The olive tree is native to the Mediterranean region and mainly cultivated for its fruit which is used to make olive oil. Olive oil is produced by crushing the olive fruit and pressing the oil from the olive pulp. Olive oil comes in two different grades, depending on the amount of processing involved. They are virgin olive oil and refined olive oil. Virgin varieties are believed to offer the greatest health benefits as they retain most of the nutrients from the olive fruit.
Like other types of cooking oil (palm oil, coconut oil, and lard), olive oil is high in fat. One tablespoon of olive oil contains about 14 gr of fat. However, the fat is mostly monounsaturated fat which is beneficial to our health, and is easily digested. In countries where olive oil is consumed extensively, such as Greece, Italy and Spain, there is a low incidence of heart diseases.
The health benefits of olive oil have been recognized for many centuries by Mediterranean people and were first mentioned by Hippocrates, the father of medicine. Ancient civilization used olive oil to heal wounds and nowadays it is a best remedy for skin problems and an effective moisturizer.
Health Benefits of Olive Oil
- Prevent cancer
Olive oil is high in antioxidants, substances that fight cancer. It also contains monounsaturated fat, a fatty acid that is believed to suppress a gene responsible for over 25 percent of breast cancer.
A study published in the journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), showed that olive oil “mounts a multi-pronged attack on cancer tumors, stopping their growth, and protecting DNA against potentially cancerous damage.
- Protects against Heart Disease
Olive oil contains high amount of monounsaturated fatty acids, which helps protects against heart disease by lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and raising HDL (good) cholesterol levels. The polyphenols in olive oil also provide protection against heart disease by reducing the oxygen-related damage along artery walls. Studies have showed that consuming 25 milliliters of olive oil daily for one week lowers the LDL cholesterol and raises anti-oxidative compounds.
- Aid digestion
Olive oil promotes the overall absorption of nutrients while helping the digestive system to function more efficiently. It is very well tolerated by the stomach due to its high oleic acid content. Take one tablespoon of olive oil on an empty stomach to have a positive effect on chronic constipation.
- Treat upset stomachs and heartburn
Olive oil has been used since ancient times to treat upset stomachs, heartburn and flatulence. Take one tablespoon (per 120 lbs) of olive oil in the morning on an empty stomach. This will calm an upset stomach, and relieve flatulence and heartburn.
- Reduce diabetes risk
One of the great health benefits of olive oil is that it may reduce the risk of diabetes, particularly type 2 diabetes. Many study have been done on the link between olive oil and diabetes and evidence suggests that olive oil can play a role in preventing diabetes.
In fact, olive oil is low in saturated fat (bad fat) and high in monounsaturated fat (good, healthy fat). And the evidence shows that the saturated fat lead to an increased risk of developing diabetes, while monounsaturated fat lowered the risk. In other words, if you are diabetic, you’d be better cutting off other fats from your diet and keeping or adding olive oil in.
- Anti aging supplement
Olive oil is high in antioxidants, including vitamin E. Antioxidants are nutritional powerhouses that protect against age-accelerating free radicals. Medical studies have indicated that diets lack in vitamin E accelerate the breakdown of certain fatty acids, a process which invariably leads to aging.
- Moisturize the skin
Olive oil has been used for centuries in Mediterranean cultures as a natural moisturizer and to prevent dry skin. One of the main reasons why olive oil works really well as a moisturizer is the hydrophilic properties of these antioxidants which allow it to form a protective barrier trapping moisture on your skin. To moisturize dry skin, apply it daily directly to dry spots and stretch marks.
- Hair care
Olive oil also can be used to treat a number of hair-care problems, such as dry, itchy scalp, hair loss and dandruff. Massage a few tablespoons of olive oil into the scalp and hair. Cover hair with a plastic bathing cap and leave it for 30 minutes or more, then shampoo as usual. Do it everyday for a week and you will see a significant improvement in your condition. It also helps in treating baldness. Wash your hair regularly and treat your scalp with olive oil.
Since olive oil is comes in different grades, ensure to look for olive oil that is labeled ‘extra virgin’ as it processed from freshly harvested olives and does not contain any chemicals substances. Extra virgin olive oil supplies the best flavor and has more nutrients in it, and oil that is green in color is the higher quality than golden-yellow oil.