5 Ways Extra Virgin Olive Oil Helps You Avoid Disease

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Known for its versatility, delightful rich flavour and amazing health benefits, extra virgin olive oil is a plant-based, dietary staple that should not be ignored.

For centuries, extra virgin olive oil has been a foundational ingredient in mediterranean diets, embraced by cultures who eat minimal processed food and who are known to be among the longest lived on earth.

Not only is olive oil readily available and suitable for all types of cooking, it is jam packed with antioxidants and heart-healthy fats that can help you to avoid a host of lifestyle diseases, including heart attacks and strokes.

Here, we reveal the main difference between "extra virgin" olive oil and regular olive oil, including its key health benefits when included in your diet regularly.

What is extra virgin olive oil and how is it made?

Olive oil is extracted from whole olives which are the fruits of the olive tree.

The process of making olive oil is simple.  Traditionally, olives were pressed to extract their oil.  However, modern methods involved crushing the olives, mixing them and then separating the oil from the pulp in a centrifuge.

The level of processing determines the overall grade or nutritional quality of the oil, which produces one of the following finished products:

  • Refined olive oil
  • Virgin olive oil, or
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Extra virgin olive oil is the least processed grade or variety and is therefore considered to be the healthiest type of olive oil.

It utilises the most traditional and natural method of extraction, which ensures a high level of purity, taste, smell and of course, nutritional quality.

In addition to its delightful flavour and aroma, extra virgin olive oil is rich in antioxidants, which are vital for warding off infection and disease and delivering a wide range of additional, everyday body function benefits.

Extra virgin oil is also loaded with oleic acid and monounsaturated fats that have incredible anti-inflammatory properties, meaning they can be very beneficial in treating joint pain, arthritis, diabetes and reducing skin flare ups and gut health problems. 

5 Profound Health Benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1. Reduces Heart Disease Risk

Even though the mediterranean diet contains very little processed and refined food, it does contain a relatively high amount of saturated animal fat.

Interestingly in spite of this, populations of mediterranean countries, such as Italy, France, Sardinia and Greece, have some of the lowest incidences of heart disease, which is widely attributed to the high amount of extra virgin olive oil in their diets.

The monounsaturated fat in extra virgin olive oil protects against heart disease in several ways. It:

  • prevents LDL (bad) cholesterol from oxidation
  • strengthens the lining of the blood vessels
  • cleanses the blood to help prevent clotting which lowers blood pressure and risk of stroke.

Lowering blood pressure reduces heart disease risk because it enables a clearer passage way of blood flow between the heart and key functions of the body, meaning the heart does not need to work so hard to pump blood to vital organs.

2.  Reduces Risk of Osteoarthritis  

The high oleic acid content in extra virgin olive oil has many benefits, including helping to protect your nerves and joints. Osteoarthritic conditions are generally a sign of chronic inflammation in the body, which can lead to arthritis, osteoporosis and even alzheimers.

Inflammation occurs when your body's normal, healthy cells become compromised, usually due to the effects of a long term processed food diet and a lack of quality exercise.

Research suggests that the oleic acid in extra virgin olive oil, can even reduce levels of C-reactive protein in the blood, which is an inflammatory marker that is associated with inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Numerous studies have also been done to measure the impact of the dietary intake of olive oil on joint pain, proving that it is a very beneficial food in alleviating such discomfort.

3. Helps Manage Weight Gain 

Many people associate consuming fat with being fat, but nothing could be further from the truth. 

Your body needs a certain amount of "good" fat in the diet to enable optimum body function, with the additional benefit being helping to curb appetite and to prevent over eating.

The monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA's) and nutrient density of extra virgin olive oil helps keeps your blood sugar stable, promoting the feeling of satiety, which prevents you from bingeing on processed and refined foods, which are laden with empty calories and designed to encourage you to keep eating.

4. Reduces Cancer Risk

The polyphenol content of extra virgin olive oil mops up free radicals in the body, which is the main factor in reducing cellular degeneration and cancer risk.

Studies have shown that daily diets that consist of a high amount of extra virgin olive oil, can significantly reduce your risk of breast, colorectal, prostate and oesophageal cancers. 

The phenolic compounds in olive oil can play a big role in reducing digestive system related cancers, because the interaction between the nutrients and gut microbiota is known to modulate colonic microbial composition and activity.

5.  Can Help Prevent Diabetes

Since extra virgin olive oil can cut the amount of LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides in your blood, it helps reduce your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

In addition, because monounsaturated fat found in extra virgin olive oil helps moderate high blood sugar - which is a major diabetes symptom - it naturally reduces the risk of diabetes.

Ways To Enjoy Extra Virgin Olive Oil

There are several ways you can easily incorporate extra virgin olive oil into your diet on a regular basis.

Firstly, its a good idea to source high quality, cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil from your local area or country if you can.   

Ways to enjoy and benefits from extra olive oil include:

  • As a base for home-made salad dressings 
  • For dipping whole grain bread
  • As a key ingredient in home-made pestos and dips
  • Drizzling over steamed vegetables and soups
  • Baking potatoes and wedges 
  • Adding to raw green smoothies for an extra gut-health boost

The Main Takeaway

Extra virgin olive oil is one of nature's perfect foods that should form an important part of your healthy diet. 

Not only is it absolutely delicious as a staple addition to your every day cooking, it's packed with antioxidants, polyphenols and fatty acids to help your body avoid inflammation and to remain cancer and disease free.

Look out for quality brands of extra virgin olive oil from your favourite supermarket, farmer's market or whole food store, where you can generally find local varieties from trusted sources and producers.

Just as many long-lived cultures have done for centuries, make extra virgin olive oil a staple of your diet and you'll go a long way to maintaining great health and avoiding disease.

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