11 Surprising Olive Oil Benefits

by Meenakshi Nagdeve last updated -

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The health benefits of olive oil include treatment of colon and breast cancer, diabetes, heart problems, arthritis, and high cholesterol. It also aids in weight loss, improves metabolism, digestion, and prevents aging. It is a staple ingredient for many culinary preparations and also serves a variety of medicinal purposes.

It helps in lowering the bad cholesterol levels in our blood, as it is rich in monounsaturated fats. Extra virgin olive oil contains the highest level of antioxidant polyphenols and oleic acid. It is thus a healthier option compared to other vegetable oils.

However, it also has lots of calories, so it should be used in moderate amounts for the best health results.

What is Olive Oil?

Olive oil is an essential fruit oil, which we get from the olive tree crop found mainly in the Mediterranean regions. It has been used by mankind for many centuries. It 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.

Watch Video: 8 Amazing Benefits Of Olive Oil

Types of Olive Oil

Various types of oil include the following:

  • Virgin Olive Oil: This variety is used for cooking with 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 and virgin oils. It contains a higher acidic content.
  • Lampante Oil: It is used as a fuel and is not recommended for cooking purposes.

Olive Oil Nutrition Facts

Rich in antioxidants, vitamin K, and vitamin E, olive oil boasts a very good nutritional profile. It has mono-saturated fats like oleic acid and palmitoleic acid, which constitutes 10g of the total fatty acid count of 14g in this oil. As per the USDA, the oil is also free of carbohydrates and cholesterol, thereby reducing the risk of heart diseases. The calorie count of this oil is similar to canola oil or butter, at around 120 calories in 1 tbsp of olive oil.

Nutrition Facts

Oil, olive, salad or cooking
Serving Size :
NutrientValue
Water [g]0
Energy [kcal]884
Protein [g]0
Total lipid (fat) [g]100
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]0
Fiber, total dietary [g]0
Sugars, total [g]0
Calcium, Ca [mg]1
Iron, Fe [mg]0.56
Magnesium, Mg [mg]0
Phosphorus, P [mg]0
Potassium, K [mg]1
Sodium, Na [mg]2
Zinc, Zn [mg]0
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid [mg]0
Thiamin [mg]0
Riboflavin [mg]0
Niacin [mg]0
Vitamin B-6 [mg]0
Folate, DFE [µg]0
Vitamin B-12 [µg]0
Vitamin A, RAE [µg]0
Vitamin A, IU [IU]0
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) [mg]14.35
Vitamin D (D2 + D3) [µg]0
Vitamin D [IU]0
Vitamin K (phylloquinone) [µg]60.2
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]13.81
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]72.96
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]10.52
Cholesterol [mg]0
Caffeine [mg]0
Sources include : USDA

Health Benefits of Olive Oil

Olive oil has numerous beneficial qualities. Some of them are as follows:

Lowers Cholesterol Levels

A collaborative study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health and many other universities recommends including the extra virgin variety to reduce the risk of heart disease.

LDL cholesterol is the bad type of cholesterol, which increases the risk of heart attacks and other heart diseases. Extra virgin olive oil, which is rich in almost 40 antioxidant chemicals, helps reduce the oxidation effects of LDL cholesterol. It also helps increase HDL cholesterol levels.

The natural variety also contains 70% monounsaturated fatty acid. As a result, it lowers cholesterol accumulation in the blood and reduces heart problems.

Manages Diabetes

Dr. Lukas Schwingshackl from the German Institute of Human Nutrition and his team had conducted research on the effects of olive oil in managing type 2 diabetes. The analysis concluded by providing a takeaway that oil can help in preventing and managing diabetes when included in the daily diet.

Weight Loss

Medical experts suggest that it is very difficult to gain weight from the mono-unsaturated fats present in olive oil. Research on the Mediterranean oil has shown positive results with regards to using it for weight loss as it contains healthy fats and is a great alternative for butter and other oils loaded with calories.

Prevents Inflammation

Olive oil is rich in polyphenols that have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. As a result, its use helps inhibit the growth of pathogenic bacteria and relieve inflammation.

Improves Digestion

Olive oil is known to aid in the digestive process. It is used as a medicinal oil to clean the digestive tract and improve bowel movements.

Delays Aging

Rich in antioxidants, olive oil slows the natural aging process of the human body. Used in cosmetic products and natural herbal therapy, it does wonders for the skin by giving it a natural shine.

Bottle pouring olive oil in a glass bowl, fresh olives, and leaves on a wooden table

Prevents Gallstones

Use of olive oil is also effective in preventing gallstones as it has a laxative effect. It is often used by people practicing gallbladder cleanse.

Strengthens Cell Walls

As per a 2018 study published in the Internation Journal of Molecular Sciences, olive oil contains polyphenols which help in building stronger cell walls. It also increases the elasticity of arterial walls, protecting you against various heart conditions.

Reduces Risk of Cancer

Olive oil is said to protect the human body against cancerous growth, especially bowel cancer. Medical research done at Oxford University has shown positive signs that the acidic content of this oil can prevent the commencement of rectum and bowel cancer.

The Carcinogenesis journal has covered a study in 2018 suggesting that the extra virgin variety is a godsend when it comes to preventing cancer cell growth in the body.

One more study also confirms the same effect and also reveals that out of all, olive oil has shown a helpful effect on breast cancer. Hydroxytyrosol, a major component of the oil may help prevent breast cancer in postmenopausal women.

Lowers Hypertension

A recent research study suggests that a Mediterranean diet comprising of food rich in unsaturated fats (found in olive oil and nuts), nitrite, and nitrate (found in leafy green vegetables) may help protect you from hypertension.

There are several grades of the oil, according to the flavor, aroma, acidic value, and color. Readers are advised to buy authentic oil with proper evaluation for cooking or medicinal purposes.

Other Benefits

The oil boosts the metabolism, the growth of good bone structure, and brain development in children. It is also an excellent source of vitamin E, which is very beneficial for older people.

Grades of Olive Oil

When you go to the market, you find different types of olive oils. What does extra virgin mean? What does US Fancy mean? There are two main types of gradations that you will find, IOOC standards and US standards.

IOOC 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 oils; some of these descriptions are given below:

Virgin Olive Oil: It is prepared by mechanical and physical means. There is no alteration to the oil after processing. Edible virgin oil has a free acidity of not more than 2 grams per 100 grams. No food additives are permitted in this oil.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil: This is a type of edible 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: This has a free acidity content of no more than 3.3 grams per 100 grams. This oil does not contain any additives.

Lampante Virgin Olive Oil: This oil is 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: It 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 and edible virgin olive oil. It has a fatty acid content of not more than 1 gram per 100 grams.

US Standards

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released the United States Standards for Grades of it 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 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

Health benefits of olive oil - infographic

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 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, an absence of defects, odor, and flavor have weights of 30, 30, 20, and 20 respectively.

Fancy: US Fancy refers to the 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 a good typical flavor (18-20 points). Finally, it should have a total score of no less than 90 points.

Choice: US Choice refers to the 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 odor (16-17 points) and a reasonably good 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 a fairly good typical odor (14-15 points). It should have a fairly good typical flavor (14-15 points). It should have a score of no less than 70 points.

Substandard: Substandard quality 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 oil odor (0-13 points). It fails to have a fairly good typical olive oil flavor (0-13 points) and scores less than 70 total points.

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About the Author

Meenakshi Nagdeve is a health and wellness enthusiast and started working on Organic Facts since 2012 and is currently responsible for managing it. She follows naturopathy and believes in healing with foods. She has completed the Nutrition And Healthy Living Cornell Certificate Program, Cornell University. She holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Management from IIM Bangalore and B. Tech in Metallurgical Engineering and Materials Science from IIT Bombay. Prior to this, she worked for a few years in IT and Financial services. In her free time, she loves to travel and taste different types of teas.

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