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. The extra virgin olive oil variety 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. The Food and Drug Administration recommends 2 tablespoons every day to reduce the risk of heart disease.
What is Olive Oil?
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. 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.
Types of Olive Oil
Various types of this 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 and virgin oils. It contains a highly 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. Olive oil is also free of carbs 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.
Health Benefits of Olive Oil
Olive oil has numerous beneficial qualities. Some of them are as follows:
Reduces Heart Problems
The natural olive oil contains 70% monounsaturated fatty acid. As a result, it lowers cholesterol accumulation in the blood and reduces heart problems.
Lowers Cholesterol Levels
LDL cholesterol is the bad type of cholesterol, which increases the risk of heart attacks and pulmonary 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 the HDL cholesterol levels.
Medical experts suggest that it is very difficult to gain weight from the mono-unsaturated fats present in olive oil. Research on Mediterranean olive oil has shown positive results with regards to using it for weight loss.
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.
Olive oil is rich in phenols that have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. As a result, its use helps inhibit the growth of pathogenic bacteria and relieve inflammation.
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.
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.
Use of olive oil is also effective in preventing gallstones.
Strengthens Cell Walls
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 the Oxford University has shown positive signs that the acidic content of this oil can prevent the commencement of rectum and bowel cancer.
Prevents Breast Cancer
A recent research study suggests that hydroxytyrosol, a major component of olive oil may help prevent breast cancer in postmenopausal women.
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 olive 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.
Grades of Olive Oil
When you go to 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 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 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.
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 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, an 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 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 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.