In recent years, I have constantly been hearing and reading about the many healthy benefits of using olive oil.
The use of olive oil is found everywhere, from numerous cookbooks lining bookshelves that focus on consuming a healthy diet, to online blogs recommending healthy meal plans and on cooking shows advocating the abundant use of EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil), such as is famously done by chef, Rachael Ray.
Personally, I use olive oil all the time. I love to dribble a few drops into a pan when I’m cooking over the stove top.
Sometimes, I rub a handful into my hair to make it shiny and silky smooth. I have even used it as a sun tanning oil to get a darker tan in the summer.
But, why is olive oil so good for our beauty and health?
What properties does it have that make it so beneficial for us to consume on a daily basis?
I’m going to explore some of these questions and find out why olive oil has so many healthy benefits to offer us.
My Top 5 Best Olive Oil Brands In 2018
*The companies chosen above are based upon my personal opinion based upon me giving them a try and testing their quality.
What is Olive Oil? Where Does it Come From? How is it Made?
Olive oil is a fat in the form of a liquid that is collected from olives. After tediously picking the olives individually or shaking them out of the trees, the olives are collected and taken to a mill to be pressed into an oil.
The resulting olive oil is composed mainly of oleic acid (83%) and also includes smaller amounts of other fatty acids, such as linoleic acid (21%) and palmitic acid (20%).
It is also important to note that there are different grades of olive oil, which includes pure olive oil and extra-virgin olive oil.
To be labeled as extra-virgin olive oil, the oil must have no more than 0.8% free acidity, which indicates the amount of free oleic acid.
This is produced from the first pressing of the olives. Other olive oils are usually produced by adding additional chemicals and use other processes to extract the oil from the olives.
A very basic way of differentiating the two is that extra-virgin olive oil usually has a darker color than olive oil.
When we think of where olive trees are cultivated, we usually think of European Mediterranean countries, such as Spain, Italy and Greece as being its source of origin.
However, olive trees are native to Asia Minor and spread from Iran, Syria and Palestine to the rest of the Mediterranean Basin region approximately 6,000 years ago.
Centuries after arriving in the Mediterranean Basin, the first olive trees made their way to America. In 1524, the Franciscan missionary, Father Martin de Valencia, began planting the first olive trees in California.
They were first planted in the southern regions of California. However, most of the trees that still exist are in Northern California, as the growth of urbanization and housing has decreased farm area in the south.
Today, the country responsible for producing the largest amount of olive oil is Spain, which is then followed by Italy and Greece.
Olive oil can even be traced back to religious texts. In his book, Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil, author Tom Mueller writes, “Mary Magdalene, the repentant prostitute, anoints Christ’s feet with an aromatic oil that fills the house with its fragrance, then wipes them clean with her hair.”
As well, olive oil was also mentioned in Islam and Judaism, writes Mueller, “The prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him, uses so much olive oil that his shawl is often drenched with it, and the meager ration of lamp oil in the sacred Menorah, only enough for one day, lit the Temple of Jerusalem for eight fill days during its dedication until more oil could be obtained, a miracle that Jews still celebrate at Hanukkah.”
Even today, the use of oil is found in many religious traditions and cultures. For example, during baptism in a Christian church, holy oil, which is often olive oil, may be used for anointment. As well, olive oil is used to anoint the dead in many cultures.
When I think about olive oil, I usually think of its use in cooking, either when frying on my stove top or as a tasty dressing for my salad. I also think of a great way to make my hair shinier.
However, olive oil does not just make your salad taste extra delicious and it is not simply a staple component of the Mediterranean diet.
There are a variety of ways we can find benefit from using olive oil. For instance, it is also used in the production of soaps and other cosmetic products.
As well, it can be used in oil lamps to create a flame. It even has many health benefits to help you and I enjoy a longer healthier lifestyle.
Here are a few tips on how olive oil can not only make you healthier, but more beautiful, as well.
11 Uses for Olive Oil to Make You Healthier and Even More Beautiful
Use Olive Oil as a Hair Conditioner
Give your hair a deep condition with olive oil to help prevent split ends from occurring.
Simply apply the olive oil to your hair and let it sit for 30 minutes while wrapped in a towel. Afterwards, shampoo and rinse out thoroughly with water.
Cleanse Your Face with Olive Oil
Use olive oil to help remove dirt and makeup from your face. This approach can help with facial dryness and prevent blackheads from forming in the future.
Pour out a tablespoon of olive oil and message it into your face for two minutes. Afterwards, wipe the oil off with a warm moist washcloth.
Give your Face and Body a Deep Scrub with Olive Oil
Combine the olive oil with sea salt from your kitchen pantry and you can make your own body scrub that will leave your skin feeling refreshed and silky smooth.
All you have to do is mix a quarter-cup of salt with a half-cup of olive oil until it becomes a paste. While in the shower, apply the paste in circular motions and rinse it off with warm water.
Olive Oil Fights Cellulite
Interestingly, olive oil can even help us fight against cellulite.
Here is a simple to follow:
Olive Oil Decreases Stretch Marks
Rub olive oil onto your stretch marks to help the marks fade away. Olive oil is believed to help reduce the appearance of stretch marks due to its Vitamin E and antioxidant properties.
This technique is so simple, why not want to give it a try? Apply regularly to affected areas for the best results.
To improve results, mix with essential oils, such as sage, rosehip, and lavender.
Olive Oil Can Soothe Your Sunburned Skin
Spent a little too much time in the sun? No worries! Applying olive oil to your sunburned skin can help relieve pain and lead to increased healing time.
The antioxidants found in olive oil repair damage to the skin caused by the sun.
In California Olive Oil News, Dr. John Deane claims, “Polyphenolic components of olive oil have been compared to traditional antioxidants, such as tocopherols, used by the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industry to prevent skin damage.”
These polyphenol compounds act as the antioxidants that can help repair the damage which was done to the skin by the sun.
Olive Oil Can Decrease Ear Wax
Some people suffer from a buildup of earwax, which does not sound so bad, but can be quite annoying.
It may leave the individual with decreased hearing and could lead to an increased incidence of infections. Olive oil can be a relatively inexpensive solution.
To help prevent wax buildup, the American Hearing Research Foundation recommends applying olive oil into each ear on a regular basis.
They advocate adding a few drops of olive oil into each ear, letting it sit for a few minutes and then lying down on a towel again to let it drip out. It is important to make sure that the olive oil is clean so that you do not introduce any bacteria into your ear.
As well, olive oil also prevents swimmer’s ear, which is a painful infection of the outer ear canal. Applying a few drops of olive oil into each ear before going for a swim can help prevent this condition from occurring.
Olive Oil Protects Against Heart Disease
The most common cause of death worldwide is heart disease, but luckily we have olive oil to help protect us against this condition.
At the beginning of their lives, women do not need to worry about heart disease as much as men.
However, after menopause a woman’s chances of getting a heart attack increase significantly due to decreased levels of estrogen in the body.
According to the American Heart Association, “A decline in the natural hormone estrogen may be a factor in heart disease increase among post-menopausal women.
Estrogen is believed to have a positive effect on the inner layer of the artery wall, helping to keep blood vessels flexible.”
This means that early on in life blood vessels are able to contract and relax easily to accommodate blood flow throughout the body, but as estrogen decreases, the blood vessels harden and are not as flexible anymore.
The Mayo Clinic has recommended following the Mediterranean diet in which olive oil is a staple ingredient used to help decrease the incidence of cardiovascular disease.
Many studies that have been conducted around the Mediterranean diet, showed that heart disease was rare in those individuals living near the Mediterranean Sea.
As well, according to studies done at the Mayo Clinic, along with improving the flexibility of blood vessel, olive oil also protects LDL cholesterol from oxidation.
Olive Oil Helps Offset Weight Gain
Many studies have shown that eating olive oil does not make you fat. Mediterranean diets rich in olive oil have a beneficiary result on the body.
One study in Live Science showed that men and women who followed a high-fat, Mediterranean diet that was rich in olive oil lost more weight and reduced their waist circumference more than the people in the study who were simply instructed to reduce their fat intake.
Olive Oil Helps Fight Alzheimer's Disease
Alzheimer's Disease is the most common neurodegenerative disease in the world, which progressively destroys memory and other crucial mental functions.
Patients with Alzheimer's disease have a buildup of beta amyloid plaques inside their brains.
A team at Temple University Health System showed that consuming extra-virgin olive oil protects one's memory and learning ability.
Furthermore, it decreased the formation of amyloid-beta plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain, which are classic markers of Alzheimer's disease.
The scientists further discovered that the olive oil reduced brain inflammation and activated autophagy.
Autophagy is a “self-eating” component of the cell that breakdowns unnecessary and dysfunctional components.
Senior investigator Domenico Praticò, MD, Professor in the Departments of Pharmacology and Microbiology and the Center for Translational Medicine at LKSOM explained that, "Olive oil reduces brain inflammation but most importantly activates a process known as autophagy.”
Through autophagy the cells break down and clear amyloid plaques and tau tangles, the toxic components responsible for Alzheimer’s disease.
Olive Oil Reduces the Incidence of Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 Diabetes has become an increasingly large problem in today’s society and can strike anyone if they do not take care of themselves.
1 in 3 US adults is at risk for type 2 diabetes. According to the CDC, more than 100 million Americans have diabetes or pre-diabetes.
Many studies have shown that olive oil has beneficial effects on blood sugar and insulin sensitivity.
A study done by researchers from the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Medical Centre, in Minnesota, evaluated the benefits of the Mediterranean diet. It showed that the consumption of olive oil greatly lowered the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
In another study, the Mediterranean diet, which focuses heavily on olive oil consumption, showed a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 19-33%.
Studies Showing Why Olive Oil is Beneficial to Us
Olive oil is a staple ingredient in many diets around the world, such as the Mediterranean diet and is a key component to the foods that many Blue Zone individuals enjoy who are known to live not only longer, but healthier lives.
What properties make this simple ingredient so magical? How does it work on our bodies?
In 2018, the Seven Country study showed that the use of olive oil, such as in the Mediterranean diet, is greatly beneficial to our health.
Their research showed that extra-virgin olive oil lowers the incidence of cardiovascular disorders, including heart attacks and strokes.
The underlying component in olive oil that protects our cardiovascular system is believed to be monounsaturated fatty acids, such as oleic acid.
This study showed that oleic acid exhibited antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that contributed to healthier blood vessels.
Oleic acid was found not only to maintain healthy blood vessels, but was also found to decrease the levels of the inflammatory marker CRP.
Chronic inflammation can have detrimental effects on the body and can lead to many diseases such as cancer, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, Alzheimer's and obesity. Luckily, olive oil can help reduce this inflammation.
Along with the fatty acid, oleic acid, one of main antioxidant components found in extra-virgin olive oil that reduces inflammation is oleocanthal, a phenolic compound. This anti-inflammatory component has been shown to work similarly to ibuprofen.
For example, 50 ml of oleocanthal found in extra-virgin olive oil may have similar effectiveness as to 10% of the adult dosage of ibuprofen.
Therefore, due to its anti-inflammatory properties, olive oil has been found to be especially helpful in treating rheumatoid arthritis, as well.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes patients to have deformed and painful joints. In this autoimmune disease the body's immune system attacks its normal cells.
Olive oil supplementation has been found to improve inflammatory markers and reduce oxidative stress in individuals with rheumatoid arthritis.
Furthermore, oleocanthal is believed to not only help reduce inflammation, but to also have cancer fighting properties.
In January 2015, a study published in the journal Molecular and Cellular Oncology showed that a vital ingredient in extra-virgin olive oil can kill cancer cells.
Nutritional scientist Paul Breslin (Rutgers University), biologist David Foster (Hunter College) and chemist Onica LeGendre (Hunter College) discovered that this powerful ingredient is called oleocanthal. Oleocanthal works its magic by causing the cancer cells to rupture, which in turn makes them release their own enzymes resulting in death of the cancer cells.
Furthermore, these researchers discovered that oleocanthal caused cancer cells to die quickly, within 30 min. Usually, during a process known as programmed cell death, it takes cells 16 to 24 hours to die.
All You Ever Wanted to Know About Extra-Virgin Olive Oil: Nutritional Facts
According to the USDA, one tablespoon of olive oil (14g) contains the following nutritional information:
Total Fat: 14g
Saturated Fat: 2.2g
Polyunsaturated Fat: 1.8g
Monounsaturated Fat: 10g
The FDA states that eating 2 tablespoons of olive oil a day may reduce your risk of heart disease. This is due to the monounsaturated fat content present in olive oil, as well as other antioxidants, such as polyphenols.
If you are counting your daily calorie intake, it is good to know that olive oil is 100% fat and contains 120 calories in 1 tablespoon.
What is the Healthiest Oil to Cook With?
Extra-virgin olive oil is extremely healthy to eat and drizzle on your dishes, but it is not always necessarily the best oil to cook with.
Extra-virgin olive oil has a low smoke point and is not recommended for frying. Smoke point, also known as the burning point of an oil or fat, is the temperature at which it begins to produce a continuous bluish smoke.
Since extra-virgin olive oil is not recommended for frying, do not use it at temperatures above 325 to 375 °F.
Frying with some high-quality extra-virgin olive oils may break down its structure, which changes its flavor, so it is important to be mindful of which olive oil you are using.
Extra-virgin olive oil is recommended for sautéing or drizzling over your finished dishes.
According to the famous chef, Rachael Ray, “If you can see through it, you can cook with it up to medium-high heat. Above that you need high temperature oil.”
If you are planning to fry food in olive oil, it is best to use pure olive oil rather than extra-virgin olive oil. Pure olive oil has a smoke point of 465°F so you do not need to worry about it’s structure changing.
However, pure olive oil has a different flavor than extra-virgin because it is chemically processed. It also does not have the healthy fats that extra-virgin olive oil has, but it is still better to use when frying.
Remember, the higher the smoke point of the fat, the more cooking methods you can use it for.
Jo Ann Carson, a professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, states, “There are better choices than extra-virgin olive oil for cooking at high temperatures, such as when frying, because the oil cannot withstand very high heat before it starts to burn and smoke. Refined, or pure, olive oil may be more suited for high-temperature cooking.”
However, since extra-virgin olive oil offers more flavor than the other types of olive oil, it is the best option for sautéing vegetables or adding a salad dressing.
Precautions for Using Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Although you probably will not experience any side effects while consuming olive oil, it is still important to assess any possible risks. According to WebMD olive oil can make up to 14% of your total daily calories, which is about 2 tablespoons daily.
While sticking to a Mediterranean diet individuals have used up to 1 liter of extra-virgin olive oil per week without any known side effects occurring.
Only minor side effects have been noted such as nausea when taken orally. As well, when applied to skin, a few cases of skin allergies were reported.
Also, just like with other seasonal allergy triggers, olive trees produce a pollen which can cause respiratory allergies in some individuals.
Studies Revealing Fabulous Facts About Olive Oil
1. According to researches in an article found in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, the high oleic acid content in olive oil has been found to reduce blood pressure. (source)
2. The European Journal of Clinical Nutrition states that olive oil was found to have protective effects against many cancers, including prostate, breast, endometrial and colon.
3. In the journal Circulation, researchers found that olive oil not only reduced bad cholesterol (LDL), but helped good cholesterol (HDL) work more effectively.(source)
4. Studies publishes in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that consuming monounsaturated fats in olive oil was found to lower the risk of developing coronary artery disease. (source)
5. An article in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition found that consuming extra-virgin olive oil helped improve bone mineralization and calcification. Thus, preventing osteoporosis and helping to thicken bones. (source)
6. A Spanish study on WebMD suggests that olive oil has anti-bacterial properties and has been found to possess many nutrients that can kill or inhibit harmful bacteria in the body.
For example, Helicobacter pylori, which is a bacteria that lives in the stomach and can cause stomach ulcers. (source)
7. A study conducted from Tel Aviv University in Israel and Rockstock University in Germany found that olive oil may prevent the occurrence of malignant melanoma, a type of skin cancer. (source)
Final Thoughts About Olive Oil
When I first started thinking about olive oil, what came to mind was a tasty dressing for my salad, a wonderful way to sauté some vegetables or a great way to make my hair shinier.
However, there are so many hidden benefits and uses for olive oil that I never even considered.
Not only does it have healthy benefits to protect our heart and brain, it can also be used as a beauty product to make us even more beautiful than we already are.
It's powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects on the body are amazing. The ability to fight so many known ailments with such a simple component is readily available to everyone.
Therefore, with all the health and beauty benefits olive oil has to offer, a bottle of olive oil for everyday use should be an essential component of everyone's daily lifestyle.