Keto is the buzzword of 2018. Yet, somehow, people are still arguing about whether fats and oils are healthy for you. Whether you are a die-hard fan of low-carb, or you prefer to stick to tried and tested diet strategies, olive oil is healthy. Why does everyone agree on that? Check out all the amazing olive oil nutrition benefits to find out!
The Olive Oil Nutrition Claims
Olives have been used for oil production for as long as history can record. They are a dietary staple for Mediterranean people - some of the world's healthiest individuals. The Mediterranean diet has been shown to lower the risk of heart disease and other serious chronic conditions! The olive oil advocates talk about all sorts of health benefits - protection against free radicals, banishing cardiovascular disease, slowing down skin ageing and even kicking cancer's butt! But how much of this is actually true? Let's talk science!
A Tablespoon Of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Here is the nutritional information that the USDA has provided for a tablespoon of olive oil. Yes, I know this is very basic but we have to start somewhere!
- Calories: 119
- Fat: 13.50gm
- Carbohydrates: 0
- Saturated fats: 2gm
- Fibers: 0
- Protein: 0
- Vitamin E: 1.8mg
- Vitamin K: 8.1 microgram
Olive oil is a pure source of dietary fat. It also contains modest amounts of fat-soluble vitamins. Both vitamin E and vitamin K are essential for the proper function of your body. While olive oil is not the best source of these nutrients, it is a great supplement and the vitamins make the olive oil nutrition profile even better. And some more good news: olive oil does not contain any carbs. This is great news because overeating carbohydrates has been associated with insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and consequentially, heart disease. Yes, all of these problems have a similar pathophysiology and constantly pumping carbs into your system is a major risk factor.
What Kind Of Fat Is In Olive OilWhile the stigma around dietary fat is all but completely banished from the scientific community, people still worry about the fat in their diet. The sheer variety of fat-free products available on the market is proof enough. Well, boy do I have good news for you! It's not about the fat you consume. It's about the kind of fat you put in your system. With that in mind, let's talk about the kind of fat that olive oil contains.
- Saturated fat: 13.8%.
- Monounsaturated fat: 73%.
- A negligible amount of polyunsaturated fat
- Omega-6: 9.7%.
- Omega-3: 0.76%.
You need both saturated and non-saturated fats in your system. However, when you mostly get your dietary fat intake from monounsaturated fat, you are significantly reducing the cholesterol and lipids in your blood. Monounsaturated fats have been shown to lower "bad" LDL cholesterol and increase "good" HDL cholesterol. They have even been associated with a reduced level of inflammation and consequential chronic disease. Considering that olive oil is almost entirely made up of healthy monounsaturated fats, it makes sense that it has so many health benefits. From a biochemical perspective, this is the perfect source of dietary fat to eat on a day-to-day basis!
Understand How Olive Oil Is Made
Before we move further with the olive oil nutrition goodness, we must address the elephant in the room. Not all olive oils were created equal. Let's take a minute or two to understand where olive oil comes from and why buying a quality product is the only way to reap all the benefits! Olive oil is, unsurprisingly, pressed out from olives. The process has been around since antiquity. If you put the olives under enough pressure, oil will come out. However, olive oil is not always what you think it is. With modern technology come new extraction methods. You can now get every last droplet of oil out of the olive... But at what price? The chemicals that are used for extraction can leave trace compounds and the high heat ruins all the amazing properties. This is why extra virgin olive oil is the very best oil you can buy. It is strictly regulated for taste, acidity, chemical composition, and, most importantly, extraction manner. Only cold-pressed olive oil can qualify for the extra virgin level. All the less-than-natural methods are banished from extra virgin olive oil production.
"Light" Olive Oils Are Not Healthy
It's easy to fall prey to this common advertising trick. If something has been marked as "light", surely it must be healthier for you than the regular version. Not true! "Light" olive oils are actually more harshly treated and they have been extracted using dangerous methods. These refined oils can contain trace amounts of dangerous solvents like hexane or even lower quality dilution oils like canola. Unfortunately, fake olive oil also exists. Make sure you read our article on known fake olive oil brands, as well as the piece on recognizing dangerous frauds in your salad. Only buy from reputable olive oil producers and read the labels carefully.
Olive Oil Nutrition Benefits: Antioxidants, Baby!"Antioxidant" is another buzzword that a lot of people use but very few of them actually understand. It's true that olive oil is one of the best antioxidants you can add to your diet. But do you even know what antioxidant means? Here is what Encyclopedia Britannica has to say on the matter:
Antioxidant, any of various chemical compounds added to certain foods, natural and synthetic rubbers, gasolines, and other substances to retard autoxidation, the process by which these substances combine with oxygen in the air at room temperature. Retarding autoxidation delays the appearance of such undesirable qualities as rancidity in foods, loss of elasticity in rubbers, and formation of gums in gasolines. Antioxidants most commonly used are such organic compounds as aromatic amines, phenols, and aminophenols.Let's break this down in simple words:
- An antioxidant does not have to be a particular type of chemical. Any substance that does the "antioxidant job" qualifies. This is why these compounds come in all shapes and sizes.
- The most common types of antioxidants are aromatic amines, phenols, and aminophenols. These are classes of organic compounds. Olive oil is rich in phenols, one of the major groups of antioxidants.
- What do antioxidants do? They keep things from reacting with oxygen. When oxygen reacts with a certain substance, highly reactive free radicals are produced. These can damage cells and cause all sorts of trouble for even non-living things. This is why you can think of oxidation as the process of spoiling. Whether it is the elasticity of a rubber or your own cell DNA that is ruined doesn't matter in this case.
Olive Oil Nutrition: Will It Really Prevent A Heart Attack?Now that we know about the mechanisms behind it, let's sum up how olive oil protects your heart:
- LDL cholesterol - Olive oil keeps you satiated (so you consume less saturated fats) and it's rich in the type of dietary fat that lowers "bad" cholesterol.
- Prevents oxidation - When LDL becomes oxidised, the risk of plaques forming and your blood vessels getting clogged increases exponentially! Because olive oil is rich in antioxidants, it prevents this from happening and it makes the cardiovascular disease less likely to develop or worsen over time.
- Improves endothelial function - The endothelium is the lining of the blood vessels and it plays a major role in heart disease. When the lining begins to malfunction, for instance, because some plaques have ruptured, dangerous blood clots can be formed. These then travel in your circulation and they can cut off the blood to important areas, including your brain. You guessed it, this is what happens during a stroke.
- No more blood clots - When a blood clot forms in a place that is should not be, you are one step closer to a heart attack or a stroke. Not only does olive oil improve the functioning of the endothelium, but it also directly stops unwanted blood clotting from happening
Finally, there is some promising research around olive oil and blood pressure. Apparently, when patients with elevated blood pressure were encouraged to consume olive oil, their condition improved so much that they could even cut their meds. These people could reduce the high blood pressure medication they were taking in half! Of course, if you do suffer from hypertension, switching to olive oil is no way to go. What you can do, however, is begin incorporating heart-healthy extra virgin olive oil in your diet. The closer you get to the Mediterranean way of eating, the more you reduce your risk of complications and death. This has been shown in multiple studies - both statistical (with data from the Mediterranean countries), and experimental (where they gave people with heart problems the Mediterranean diet).
Olive Oil Nutrition: The Bottom Line
The olive oil nutrition benefits are hard to ignore. Even if you are not willing to go full keto just yet, consider adding olive oil to your diet. Not only is it a delicious way to spice up your salad, but olive oil may also protect you from an early grave!
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