Olive oil provides many healthful benefits when regularly used in cooking. It is a central component of the Mediterranean Diet, so called because the foods in it are primarily those found in Mediterranean countries.
While some people recommend actually drinking a glass of olive oil a day, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration recommends just two tablespoons a day to reduce the risk of coronary disease. (Take note that a tablespoon of olive oil contains 120 calories, so you should consider that if calorie counting is part of your weight-loss regimen.)
Reduce Your Cancer Risk
Some benefits of olive oil might surprise you. Did you know that olive oil can slow the progression of breast cancer? Researchers have discovered that chemicals in olive oil cause a domino effect in breast cancer tumors that eventually leads to cell death in the tumors. A diet rich in olive oil can also reduce the incidence of colorectal cancer by reducing the body’s production of deoxycholic acid, a carcinogen.
Benefit Your Brain
Olive oil promotes brain health. It contains the polyphenol oleocanthal, which increases the production of proteins and enzymes that break down and remove amyloid plaques from the brain. These plaques are what cause memory loss in Alzheimer’s disease.
Olive oil can also reduce the severity of depression thanks to its high content of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s enable the brain’s neurons to communicate with each other more easily, which means that brain chemicals can be transmitted more easily. When brain chemicals like serotonin and dopamine are transmitted smoothly between neurons, mood improves.
Protect Your Internal Organs
Olive oil protects the liver from cell damage caused by LDL (“bad”) cholesterol because it is rich in antioxidants. These antioxidants also reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. The chemicals in olive oil have an anti-inflammatory effect on the inner linings of blood vessels. These compounds lower high blood pressure and improve the metabolism of carbohydrates.
Fry Your Food With Less Guilt
Researchers in Spain conducted an 11-year study and found that people who regularly fry their food with olive or sunflower oil do not increase their risk of heart disease. This held true whether the test subjects ate their fried foods at home or in restaurants—and there was much rejoicing!
Olive Oil Has Anti-Aging Properties
Anyone who has Italian grandparents knows that olive oil does not prevent aging. However, it contains high levels of vitamin E, which helps to keep skin supple, soft, and healthy. Olive oil applied to the skin does not clog the pores as commercial moisturizers can. Additionally, the antioxidants already mentioned in this article help to keep a person’s body healthier.
If you decide to add a daily spoonful of olive oil to your diet, consider speaking with your doctor first. Because olive oil contains antioxidants that can reduce blood pressure, taking it in combination with medications you already take could lower your blood pressure too much. Also be wary of consuming too much olive oil, as that can cause diarrhea—which is never fun.