Want to have some salad and eat healthily? Don’t forget to dress it with olive oil, aka “liquid gold.” One of the healthiest oils, olive oil, is the basic ingredient of the well-known Mediterranean diet. It is why people of that region are healthier and fit than the rest of the world.
What is Olive Oil?
Olive oil is extracted from olives, the fruit of the olive tree, by pressing or crushing them. It has various health benefits and is also used for cosmetic purposes to make beauty products, soaps and is even used in medicines. Olive oil can be used for cooking at low temperatures and salad dressing. Fats are an essential part of our diet, and the abundance of healthy fats in olive oil makes it an ideal source of fats.
Nutritional Value of Olive Oil
Olive oil is packed with healthy nutrients and fats beneficial for health. Here is the nutritional value of 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
- Calories: 119
- Fat: 13.5 g
- Saturated fats: 1.9 g
- Monounsaturated fats: 9.9 g
- Polyunsaturated fats: 1.4 g
- Carbohydrates: 0 g
- Protein: 0 g
- Vitamin E: 1.9 mg (milligram)
- Vitamin K: 8.13 mcg (microgram)
Types of Olive Oil
Olive oil has different types, depending upon the extraction process. Each type has its own properties and benefits. Some of the olive oil types are listed below.
1. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
The most expensive and healthy type of olive oil is extra virgin olive oil. This oil has the maximum monounsaturated fats and antioxidants and is extracted manually through cold pressing (without high heat) to preserve the nutrients and natural aroma.
Extra virgin olive oil is not suitable for cooking as it has a very low smoking point, and even a slight heat can damage the vitamins. Its best use is as dressing for salads or topping. The acidity level of the extra virgin olive level is very low, as it is completely unrefined.
2. Virgin Olive Oil
The virgin olive oil is also an unrefined and naturally extracted olive oil type. Still, the only difference is that virgin olive oil has a little higher acidity level than extra virgin olive oil. Its acidity range is between 1 to 4 percent.
Virgin olive oil has a relatively higher smoking point and can be used to cook and sauté other than using it as a topping or salad dressing. But make sure that you don’t use it for deep frying purposes due to the lower smoking point than the other cooking oils.
3. Refined Olive Oil
As the name suggests, refined olive oil is made by refining virgin olive oil. This is the cheapest type of olive oil and is easily available everywhere. The acidity level of oil is eliminated during the refining process, and the refined olive oil has no acidity at all.
Refined olive oil contains a fewer amount of vitamins and antioxidants. It is best for cooking and can be easily used for high heat cooking and baking. However, refined olive oil is not suitable for dressing salads as it has no distinct flavor, color, or aroma.
4. Pure Olive Oil
Contrary to the name, pure olive oil is not pure and blended with either extra virgin or virgin olive oil. When the quality of refined oil is not the desired quality, it is mixed with extra virgin or virgin olive oil to add nutrients and vitamins to it.
Pure olive oil can be used to cook, but it is not recommended as its taste and smell are not pleasant. You can use it for body or hair massage to benefit from its properties.
5. Pomace Olive Oil
Pomace olive oil is the lowest quality olive oil. When the oil is extracted from olives, pomace is left, which still has some oil and water. Further, the remaining oil is extracted from this pomace, and this contains has a significantly less amount of vitamins and antioxidants. Olive pomace oil is excellent for high heat cooking but is mixed with other types of olive oil, so it does not have many nutrients.
Health Benefits of Olive Oil
The list of olive oil benefits would be very long if we start talking about it. This oil is packed with so many nutrients and is considered the healthiest oil and the most recommended one.
Below are some of the health benefits of olive oil.
1. Rich in Healthy Fats
Live oil is rich in healthy monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats such as omega-3 and omega-6. These healthy fats tend to reduce inflammation and are beneficial for health in several ways (source).
2. Rich in Antioxidants
Antioxidants keep you healthy and safe from harmful free radicals and prevent you from contracting diseases. Olive oil is packed with antioxidants and contains vitamins K and E that are good for heart health and the immune system (source).
3. Helps Prevent Cardiovascular Diseases
Olive oil contains a minimal amount of saturated fats. Instead, it is rich in unsaturated fats, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats. These fats are good for cardiovascular health and regulate blood pressure to prevent stroke and other related diseases (source).
4. Boosts Immune System
Due to the presence of healthy fatty acids and antioxidants, olive oil is proven to be good for the immune system and boosts it to keep you healthy and save you from diseases (source).
5. Reduce the Risk of Cancer
Studies show that olive oil helps treat various kinds of cancer, such as colon cancer, breast cancer, or skin cancer. The natural compounds of olive oil treat and fight against cancer without damaging healthy body cells.
6. Aids in Weight Loss
Want to lose weight without affecting your health? Replace your oil with olive oil instead of skipping it to ensure your body gets enough fat to function optimally. Olive oil is recognized as helping in weight loss (source).
7. Beneficial for Mental Health
Apart from physical health, olive oil is beneficial for mental health also. It helps treat depression and anxiety as it is enriched with omega-3 fatty acids, proven good for mental health (source).
8. Helps Prevent Alzheimer’s
Research shows that olive oil consumption is good for memory and some neurological problems such as Alzheimer’s. Extra virgin olive is the most beneficial among all the olive oil types in this regard.
9. Regulates Cholesterol Levels
Cholesterol is the primary reason behind high blood pressure and other heart-related problems. Olive oil helps regulate cholesterol levels by lowering the amount of bad cholesterol (source).
Beauty Benefits of Olive Oil
Besides health benefits, olive oil has numerous beauty benefits, which is why it is used in several cosmetics. Some of the beauty benefits of olive oil are as below.
1. Anti-Aging Properties
Due to the abundance of antioxidants, olive oil is great for the skin and has anti-aging properties that help your skin be young and healthy forever.
2. Natural Makeup Remover
All the synthetic makeup removers have chemicals that are harmful to your skin. Next time you have to remove makeup, use olive oil. It will not only clean your face but naturally moisturize it too.
3. Promotes Hair Growth
Want to have healthy, long, and shiny hair? Start massaging your scalp with olive oil as it is rich in vitamin E that promotes hair growth.
4. Lip Scrub
Do you have chapped lips? Mix a few olive oil drops with brown sugar and lemon juice to make a DIY lip scrub enriched with natural nutrients.
5. Best for Cracked Heels
Your cracked heels might stop you from wearing your favorite shoes, or you may have to wear socks to hide them. Don’t worry, and use olive oil after washing and exfoliating them to moisturize them naturally. Now you can easily wear those shoes without any tension of cracked heels.
Which Olive Oil is the Healthiest?
The main component in olive oil is oleic acid (monounsaturated fatty acids). This type of fat is considered very healthy by the experts. On the other hand, saturated and trans fats are not healthy for our bodies. They are linked to increased heart disease, obesity, and stroke.
Experts assert that it is best to replace saturated and trans fats with monounsaturated fats by using olive oil. Mediterranean diet is rich in olive oil and has thus shown several health benefits for eyes, heart, brain, and overall health.
The answer to the healthiest type of olive oil question has no definite answer. For your understanding, it is essential to know that the modifiers added before olive oil reflect the manufacturing process olive oil has gone through. Extra virgin olive oil is the least processed one among all the types.
The most processed one is the simple olive oil. It is cleaned with chemicals and heated to increase the oil’s shelf life. However, it takes away the major beneficial components of olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil contains the most amounts of healthy antioxidants, known as polyphenols. Also, it has more flavor than any other type of olive oil. Fresh extra virgin olive oil tastes fruity, bitter, and slightly peppery.
Processed olive oil may taste like metal and have no flavor.
A Pro Tip for Cooking in Olive Oil
A tip for using olive oil while cooking is not letting it cook over its smoke point. The smoke point is the temperature when the oil is overheated to the extent that the oil burns and emits smoke. If you encounter such a situation, consider throwing away that batch and start with a new one. Any oil cooked or burnt beyond its smoke point becomes carcinogenic and hazardous for health.
Following are the healthiest oils to cook with according to the American Heart Association (AHA):
In short, there are a lot of olive oil benefits that make it perfect for you. Whether health benefits or beauty benefits, olive oil is beneficial for you in every possible way. Go for it without thinking twice!