There’s no denying that the global market is flooded with a broad variety of cooking oils. Sadly, not all of them have proven their worth as healthy oils for regular cooking and consumption.
While some types of vegetable oils have miserably failed in offering nutrients essential for the body, many on the other hand, are restricted to one type of cooking only. Amidst this, many pieces of research claim olive oil as one of the best and the healthiest varieties of cooking oils discovered till date.
The health benefits of oil are a plethora. In fact, we’ve just begun to understand the countless ways olive oil can be used for improving our health as well as our lives. This is precisely the reason why most physicians and dieticians recommend the use of olive oil for preparing dishes.
About Olive Oil
Olive oil, as the name says, is extracted from the olive fruit, typically, by pressing them under precise conditions. The extraction process and the composition of the oil vary with the cultivar, altitude, and time of harvest of the olive fruit. Aiding to this, olive oil comes in three different varieties, suitable for different cooking needs.
The highest and most recommended grade of olive oil is the extra virgin olive oil, followed by virgin oil, and pure/refined oil. Each of these grades is extracted in different ways.
Extra virgin and virgin olive oil, the two varieties are extracted directly from the olive fruit usually by grinding them. The process typically, preserves olive’s natural taste, flavor and speak of a maximum number of benefits.
This method of drawing out oil directly from the fruit is termed as cold pressing. When the oil is further processed and blended with chemical solvents, it loses its purity and is clubbed with the refined variant of olive oil.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil – The highest grade of olive oil, extra virgin olive oil is typically obtained by crushing or cold-pressing olive oils. It’s exclusive flavor, the concentration of natural vitamins and minerals, and low levels of oleic acid make it the best-in-class cooking oil than its counterparts as well as many vegetable oils.
Standard Virgin Oil – Just like extra virgin olive oil, virgin olive oil too is obtained by cold pressing the olive fruits. The only difference between the two is that the latter has acidity level less than 2% and tastes better. Olive oil for salad dressing, preparing dips, and for marinating is highly suggested.
Refined Olive Oil – When the virgin olive oil is processed in plants, it undergoes the chemical process as well. The procedure includes heating, adding chemicals, or filtering the final oil product. Refined olive oil has about 0.3% of acidity level, which typically gives them a better shelf life as well.
Pure or Blended Olive Oil – Though termed as pure, it’s generally a blend of extra virgin and refined olive oil.
Benefits of Olive Oil for Cooking
Olive oil, especially extra-virgin olive oil, is by far the best cooking oil. Let’s explore its health benefits
1. Good for Heart Health
Olive oil typically contains monounsaturated fats or MUFA. These monounsaturated fats aid in lowering bad cholesterol components in the bloodstream and promoting healthy cholesterol levels. At the same time, the MUFAs are known to normalize blood clotting and even keep the arteries from clogging.
Replacing butter and margarine with this low cholesterol cooking oil significantly lowers the chances of a person of suffering from cardiovascular diseases.
2. Packed with Antioxidants
Vitamin E, carotenoids and phenolic compounds are powerful antioxidants. These components together help in lowering the development of damaging free radicals in the body. Free radicals are unusual atoms that get attached to healthy cells and disrupt their normal functionality.
They can injure blood vessels, alter genes and even damage DNA, and in turn, also lead to the onset of cancer.
3. Prevents High Blood Pressure
Monounsaturated fats, as mentioned above, not only take care of the heart, but also contain high levels of Omega 3 fatty acids that aid in controlling blood pressure levels.
Olive oil is a rich source of these essential fatty acids. Cooking fish food such as salmon, tuna, etc. in olive oil is a great way to get Omega 3 fatty acids.
4. Fights Depression
Many pieces of research confirm that food cooked in olive oil rendered a plethora of physical as well as emotional benefits. A diet with his olive oil content and polyunsaturated fats have proven to lower the risk of suffering from mental illnesses.
At the same time, many early findings also suggest that cardiovascular diseases and depression share the same set of risk factor and bringing a change in one’s diet and significantly help in keeping both, depression as well as cardiovascular diseases at bay.
5. Olive oil aid in Preventing Osteoporosis
In addition to the above-listed health benefits, pieces of evidence prove that food cooked in olive oil also helps in improving the amount of calcium present in the bloodstream. This, in turn, poses a positive effect on the bone density of the body and reduces the risk of developing osteoporosis.
6. Aids in Weight Loss
As per a number of studies conducted by many renowned food and medical associations, it has been noted that the consumption of olive oil on a regular basis helps in reducing weight.
The presence of essential fats, antioxidants, and a plethora of other nutrients make the body more energetic, in turn, burning extra calories and shedding fat. This is precisely the reason why dieticians are emphasizing on the use of olive oil for the preparation of foods.
7. Relieves Constipation
Olive oil is highly beneficial in keeping the gastrointestinal tract and colon clean and function properly. The texture and consistency of olive oil aids in the stimulation of the entire digestion process, making food move smoothly through the intestines as well as the colon. This, further, avoids constipation.
8. Prevents Alzheimer’s Disease
Oleocanthal, a component present in olive oil helps in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease. Extra virgin oil has been found to improve one’s learning process and sharpen memory as well.
9. Extra virgin olive oil reduces inflammation
It has been found that extra virgin olive oil has the ability to mimic the effect of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. This typically aids in avoiding conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Oleocanthal, in addition to preventing Alzheimer’s, also inhibits pro-inflammatory enzymes. Adding extra virgin olive oil in one’s meal significantly reduces the chances of suffering both chronic as well acute inflammatory processes.
10. Controls Blood Sugar Levels
Including olive oil in one’s diet can also keep blood sugar levels in check. According to a study published by the Harvard School of Public Health, having a diet rich in mono and polyunsaturated fats, such as one that contains olive oil, can prevent diabetes to a great extent.
Other Essential Benefits of Olive Oil apart from Cooking
1. Effective Moisturizer
Extra virgin olive oil benefits the skin as well. Its beauty secret ingredients moisturize the skin, help in stimulating cell repair as well as smoothen the skin. Using olive oil, especially during the winter months, when the skin is drier and patchy, offers nourishment to the skin and keeps it velvety soft as always.
2. Stimulates Hair Growth
Most natural remedies comprise of natural botanicals and herbs, which aid in hair growth and rejuvenation. Nearly 50% of these remedies include olive extracts – usually extra virgin olive oil.
The reason being, olive oil comes loaded with the richness of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which help in retaining the moisture of the hair as well as stimulate their growth.
3. A Great Pregnancy Aid
The mere application of olive oil not only lends a helping hand in evading pregnancy stretch marks, but its consumption significantly increases the psychomotor responses of the baby.
Adding olive oil to one’s pregnancy diet makes to a rich source of all the essential vitamin, minerals and nutrients necessary for the facilitation of the baby’s growth and development.
4. Reduces the Signs of Aging
The list of mysterious health benefits of olive oil wouldn’t be complete without the mention of the fact that it assists in reducing the signs of aging as well. Olive oil contains Vitamin E and many antioxidants, which are known to keep the skin livelier and more vibrant.
5. Alternate to Lip Balms
For those who have chapped or sore lips, massaging them with olive oil instead of using regular lip balms can quickly heal the lips and keep them moisturized for a longer period of time. The oil gets easily absorbed by the skin, which in turn, aids in keeping the lips from getting dry.
6. Remedy against Ear Wax
Ear wax build up is a common problem faced by all. Make use of olive oil to flush out the clog. The presence of oil also prevents the build-up. Oiling ear with olive oil thrice a week helps in losing the excess wax.
The versatility of olive oil is simply commendable. Its range of uses and health benefits are by far more than any other type of oil known to mankind.
In fact, researchers are only beginning to understand the innumerable ways olive oil helps in improving a man’s health and lifestyle. It’s an essential mainstay that promotes a good, healthy, and long life.