Extra virgin olive oil is clearly the #1 choice when it comes to adding flavor, taste, and texture to just about any type of food. But did you know that leading experts and top medical journals tell us that extra virgin olive oil (or EVOO) can also help improve your health? Here’s a list of what they say (the experts, that is) about having extra virgin olive oil in your daily diet:
Reduces Cholesterol Levels: Substituting extra virgin olive oil for saturated fats can lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, which clogs arteries with fatty deposits. Olive oil contains more monounsaturated (“good”) fat per serving than any other cooking oil. Monounsaturated fats help lower LDL cholesterol and increase HDL (“good”) cholesterol, which cleanses the arteries.
Has No Trans Fats: EVOO contains none of the harmful trans fats found in many processed foods. Trans fats are doubly harmful because they raise LDL cholesterol levels but don’t provide a parallel boost to good HDL cholesterol.
Healthier than Butter: Nutritionists recommend limiting consumption of saturated fats to no more than 20 grams per day. A tablespoon of olive oil contains just 1.8 grams of saturated fat compared to 7.2 grams in a tablespoon of butter.
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Helps Lower Heart Disease Risk: EVOO, from the first pressing of the olives, contains the highest levels of antioxidants (known as polyphenols), which help increase good HDL cholesterol in the blood. Ordinary olive and vegetable oils don’t provide the same benefits because the polyphenols are removed in the refining process.
Source: Annals of Internal Medicine, September 2006
Helps Prevent Breast Cancer: Research has shown that consumption of olive oil, the richest dietary source of oleic acid, helps suppress the action of a cancer-promoting gene found in about a third of breast cancer patients.
Source: Annals of Oncology, January 2005
Reduces Alzheimer’s Disease Risk by 40%: A four-year study of over 2,000 men and women found that those whose eating habits most closely followed the Mediterranean pattern – high in fruits, vegetables, beans, and unsaturated fats from olive oil and fish, low on meats and dairy – were least likely to develop the disease.
Source: Annals of Neurology
Keeps Diabetes Under Control: The American Diabetes Association recommends keeping saturated fats to a minimum to avoid heart disease and other complications. For people with diabetes, extra virgin olive oil is an excellent source of fat because it reduces bad LDL cholesterol, raises good HDL cholesterol, and adds only trace amounts of saturated fat. In addition, regular consumption of olive oil can reduce the chances of developing insulin resistance, a risk factor for diabetes, heart disease, strokes, and other conditions.
Relieves Pain and Inflammation: EVOO contains a compound that mimics the pain-relieving action of ibuprofen. Regular consumption of extra virgin olive oil may therefore help decrease the risk of stroke, heart disease, certain forms of cancer, and some dementias. Source: Monell Chemical Senses Center, September 2005
Eases Common Intestinal Problems: A tablespoon of olive oil consumed on an empty stomach acts as a soothing, nutritious laxative. It can help relieve upset stomachs and heartburn as well. Olive oil also helps defend against ulcers because it protects the stomach and intestinal linings from gastric acid.
Enhances Skin, Hair, and Nails: Repair split ends and add lustre to your hair by massaging a few tablespoons of EVOO into the hair and scalp. Cover with a plastic shower cap and leave on for anywhere from 30 minutes to overnight, then shampoo as usual. Gently rub a small amount of EVOO into skin whenever you need softening and moisturizing; apply extra oil to rough or cracked areas and stretch marks.
Helps Maintain Mobility: Consumption of 15 to 30 milligrams a day of vitamin E – primarily from nutrient rich food sources, such as EVOO, almonds, and sunflower seeds – has been found to help older adults retain mobility as they age. A study of Italians over age 65 indicates vitamin E plays an essential role in preventing a decline in physical functions like walking, standing up from a chair and balancing; basic activities which are essential for independence and quality of life.
Source: The Journal of the American Medical Association, January 2008
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The content on this website is in no way intended as medical advice. Please speak to your physician for more information regarding individual health concerns before starting a new diet or exercise regimen. The benefits of consuming extra virgin olive oil are best maximized in conjunction with a healthy diet and active lifestyle. For more information, visit: www.eatright.org and www.choosemyplate.gov/.