Olive Oil ★★★
It’s probably the healthiest oil you can eat. Olive oil helps with nearly every ailment you may have from preventing sunburn, to fighting cancer and it’s one of the major components of the Mediterranean Diet.
Olive oil is filled with many monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids (the good fats). These fats have a very strong anti inflammatory effect on the body and can help reduce the risks of cancer, specifically, colon and breast cancers. About 20% of breasts cancers are caused by a defect in the HER2/neu gene. The Oleic acid in Olive oil helps suppress the gene’s activity, which can help prevent the cancer before it starts.
Olive oil can also prevent heart disease by keeping your arteries from hardening up and by lowering your LDL cholesterol levels and increase your HDL cholesterol levels. It can also boost your immune system. The oil is an anti bacterial and full of antioxidants also. Olive oil contain a compound called luteolin, which has been shown to reduce inflammation in the brain, which may also mean that it may possibly help to reduce the risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
Concerning sunburn, you can apply olive oil on your skin to help keep some of the dangerous UVB sunrays from damaging your skin. You can eat a few tablespoons per day to get the health benefits and you can massage it into your skin to help keep your skin firmer and shiny. You can also add it to your hair to help keep it healthy.
Olive oil can help fight off infections in your intestines and lungs.
When looking for Olive oil make sure that the bottle (or can) says Extra Virgin Olive Oil and make sure it also says Cold Pressed. This ensures that you get the best out of the oil.
Oils hate light and can go rancid (spoil) if left in the light for a long time. The light destroys the healthy fats and lowers the antioxidant content. It’s the antioxidants that help keep the oil from spoiling. Keep your Olive oil in a dark place when you don’t use it. Unfortunately most if not all Olive oils (and many others) are sold in clear glass containers, which does not help them stay fresh since they’re constantly exposed to either sunlight or the lights in the store. Your best bet is to buy a small bottle of oil and once that is used up get a can of the oil and refill your bottle as much as you need. The cans are great because the oil in them is protected from light and stays fresher longer. And refilling a small bottle doesn’t give it much time to go bad before you need to fill it again. If you find the cans are too large to purchase, olive oils that come in dark colored bottles may be your best bet. The dark colors (usually green) prevent light from entering the bottle, keeping the oil fresh longer.
Fresh Olive oil should leave a peppery or spicy taste in your mouth when you taste it. Oil that’s going rancid has a turpentine-like smell, can leave a greasy feeling in your mouth, and begin to smell like crayons or putty.
Lastly, you should consider the type of olives used in the oil. The Pictual (a Spanish Olive), Moriaolo (from Umbria, Italy, east of Tuscany) and Koroneiki (from Greece) olives are like super Olives because they contain more antioxidants and healthy compounds than other Olives. Look at the label to find out which olives were used in the oil.
The healthy fats in Olive oil help you absorb a very strong antioxidant called lutein. Lutein helps protect your eyes from disease and helps prevent macular degeneration from age. So try to eat Olive oil with lutein rich foods like Eggs, Avocados, Figs and Squash. Lutein rich foods are generally red, yellow or orange in color. These foods can be great anti inflammatory and chronic inflammation fighters.
The Downside of Olive Oil
As great as Olive oil is, it does have somewhat of a dark side. Olive oil is not great for cooking at all because it cannot handle high temperatures very well and goes rancid quickly once it’s exposed to cooking heat. Exposing it to heat can cause a reaction that creates lipid peroxides, which are highly reactive molecules that can damage cells and DNA. Light also causes Olive oil to go rancid. Walking through your local supermarket, you will likely find that several of the Olive oil bottles on the shelves are clear glass bottles, which is a bad thing. Go for the bottles that are dark colored bottles instead. Besides helping to keep the oil from going rancid, it is also an indicator that the oil is pure extra virgin oil.
Olive oil fraud is an extensive and worldwide industry. One study found that up to 65% of Extra Virgin Olive oils did not meet the standards for Extra Virgin or were not even Olive oil at all. Click here to watch more about the study featured on the Doctor Oz Show.
Olive oil also contains more Omega 6’s than it does Omega 3 fatty acids. Most oils contain Omega 6 fatty acids and we get way too much in our diets. Olive oil contains 13 times more Omega 6’s than it does Omega 3’s. Omega 6’s promote inflammation in the body when we consume too much of them so if you eat Olive Oil regularly make sure you help balance it out by regularly eating another Omega 3 rich food or oil like Fish or Fish oil supplements or other cold water seafoods.
Overall, Olive oil is a healthy oil but when it comes to getting Omega 3’s, or cooking, it doesn’t match up. If your goal is to get more Omega 3’s in your diet, limit your intake of olive oil and go for the more Omega 3 rich oils like Flaxseed oil.