Consumption of olive oil in the United States is up, becoming more and more popular for frying and baking as a healthier replacement for vegetable oil. It is also being used more to dress salads and other sauces.
The health benefits of olive oil derive their nutritional value from the contents of high monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs). These are the dietary fats that we need and are linked to lower cholesterol levels, insulin control, good sources of vitamins E & K and promoting healthy cognitive function.
The nutritional value of the oil is affected by heat, light and air. The Mayo Clinic recommends keeping it in a dark, room temperature cupboard or refrigerator to preserve the healthy fats and taste. Other benefits include:
- Combats inflammation
A study from the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, PA examined the effects of daily intake of teaspoons of olive oil on pain. Four teaspoons of olive oil had the same effect as ibuprofen on pain, but without the side effects of increased bleeding and gastrointestinal damage
- Combats diabetes
Foods with high MUFAs do not cause weight gain in diabetics and reduces the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 60%. Olive oil can also help regulate insulin and blood sugar levels.
- Combats cancer
Consumption of olive oil is linked to a decrease in tumors in colon, prostate and breast cancer. The main MUFA in olive oil, called oleic acid, can weaken a cancer gene found in 25-30% of all breast cancer.
- Reduces the rate of cardiovascular disease
MUFAs in olive oil are shown to reduce heart problems and the rate of heart disease deaths. Researchers found that a Mediterranean diet with either extra virgin olive oil or mixed nuts can significantly reduce the incidents of cardiovascular disease.
- Promotes healthy fetal development
Olive oil has the ability to improve brain function and learning capacity in young children. Consumption of extra virgin olive oil is linked to positive effects on child height, weight, cognitive and behavioral development.