bit of oil goes a long way! Apply it directly on skin, or add a bit to a warm bath for a soothing soak.