A delicious and wholesome plate of carbonara, a bowl of crunchy salad, and a mouthwatering green chimichurri. What do these three very different dishes have in common? You guessed it, extra virgin olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil is a kitchen staple all over the world, especially in North and South America, Europe, and the Mediterranean region.
Olive oil is undoubtedly delicious and you can use it in an astonishing number of ways. But extra virgin olive oil is special. It has some very special qualities that not only make it a great tasting edible oil but also help keep you healthy.
Why Extra Virgin Olive Oil is Good For You?
A Brief History of Olive Oil
Olive oil is one of the oldest oils in the history of human civilization. As early as 10,000 years ago, humans picked wild olives in the neolithic period.
The consumption of olive oil can be seen from the cultures of ancient Greece and the Mediterranean. The ancient method of extracting oil from olives by crushing them in stone mills still exists to this day and is upheld as the highest measure of quality.
Not All Olive Oils are Created Equal
Olive oil is serious business; just ask the Italians. Most people are only familiar with extra virgin olive oil. That’s because it’s the highest quality and also the most expensive kind. But there are many more kinds of olive oil, each with its unique attributes and uses.
Some are more acidic, some carry more free fatty acid content, some can be used as dressings, and some are used as cooking oil. So, it’s essential to choose the correct olive oil for the right purpose.
Generally, there are four or five kinds of olive oil such as extra-virgin olive oil, virgin olive oil, refined olive oil, pure olive oil, and olive pomace oil.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil: This is rich in natural flavors and can be consumed raw as a finishing oil or salad dressing. Apart from that, it is high in nutrients and minerals.
Virgin Olive Oil: This type of olive oil is unrefined and contains a slightly high acidity content between 1 to 4%. These oils are perfect for low-heat cooking purposes.
Refined Olive Oil: Refined olive oils have the least amount of olive oil content within them. To many people, it may seem like an inferior olive oil, but it still has healthy properties such as it can prevent colon cancer.
Pure Olive Oil: Although these oils are called pure olive oils, they are actually made from mixing extra-virgin or virgin olive oil with refined olive oil. But on the positive side, pure olive oils contain a large amount of essential vitamins while also tasting great.
Olive Pomace Oil: Olive pomace oil is made from the residue of the fruits that were used to make olive oil. They are generally mixed with other types of olive oils to enhance their quality. That means these oils are comparatively cheaper.
Why is Extra Virgin Olive Oil so Unique?
In the culinary world, there are different olive oils already present in the market. But when it comes to the manufacturing procedure, extra virgin olive oils have undergone minor processing and offer something extra that regular olive oil does not have.
Extra-virgin olive oil is extracted manually from ripe olives without using much heat or chemical solvents. These oils contain a lot of phenols and the great news is that a study found high concentrations of phenols may provide extra antioxidant effects to health. On the other hand, typical, highly processed olive oils don’t have all these compounds.
Health Benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
When we talk about a healthy lifestyle, using extra virgin oil every day or incorporating it into your diet can be very beneficial for you.
There are numerous proven health advantages of using extra virgin olive oil. These benefits range from keeping your gut healthy to protecting your heart. So let’s take a look at some of the benefits you get from consuming extra virgin olive oil:
Rich in Healthy Fats: The role of fats in the body is more important than you may think. Healthy fats are essential for bodily functions. They help to store energy, perform metabolic functions, absorb essential vitamins, and play a key role in the immune system of the body.
Extra Virgin Olive Oils are rich in these healthy fats such as monounsaturated fats like oleic acids, omega-6, and omega-3.
Oleic acid, the main monounsaturated fat found in olive oil, has anti-inflammatory properties. Studies have shown that dietary factors like oleic acid intake can reduce the biomarkers that cause inflammation.
A study done in 2005, showed that oleic acid can suppress genes that can lead to the development of breast cancer. Two other studies conducted in Spain and Japan concluded that populations with diets rich in oleic acid, like the Mediterranean diet in Spain and the seafood-rich diet in Japan, were less likely to develop cancers or other malignancies.
Rich in Antioxidants: Our body deals with a lot of harmful molecules called free radicals on a daily basis. These may enter the body through our food or can be produced internally as a by-product of biochemical processes. If left unchecked, these free radicals can cause cellular damage that might result in diseases like atherosclerosis or even cancer.
Antioxidants are chemicals that neutralize these harmful free radicals and help excrete them from the body. They help break free radical chain reactions, preventing them from causing molecular damage and oxidative stress.
Extra virgin olive oil is a great source of natural antioxidants. The antioxidants found in olive oil are called phenols. Extra virgin olive oil can contain 20 types of Phenols, the major types are Hydroxytyrosol, Oleocanthal, and Oleuropein.
Helps control Inflammation: Inflammation occurs as a reaction of the body to injury or infection. However, sometimes this inflammation can go out of control and cause inflammatory disorders. Inflammation can act as a precursor to diseases like atherosclerosis and cancer.
Extra virgin olive oil is rich in antioxidant content that can help reduce inflammation. Studies have shown that extra virgin olive oil contains phenols like Oleocanthal, which has anti-inflammatory properties similar to Ibuprofen and can help control chronic inflammatory diseases.
Has Antibacterial Properties:
Helicobacter pylori is a type of bacteria that is responsible for causing stomach infections and stomach cancer. Laboratory testing has shown that extra virgin olive oil is effective in preventing eight strains of Helicobacter bacteria. So, having Extra Virgin olive oil might help prevent Helicobacter infection.
The first step to a healthy diet is to know about what you’re eating. The more you are conscious about the healthy alternatives in your usual diet, the more knowledge you will have to make healthy decisions. And extra virgin olive oil can be one of the key changes that can help you turn over a new leaf. What’s great about extra virgin olive oils is that not only do they taste great, but they are also very healthy for you as well. A healthier and tastier life awaits with extra virgin olive oils!