by Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, CPT, CSN
Imagine a single ingredient that could revolutionize the way you eat and impact your health in countless ways. A magic potion, if you will, that could reduce your risk of chronic disease, improve your brain function, and even help you lose weight. Sounds too good to be true, right? But what if we told you that this “magic potion” is readily available and has been a staple in Mediterranean cuisine for centuries? We’re talking about none other than olive oil — the liquid gold that not only adds flavor to your food but also provides a host of health benefits.
In this article, we’ll dive into the top five reasons why you should start drizzling olive oil on your food today. So, grab a bottle and get ready to unlock the potential of this wonder oil.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not meant to treat or diagnose any condition. It is recommended that you speak with your doctor before starting or changing a nutrition or workout program.
5 Benefits of Olive Oil
Let’s take a closer look at some of the most compelling health benefits of olive oil, supported by scientific evidence.
1. It can protect against atherosclerosis
Olive oil contains natural anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds such as polyphenols, which help protect against atherosclerosis, which is the buildup of plaque in our arteries. Olive oil compounds help decrease oxidative stress, boost blood vessel function, and reduce the production of inflammatory molecules such as adhesion molecules. They play a critical role in the development and progression of atherosclerosis.
A recent study published in the journal Stroke has revealed that individuals with heart disease who followed a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil for seven years experienced a decrease in the progression of atherosclerosis compared to those who followed a low-fat diet.
2. An anti-inflammatory powerhouse
Research suggests that chronic inflammation is a key factor in developing various diseases, including heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and obesity. One food that has been shown to reduce inflammation is extra-virgin olive oil. Its powerful anti-inflammatory effects are mainly attributed to the presence of antioxidants, particularly oleocanthal.
This compound works similarly to ibuprofen, a common anti-inflammatory drug, making olive oil a natural and healthy alternative for managing inflammation.
Some scientists say that the oleocanthal in 50ml of extra virgin olive oil has a similar effect as 10% of adult doses of ibuprofen. Also, research states that oleic acid, the main fatty acid in olive oil, can decrease levels of essential inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein (CRP).
3. It may benefit gut health
Olive oil contains certain compounds that may help promote a healthy gut. For example, polyphenols, a type of antioxidant found in olive oil, have been shown to have prebiotic effects in the gut, meaning they can stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria.
Studies have found that olive oil can reduce disease-causing bacteria in the gut, promote protective bacteria growth, and increase the production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). SCFAs are an important byproduct of the bacterial fermentation of fiber and are known to fuel intestinal cells, build up the gut lining, and protect against inflammation.
In addition, human studies have shown that consuming a diet rich in olive oil can increase levels of beneficial Lactic Acid Bacteria (LAB), which have been linked to a lower risk of certain diseases. Animal studies have also suggested that olive oil consumption may help to shift the balance of gut bacteria in a way that protects against colon cancer.
4. May protect against stroke
According to medical research, stroke is the second leading cause of death after heart disease. The two conditions share many risk factors, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
However, incorporating olive oil into one’s diet may lower the risk of stroke. A study discovered that individuals who consumed the most olive oil had a 41% lower chance of experiencing a stroke, while numerous other studies have reported similar findings. This positive impact on cardiovascular health is because olive oil is high in antioxidants and monounsaturated fats, which can replace other, less healthy fats in a person’s diet. This substitution can ultimately improve overall heart health.
5. Olive oil may alleviate rheumatoid arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is a painful autoimmune disorder caused by the immune system attacking normal cells. Olive oil supplements, especially when combined with fish oil, have shown the potential to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in individuals with rheumatoid arthritis.
A study found that the combination of olive and fish oil had significantly improved handgrip strength, morning stiffness, and joint pain in people with this condition.