The health benefits of olive oil include treatment for colon, breast cancer, diabetes, heart problems, arthritis, high cholesterol, weight loss, metabolism, digestion, aging and cancer. Olive oil has been used by mankind for many centuries. It is a staple ingredient for many culinary preparations and also serves a variety of medicinal purposes. Medical studies suggest that olive oil is loaded with health benefits.
The health benefits of olive oil include the lowering of the bad cholesterol level in our blood, as it is rich in monounsaturated fats. The extra virgin olive oil variety contains the highest level of antioxidant polyphenols and oleic acid. Olive oil is thus a healthy option compared to other vegetable oils.
But, olive oil also has lots of calories, so it should be used in moderate amounts for the best health results. The Food and Drug Administration recommends 2 tablespoons of olive oil every day to reduce the risk of heart disease.
Important Sources: Olive oil, as we all know, is an essential fruit oil, which we get from the olive tree crop found mainly in the Mediterranean regions. Olive oil is utilized for cooking purposes, developing cosmetic products and soaps, for medicinal purposes, and as pharmaceutical supplements. It can also be used as fuel and for lighting lamps. Various types of olive oil include the following:
Virgin Olive Oil: This variety is used for cooking with a lower acid content.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil: This is a much better variety and is made by cold pressing the olive fruit.
Pure Olive Oil: This type is a combination of refined olive oil and virgin oils. It contains a highly acidic content.
Lampante Oil: It is used as a fuel and is not recommended for cooking purposes.
Health Benefits of Olive Oil
Olive oil has numerous beneficial qualities. Apart from being a good cooking aid, it is also known to have unique medicinal qualities. Some of them are as follows:
Reduce Heart Problems: Natural olive oil contains 70% monounsaturated fatty acid. As a result, it lowers cholesterol accumulation in the blood and reduces heart problems. It reduces the LDL, while at the same time increasing the HDL levels. The website of Montelcastelli Solutions Ltd. provides a table comparing the fatty acid composition of different types of oils.
Blood Cholesterol: LDL cholesterol is the bad type of cholesterol, which increases the risk of heart attacks and pulmonary heart disease. Extra virgin olive oil, which is rich in almost 40 antioxidant chemicals, helps reduce the oxidation effects of LDL cholesterol.
Weight Loss: Medical experts suggest that it is very difficult to gain weight from the mono-unsaturated fats present in olive oil. Experiments involving Mediterranean olive oil have shown positive results in regards to a reduction in human body weight.
Metabolism: Olive oil boosts the metabolism, the growth of good bone structure, and brain development in children. It is an excellent source of vitamin E, which is very beneficial for older people.
Anti-inflammatory and Antimicrobial Properties: The phenols present in olive oil have anti-inflammatory properties. The antimicrobial characteristics of the oil are a result of its strong aroma.
Digestion: Olive oil is known to aid in the digestive process. It is used as a medicinal oil to clean the digestive tract and to improve bowel movements.
Aging Process: Rich in antioxidants, olive oil slows the natural aging process of the human body. Used in cosmetic products and natural herbal therapy, olive oil does wonders for the skin, which gets a natural shine and glow from the enriching oil.
Prevention of Gall Stones: This oil is also effective in preventing gall stones.
Healthy Cell Walls: Olive oil contains polyphenol which helps in stronger cell walls. It also increases the elasticity of arterial walls, protecting against various heart conditions.
Cancer: Olive oil is said to protect the human body against cancerous growth, especially bowel cancer. Medical research done at the prestigious Oxford University has shown positive signs that the acidic content of olive oil can prevent the commencement of rectum and bowel cancer. In the UK, bowel cancer is one of the most prevalent forms of cancer, and kills almost twenty thousand citizens every year.
Breast cancer: Recent research study suggests that hydroxytyrosol, a major component of olive oil may help prevent breast cancer in postmenopausal women.
Hypertension: Recent research study suggests that Mediterranean diet comprising of food rich in unsaturated fats (found in olive oil and nuts) and nitrite and nitrate (found in leafy green vegetables) may help protect you from hypertension.
There are several grades of olive oil, according to the flavor, aroma, acidic value and color. Readers are advised to buy authentic olive oil with proper evaluation for cooking or medicinal purposes.
Grades of Olive Oil
When you go in the market, you find different types of olive oils. What does extra virgin olive oil mean? What does US Fancy olive oil mean? There are two main types of gradations of olive oil that you will find, IOOC standards and US standards.
The International Olive Oil Council ( IOOC) has released the Trade Standard Applying to Olive Oils and Olive-Pomace Oils. The council has provided descriptions for different types of olive oils; some of these descriptions are given below:
Virgin Olive Oil: Virgin olive oil is the oil that is prepared from purely mechanical and physical means. There is no alteration to the oil after processing. Edible virgin olive oil has a free acidity of not more than 2 grams per 100 grams. No food additives are permitted in the virgin olive oil.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Extra virgin olive oil is a type of edible virgin olive oil, which has a free acidity content of no more than 0.8 grams per 100 grams. No additives are permitted in this oil.
Ordinary Virgin Olive Oil: Ordinary virgin olive oil has a free acidity content of no more than 3.3 grams per 100 grams. This oil does not contain any additives.
Lampnate Virgin Olive Oil: This is virgin olive oil not fit for human consumption. It has a free acidity content of more than 3.3 grams per 100 grams. It is used for refining and technical purposes.
Refined Olive Oil: Refined olive oil is the refined form of virgin olive oil. It has a free acidity content of not more than 0.3 grams per 100 grams.
Olive Oil: This is a blend of refined olive oil and edible virgin olive oil. It has a fatty acid content of not more than 1 gram per 100 grams.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released the United States Standards for Grades of Olive Oil in 1948. These standards are still followed in the US and this has, to some extent, caused problems for consumers in purchasing the right kind of olive oil.
The USDA grades olive oil in the following four categories:
US Grade A or US Fancy
US Grade B or US Choice
US Grade C or US Standard
US Grade D or Substandard
The grading is done based on free fatty acid content (calculated as oleic acid according to the Official and Tentative Methods of Analysis of the Association of Official Agricultural Chemists), absence of defects, (degree of freedom from cloudiness at 60 degrees F), odor (typical olive oil odor and its variation to off-odors) and flavor (typical olive oil flavor and its variation to off-flavors). It has given a 100 point score sheet for olive oil in which free fatty acid content, absence of defects, odor, and flavor have weights of 30, 30, 20 and 20 respectively.
Fancy: US Fancy refers to olive oil that has a fatty acid content of no more than 1.4 percent (27-30 points). It should be entirely free from any defects (27-30 points). It should have good typical olive oil odor (18-20 points). It should have good typical olive oil flavor (18-20 points). Finally, it should have a total score of no less than 90 points.
Choice: US Choice refers to olive oil that has a fatty acid content of more than 1.4 percent but not more than 2.5 percent (24-26 points). It should be reasonably free from any defect (24-26 points). It should have a reasonably typical olive oil odor (16-17 points). It should also have a reasonably good olive oil flavor (16-17 points). It should have a score of no less than 80 points.
Standard: US Standard refers to olive oil that has a fatty acid content of more than 2.5 percent but less than 3.0 percent (21-23 points). It should be fairly free from any defect (21-23 points). It should have fairly good typical olive oil odor (14-15 points). It should have fairly good typical olive oil flavor (14-15 points). It should have a score of no less than 70 points.
Substandard: Substandard refers to olive oil that has free fatty acid content of more than 3.0 percent (0-20 points). It has more defects than what is present in the US Standard type of oil (0-20 points). It fails to have even a fairly good typical olive oil odor (0-13 points). It fails to have a fairly good typical olive oil flavor (0-13 points). It has less than 70 total points.