What is olive oil?
Olive oilis the liquid fat, or natural oil, obtained by pressing whole olives. The fruit, from a tree native to the Mediterranean, has a unique flavour that's dependent on its country of origin – some mild, others peppery or even bitter. Processing techniques result in olive oils of different ‘grades’, either refined and unrefined. Unrefined oils are pure and untreated, meaning no heat or chemicals have been used in the extraction process. This produces a purer oil with stronger taste. Refined oils have been treated to remove any flaws, and are usually lighter in colour and milder in taste.
Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is an unrefined oil made from the first 'virgin' press of the fruit. No heat is used in the extraction process, preserving beneficial plant compounds called polyphenols. Deemed the highest quality, you can expect to pay more for EVOO. It also has a stronger flavour and is darker in colour. Regular or light olive oils are typically a blend of both cold-pressed and refined oils.
Discover our full range ofhealth benefit guidesand find out more about the health credentials of other oils.
Nutritional profile of olive oil
One 1 level tbsp (11ml) serving provides:
- 99 kcals / 407 kJ
- 11g fat
- 6g saturates
- 0g monounsaturates
- 9g polyunsaturates
- 56mg vitamin E
What are the 5 main health benefits of olive oil?
1. May improve heart health
Olive oil is a key component of theMediterranean diet,有蜜蜂n plenty of research conducted that demonstrates its benefits (especially that of EVOO) for heart health. This includes its ability toreduce blood pressureand improvecholesterol levels, both of which contribute to a reduced risk of heart disease.
A large review of these studies demonstrated how olive oil was the only source of monounsaturated fat associated with areduced risk of both stroke and heart disease.
2. May reduce inflammation
Inflammation is thought to be one of the key drivers behind some of our most chronic health problems, including Alzheimer’s and type-2 diabetes. Research looking at the role of antioxidants and theiranti-inflammatory effect, including oleic acid found in olive oil, has discovered that these play a role inreducing inflammationand the marker for inflammation, known asC-Reactive Protein (CRP).
EVOO is rich in polyphenols, one of which is called oleocanthal. This compound appears to share the same pharmalogical activity as ibuprofen, and acts as anatural anti-inflammatory. Interestingly, this useful property has been associated with positive changes in those withrheumatoid arthritis.
3. May improve mood
As part of a healthy diet that includes a high intake of fruit, vegetables, wholegrains and oily fish, olive oil has been found to play a role inreducing the risk of depression.
4. May improve brain function
5. May protect against chronic disease
Otherearly researchhas suggested that olive oil and its high polyphenol content may have a protective effect against type-2 diabetes and some forms of cancer. However, more research is needed before definitive conclusions can be drawn.
Is olive oil safe for everyone?
A dietary staple for many of the world’s healthiest populations, olive oil is considered a good choice for the majority of people. That said, rare reports of allergy have been recorded, although these are typically to the pollen of the olive tree rather than the oil of the fruit.
Being calorie-dense, olive oil’s use should be moderated, with it being chosen as a replacement for other fats used in the diet.
Recipes that use olive oil
This article was reviewed on10February 2021 by Kerry Torrens.
Nicola Shubrook is a nutritional therapist and works with both private clients and the corporate sector. She is an accredited member of theBritish Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine(BANT) and theComplementary & Natural Healthcare Council(CNHC). Find out more aturbanwellness.co.uk.
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