What is Olive Oil?
Olive oil is a liquid fat obtained from olives, produced by pressing whole olives and extracting the oil. It is commonly used in cooking, for frying foods, or as a salad dressing. Olive oil and its trendy moniker EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil) is known as one of the healthiest foods you can eat for maintaining a healthy body weight.
Its use dates back 6,000 years, originating in Iran, Syria, and Palestine, before making its way to the Mediterranean, where its olive groves are most well known. Historically, olive oil has been used in religious ceremonies and medicine, and it’s become an important source of food for many cultures.
1. Extra-virgin olive oil makes up 60 percent of all the olive oil sold in North America) can be used for both cold or finishing preparations as well as in cooking.
2. Olive oil – regular olive oil can be used in a variety of cooking styles
3. Light-tasting olive oil has a neutral flavor, so you can use it in cooking and baking when you don’t want the characteristic peppery taste of olive oil.
How Olive Oil is Made
Olive oil is made from olives that grow on olive trees, most often those in the Mediterranean region. After harvest, olives are crushed into a paste and then decanted and put through a centrifugation process to separate the oil.
The final product is then stored in stainless steel tanks that are protected from oxygen. When bottled, the oil should go into a dark glass bottle to keep it fresh.
What is Olive Oil Good For?
1. Cardiovascular System and Olive Oil
Olive oil is largely known as one of the best fats you can eat, particularly for heart health. It may be that the MUFAs, (monounsaturated fatty acids) chemicals called phenols, and vitamin E in olive oil are heart protective.
The oil is also known to be anti-inflammatory and may improve blood vessel function and improve cholesterol, insulin sensitivity, and lower high blood pressure, the researchers point out.
2. Antioxidants and Olive Oil
Olive oil is rich in antioxidants, which help prevent cellular damage caused by molecules called free radicals. Free radicals are substances that the body produces during metabolism and other processes. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals.
If too many free radicals build up, they can cause oxidative stress. This can lead to cell damage, and it may play a role in the development of certain diseases, including certain types of cancer.
3. Metabolic Syndrome and Olive Oil
Olive oil might improve features of metabolic syndromes, such as inflammation, blood sugar, triglycerides (fats in the blood), and low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad” cholesterol. In contrast, it appears to increase levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good” cholesterol.
4. Depression Risk and Olive Oil
In 2013, a rodent study suggested that ingredients in extra virgin olive oil may help protect the nervous system and could be useful for treating depression and anxiety.
5. Cancer Risk and Olive Oil
Some studies have suggested that substances in olive oil may help reduce the risk of breast cancer, but not all findings confirm this. According to research published in 2019, olive oil contains substances that may help prevent colorectal cancer.
Lab tests have found evidence that antioxidants in olive oil may help protect the body from inflammation, oxidative damage, and epigenetic changes.
6. Alzheimer’s Disease and Olive Oil
In 2016, some scientists suggested that including extra virgin olive oil in the diet may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. This may be due to its protective impact on blood vessels in the brain.
In 2019 study suggested that consuming oleocanthal-rich extra virgin olive oil could help slow or stop the progression of Alzheimer’s. Oleocanthal is a phenolic compound that occurs in extra virgin olive oil.
7. The Liver and Olive Oil
A 2018 review of laboratory studies found that molecules in extra virgin olive oil may help prevent or repair liver damage.
The oil’s MUFAs, which are mainly oleic acid, and its phenolic compounds appear to help prevent inflammation, oxidative stress, insulin resistance, and other changes that can result in liver damage.
8. Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Olive Oil
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) causes inflammation of the digestive tract. Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are types of IBD.
A 2019 review found that phenols in olive oil may help boost intestinal immunity and gut health by changing the microbes in the gut. This could be useful for people with colitis and other types of IBD though more human studies are needed to confirm these results.
Olive Oil Nutrition Facts: What Do You Get out of 1 Tablespoon?
- Calories: 119.
- Protein: 0 grams (g)
- Fat: 13.5g.
- Saturated fat: 1.9g.
- Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA): 9.9g.
- Polyunsaturated fat: 1.4g.
- Carbohydrate: 0g.
- Fiber: 0g.
How Olive Oil Compares With Other Popular Oils
Here’s how olive oil stacks up against other culinary oils
- Avocado Oil Because avocados are mostly made up of MUFAs, avocado oil is the most similar to olive oil nutritionally. It contains 1.6g of saturated fat, 9.9g of MUFA, and 1.9g of polyunsaturated fat.
- Canola Oil A mostly unsaturated fat, canola oil is pretty similar to olive oil, particularly because it has 8.9g of MUFA. Where it differs is the polyunsaturated fat content, with canola oil packing 3.9g. It also contains 1g of saturated fat.
- Grapeseed Oil This oil is mainly made up of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) (9.5g), with 2.2g of MUFA and just 1.3g of saturated fat. (Both MUFAs and PUFAs have been linked to heart health by helping to improve blood cholesterol levels.)
- Coconut Oil Tropical oil differs vastly from olive oil. Most of its fats (11g, or about 83 percent) are saturated, and it has less than 1g of MUFA and a scant amount (0.2g) of polyunsaturated fat.
One study, published in March 2018 in the journal BMJ Open, comparing middle-aged adults who consumed about 3 tbsp of coconut oil, butter, or olive oil for four weeks found that butter increased levels of LDL, or “bad” cholesterol more so than coconut or olive oil.
Both coconut and olive oil surprisingly didn’t change LDL levels, but coconut oil did boost HDL, or “good” cholesterol concentration more than olive oil. The jury is still out on the overall healthfulness of coconut oil.
How to Choose an Authentic Olive Oil
- Look for seals of quality and certified origin, such as 100% Qualita Italiana (for Italy), or the California Olive Oil Commission (COOC) 100% Certified Extra Virgin seal. Or look for the North American Olive Oil Association’s NAOOA Certified Oil, bearing a red circular logo with a green olive branch.
- Buy 100% cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil and 100% organic if possible. Although this doesn’t necessarily guarantee quality or purity, certified organic varieties are far more likely to be subject to regulation and inspection, as well as to minimize the risk of consuming pesticides.
- Consider the price point, understanding that if it seems too good to be true — or too cheap to be real — it very well may be. That doesn’t mean you should be spending exorbitant amounts of money on olive oil, but it’s also probably a good idea not to choose the cheapest option on the shelf.
- Purchase oils in dark-colored glass bottles. This helps protect the oil from oxidation — or the degradation of quality when exposed to oxygen — before it even hits the shelves. Darker bottles can also keep damaging light and temperatures at bay. As such, avoid oils sold in clear glass containers if possible.
- Look for a harvesting date or pressing date on the label. This tells you how long ago the pressing occurred. It’s optimal to choose the freshest oils possible, though when properly stored olive oil generally retains its goodness for as much as 18 months after bottling.
- While you most likely won’t be able to try the oil before you take it home, the opportunity to taste it can also indicate quality. Good quality olive oil should have a fruity taste in the front of your mouth and a peppery taste when it reaches the back.
Real Olive Oil Brands
While the list of which oils to buy or avoid is in constant evolution, Real Food For Life summarized available data and customer reviews, they came up with the following list of extra virgin olive oil brands that they consider “authentic” (as of this writing).
- Bariani Olive Oil
- Kirkland Organic
- Corto EVOO
- Cobram Estate
- California Olive Ranch
- McEvoy Ranch Organic
- Olea Estates
- Chacewater California Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Ellora Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Partanna Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Lodi Frantoio Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Casina Rossa Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Papa Vince Olive Oil Extra Virgin
- Knole live Epicure
- Tuscan Gold Eleganza
- Anatomico Organic Coratina EVOO
- Selección Familiar
- Oro Bailen Family Reserve
- TERRA Delyssa
- Venta del Baron Award Winning Cold Pressed EVOO
If you don’t see your preferred brand listed here, you can always contact them directly to ask if their olive oils are 3rd-party inspected for freshness and purity.
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Tell us in the comments:
- Do you use olive oil? If so, what is your go-to kind, and how do you like to use it?
- What other brand do you use aside from the olive oil kind and how does it differ
- Would you consider going oil-free, or have you ever tried making oil-free recipes?
Information on this site is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. We encourage you to do your own research. Seek the advice of a medical professional before making any changes to your lifestyle or diet.
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