Olive Oil Health Benefits and Side Effects
What Is Olive Oil?
Olive oil is a very healthy and nutritious liquid fat obtained from fresh olives. Olives come from the Olea Europaea tree, a traditional tree crop of the Mediterranean.
Although olive oil is popular in North America, it’s one of the least consumed oils on the planet due to its expensive price. Extra-virgin olive oil is produced by cold pressing whole olives. It’s a healthy oil for cooking, pan-frying, or when used as a salad dressing.
Due to olive oil’s chemical composition, it’s very sensitive to heat and should not be cooked with any setting above medium heat. Extra-virgin olive oil’s smoking point is 160°C (320°F) and virgin olive oil’s smoking point is 216°C (420°F).
The difference between extra-virgin olive oil and regular olive is that extra-virgin means that the product is 100% pure olive oil, while virgin or regular olive oil has mixed vegetable oils in it to dilute the product.
Olives are ready to be harvested when the outer layer turns cloudy and green, in late September. This is also the time when they’re at their most potent sour and acidity levels for a nice flavor profile.
They become brown with a hint of red through November, and finally darkening to a black around early December. During the later stages of the harvest season, they start to have higher oil contents which indicate that it’s almost ready for harvesting.
Extra virgin olive oil is widely recognized as one of the world’s healthiest oil, and for good reason.
Studies have shown that a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil can lead to reduced risk factors of heart disease and other complications such as type 2 diabetes, improved bone health, and brain function.
The best quality olive oil is a cold-pressed liquid fat gathered from the fruit of the olive tree (Olea Europaea), this is a traditional tree located in the Mediterranean region, widely used in Italy.
Most high-quality olive oils come from the Mediterranean, this specific area cold presses all of their olives to create a high-quality extra-virgin olive oil while most alternatives are made in Italy and the United States.
There are tons of great-tasting variants of olive oil which are sought after by many collectors, similarly to collecting wine. Some oils are more fruity, while others can be more musty, aromatic, or bitter.
There is a prestigious event held in new york city, every year, that’s open to all international brands and connoisseurs. They bring their best bottles of extra virgin olive oil to compete.
How to Buy High-Quality Olive Oil
A diet rich in healthy extra virgin olive oil can get expensive, it’s best to use local providers to keep the cost down while having the freshest flavor.
Even if you see a drastic price difference between regular and cold-pressed olive oil, it’s worth your while. Organic branding is sometimes used to drive up the prices without necessarily being high quality.
California olive oil is found in almost every major superstore. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) mentions that consuming fats are one of three macronutrients essential for human life and is what makes up a large part of our cells.
The reason why you should get an extra virgin cold-pressed olive oil is because it’s:
- Usually organic
- Highly nutritious
- An all-natural method of extracting the oil from the fruits
No chemicals and very minimal heat are used to produce cold pressed extra-virgin olive oil, which helps maintain a longer shelf life and keeps it in great condition. This lowers the smoking point since it becomes more refined, concentrated, and sensitive to heat.
Extra virgin olive oil is the premium grade of oil, and when used for cooking it’s best used for drizzling, light cooking, or frying. Lastly, this a helpful tip during cooking. You do not want your olive oil to be smoking before laying your food onto it.
How to Preserve Your Cooking Oils
Here are a few tips to keep your olive oil in a healthy state, which reduces the rate of any free radicals developing.
First, the bottle must be made of dark glass. If the bottle is see-through, that lets a lot of sunlight through, this damages your olive oil over time making it go bad much quicker.
Make sure to store your oil in an unlit and slightly cool area. Secondly, make sure there’s a solid and airtight seal. Keeping air away from coming into contact with your oil is key when looking to prevent harmful chemicals and bacteria from forming over time.
Like most other cooking oils, the nutrition facts of olive oil are pure, having no carbohydrates or protein. Since olive oil is pure liquid fat, it makes it easy to over-consume and cause possible weight gain, the number of calories per gram of fat is 9.
Extra virgin olive oil is one of the more sensitive cooking oils when it comes to how easy it can get damaged. Opt for a higher quality product since it’s much a much healthier option.
What makes olive oil have a low smoke point is due to its high oleic acid, polyunsaturated, and monounsaturated ratios, these chemical bonds can break easily due to exposure to heat, oxygen, or light.
The higher the oleic acid and monounsaturated fatty acid content, the more sensitive the oil is to heat. You wouldn’t be able to absorb essential vitamins like A, D, E or K without having healthy fats in your diet.
A good quality olive oil is one of the most used household cooking oils. But unfortunately, it’s one of the most mistreated cooking oils available since it’s so sensitive to oxygen and heat, even small mistakes cause damage.
The key attributes you have to look for on the nutrition facts label is for cold-pressed high-quality olive oil. Using an organic olive oil brand isn’t necessary, but if you can afford to pay the higher price it’s worth it for the added health benefits.
If your olive oil starts smoking, reduce the heat as it’ll begin to break down all of the good fats. When the oil smokes, you end up hydrogenating your olive oil, which can have various harmful side effects.
A good visual queue to see if you destroyed any of the beneficial fats in your olive oil is if you see the oil turn cloudy, or clear before adding your food. We highly recommend dumping and replacing it.
The healthy free fatty acids found in olive oil can even help you fight stress, improve mood swings, is full of nutrition, decrease mental fatigue, and can help with weight management and weight loss.
Using Olive Oil for Cooking
Olives are also used in cosmetics and washes, medicine, cooking recipes, and are even found in certain soaps as well as hair products. These uses originally come from the Mediterranean, but today they’re highly used worldwide.
The fat macronutrient has a bad reputation, not all fats are bad. There are many healthy fats that you should try to include in your diet, such as:
These cooking oils are very healthy for your heart, blood sugar, and are good sources of antioxidants.
The Harvard School of Public Health recommends a consistent intake of healthy monounsaturated fats, which olive oil has in abundance. They’re very rich in monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) and is also a staple in the Mediterranean diet.
These are a healthier type of dietary fat as opposed to saturated fats and trans fats which are harmful in bigger doses. Monounsaturated fats are abundant in olive oil, which also helps with reducing cognitive decline due to ageing.
Additionally, extra virgin olive oil is also used in the Ketogenic diet since it’s one of the healthiest fats you can have that heavily compliments a high-fat keto type of diet. Extra virgin olive oil is paired well with:
- Cheeses such as Feta cheese, Blue cheese, Goat cheese, Mozzarella, Parmigiano-Reggiano (parmesan), and Havarti
- Herbs and Spices such as Basil, Thyme, Spinach, Rosemary, Salt and Black Pepper, Oregano, Parsley, Sage, Garlic, Dill, Saffron, Ginger, Star anise, and Cloves
- Fruits such as Tomatoes (and sun-dried tomatoes) and Avocados (or avocado toast)
All of these options work very well and compliments the Keto diet by adding a variety of different foods to your weight-loss diet. These ingredients are used for professional and casual cooking recipes.
Olive Oil Health Benefits
The main health benefits of olive oil come from its abundance of monounsaturated fatty acids. This industry maintains a fatty acid content of up to 73%, on average.
The majority of it is called oleic acid (or Omega-9), which is extremely healthy and great for unclogging your arteries of bad cholesterol, LDL (low-density lipoprotein) and increasing the amount of good cholesterol, HDL (high-density lipoprotein).
A diet rich in extra virgin olive oil also helps reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, this is a result of lowering your blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity.
Since it can reduce bad LDL cholesterol, this also reduces the risk of heart diseases and strokes which are leading causes of death in North America.
Both HDL and LDL cholesterol somewhat cancel each other out by attaching themselves together, while then being filtered out by the liver through your urine.
Including a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil to your diet improves many areas of your body because of its large amount of health benefits, most of which stem from its antioxidants.
Getting 72% of your recommended daily amount of Vitamin E is great for removing harmful bacteria already present in your system and preventing the creation of others.
Olive oil has a powerful antioxidant, vitamin K. One tablespoon contains 7.6% of your recommended daily amount (RDA).
This helps fight oxidative stress, harmful bacteria, and other serious infections such as cognitive and cell degeneration.
A study published in Canada states that olive oil is rich in antioxidants and has strong anti-inflammatory health effects. It reduces inflammation across all of your external and internal systems, helping fight cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
Olive oil has powerful antioxidants which help reduce inflammation, one of its anti-inflammatory compounds is a phenylethanoid compound called oleocanthal.
Oleocanthal is a natural phenolic compound that’s found in abundance in olive oil, behaving similarly to ibuprofen. Ibuprofen is what mostly makes up Advil and Tylenol, as well as other anti-inflammatory drugs.
1. Improves Cardiovascular and Heart Health
Heart disease is the most common cause of death in the world and observational studies conducted a few decades ago showed that heart disease is less common in the Mediterranean diet.
Extra virgin olive oil is the main source of healthy fats in the Mediterranean diet, one of the main factors contributing to their lower rate of heart disease.
The Mediterranean has always had lower death rates related to cardiovascular diseases compared to other parts of the world. This statistic is strongly linked to their diets containing lots of olives.
This statistic led to an extensive study on the Mediterranean diet’s effect on overall human health. It’s now been shown to significantly reduce heart disease as well as other complications.
Extra virgin olive oil protects your arteries from bad (LDL) cholesterol and oxidation, helps in lowering inflammation, improves your blood cholesterol, vessel linings, and reduces your risk of heart disease.
Extra virgin olive oil also helps with the prevention of excessive blood clotting which stabilizes blood sugar levels.
Regular consumption of olive oil has also been shown to lower your total blood pressure, which is one of the biggest contributing risk factors for heart disease and premature death.
In many studies, consuming 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil per day has been proven to reduce the need for blood regulation medications by upwards of 48%.
There are hundreds of studies that prove that extra virgin olive oils can help maintain and minimize the side effects of many diseases due to all of its antioxidants.
If you have a personal history or a family history of heart-related diseases or any other possible cardiovascular risks, you may want to include a substantial amount of olive oil in your diet to help mitigate that risk and improve your heart health.
Always consult with a health care professional before making any significant changes to your diet
2. Full of Antioxidants and Healthy Fats
Apart from its healthy fatty acid content, it also contains a healthy amount of vitamins E and K which are very powerful antioxidants.
Antioxidants are healthy active compounds that help in reducing your risk of multiple chronic heart disease risk factors.
The natural extraction process used to make extra virgin olive oil, which is by cold pressing the olive fruit, ensures it’ll retain all of its natural nutrients and antioxidants that would’ve been lost due to excess processing.
Multiple clinical studies show that people who regularly consumed cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil had a 42.1% lowered risk of getting a stroke, due to all of the healthy fatty acids.
Multiple studies consistently suggest that having a diet that’s rich in olive oil and MUFAs have positive effects on cardiovascular disease markers, such as heart failure, coronary diseases and strokes.
A study revealed that it contains over 30 different types of phenolic acid compounds and polyphenols, phenolic acids are powerful antioxidants that help protect the body against harmful cells.
Polyphenols are molecules that cause cell damage, contribute to organ diseases, and accelerate the ageing process.
This has the added health benefit of also reducing markers for chronic inflammation, high or low blood pressure, LDL cholesterol, and blood glucose levels.
3. Protects Your Heart Against Strokes
Strokes cause the second largest amounts of deaths after heart disease in North America. Strokes are caused by the disruption of blood flow to your brain, due to either a blood clot or bleeding.
It’s closely linked to heart disease and shares many of the same risk factors, including hypertension and high cholesterol.
These side effects are negated by increased polyphenol, oleic acid, EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) consumption, these fatty acids are also found in fish oil supplements.
A wide-scale review studied 840,000 people and have found that the only source of monounsaturated fat associated with a reduced risk of stroke and heart disease was the oleic acid found in olive oil.
Another study, conducted in France looked out to compare the effect of olive oil use with your risk of stroke incidence and heart disease.
These findings are on par because most people are starting to frequently use olive oil instead of lesser heart-healthy options within their diets.
Combine this with the high amounts of antioxidants, it becomes obvious as to why it has such a large impact on cardiovascular health and overall health.
4. Has Powerful Anti-Inflammatory Properties
Consuming extra virgin olive oil has many health benefits such as reducing chronic inflammation, relieving oxidative stress, and mitigating symptoms of heart disease.
Chronic inflammation is known to be the leading driver of many illnesses and diseases such as breast cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, arthritis, hay fever, and obesity.
Research also shows that extra virgin olive oil is rich in antioxidants like oleic acid. These antioxidants have the added health benefit of helping reduce levels of inflammation and inflammatory markers found in the bloodstream, C-reactive protein (CRP).
The most effective antioxidant is called oleocanthal, a phenolic compound that has been shown to have the behavior as ibuprofen, a common anti-inflammatory drug that’s found in Tylenol and Advil.
Researchers have calculated that the amount of oleocanthal and oleic acid found in 3.5 tablespoons (50 ml) of extra virgin olive oil has the same effect as taking a 10% dose of ibuprofen.
Another study also showed that the antioxidants (vitamin E and K) can hinder genes and other harmful proteins that cause chronic inflammation, a common trigger for breast cancer.
Internal and external inflammation can increase the risk of stroke, heart disease, chronic diseases, Alzheimer’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and increases breast cancer risk.
Most of the health benefits of olive oil help mitigate and reduce inflammation, heart disease, and weight gain.
5. Improves Hair and Scalp Health
Olive oil is a wonderful natural product for proper hair care, health, and maintenance. This also helps with hair growth, resulting in longer and thicker hair.
High-quality olive oil is very good for healthy hair maintenance and growth more commonly experienced by males, while the benefits of giving strength, body, and shine to the hair is sought after more by females.
Just some of the health benefits of olive oil include:
- Repairing damaged hair
- Reduces frizz
- Detangles hair
- Decrease friction between hair strands
Applying a few tablespoons to your hair and scalp helps to reduce dandruff, fungus, and scalp dehydration that can prevent dandruff, dry, and flaky skin.
The healthy fatty acids and vitamins found in these essential oils help penetrate the hair follicles, which locks moisture and protects the hair. Research suggests that you can treat your hair simply by using an avocado and olive oil hair mask.
First, mash the avocado in a bowl and then mixing in a tablespoon of olive oil. When the avocado mix is ready, apply it to your hair working from the roots and upwards.
Afterwards, you cover hair with a shower cap and let sit for 15 minutes to 30 minutes. When the essential oils start to condition your hair. Rinse with warm water.
Olive Oil Side Effects and Detriments
One of the most commonly reported side effects of olive oil is its direct use on your skin.
If you naturally have oily skin, acne, or other skin issues it’s recommended to stay away from applying olive oil to your skin for moisture, contrary to what’s usually advised.
1.Olive oil Can Easily Burn
Most of the negative side effects of olive oil stem from cooking with olive oil with extremely high heat levels in your ovens and pans.
If you notice your cooking oil starting to smoke while being heated, it’s highly recommended to dump it and replace your pan with fresh cooking oil instead.
When you hydrogenate the olive oil by having it undergo high heats, expose, you cause adverse negative outcomes that are far from healthy.
It’s common where you see so many recommendations for increasing your olive oil intake by cooking with it on high heat. This effectively burns the oil, which destroys all of its nutritional values and makes it toxic to consume.
A study shows that this process creates a lot of free radicals and increases the bad LDL cholesterol in the oil, which is the exact opposite outcome you’re looking for.
Since it already helps in managing and lowering your blood pressure, this can prove troublesome for people who already have low blood pressure and may be dangerous if you increase your intake.
When storing extra virgin olive oil avoid direct light, heat, and oxygen until the time of cooking to keep it from spoiling.
But you don’t want to create a dynamic where your oil becomes hydrogenated, because this will destroy any health benefits, and may harm you as a result of that.
2. Can Cause Stress To Your Liver
Another side effect of olive oil comes from its harmful effect on the gallbladder. Originating from the liver, it creates bile (waste from the organ) and it’s stored in the gallbladder.
This can irritate the gallbladder into secreting the bile, and when it’s combined with the fats it might result in stones or blockages.
This issue is only prominent if you consume a large amount of olive oil on a very frequent basis. As always, all foods are best in moderation.
Since olive oil has a high oleic acid content and has a good amount of vitamin E, it fights present free radicals in the body well.
3. Very High in Calories
Make sure that you restrict the amount of olive oil you drizzle onto your foods since it’s very high in calories.
This means 1 tablespoon of olive oil contains 120 calories, moderation is key to get the most health benefits from it without going overboard which may result in harmful side effects.
People usually don’t stop at 1 tablespoon of, you’ll end up pouring and consuming over 300 to 400 calories otherwise.
Keep close attention to the amount of olive oil you add to your foods, especially your salad dressings. Exceeding your daily caloric intake will result in total fat as well as weight gain.
A diet rich in extra virgin olive oil is one of the best nutrient-dense oil you can consume for optimal health benefits and should be stored in your home for everyday use.
The extraordinary list of health benefits when using olive oil outmatch the list of side effects by a huge margin. If treated and used properly, olive oil can be a powerhouse of nutrition for your body.
Here’s the list of health benefits of olive oil:
- Improves Cardiovascular and Heart Health
- Full of Antioxidants and Healthy Fats
- Protects Against Strokes
- Has Powerful Anti-Inflammatory Properties
- Improves Hair Care and Scalp Health
Here’s the list of side effects of olive oil:
- Olive oil is Very Sensitive and Can Easily Burn
- Can Cause Stress To Your Liver
- Very High in Calories
When buying extra virgin olive oil, you need to look for the bottle color, treatment, quality, source, smell, and storage. Most of the information is provided on the label, and you can buy some at any major grocery store.
Also, make sure you opt for the cold-pressed and extra virgin alternatives since these versions are the healthiest and last the longest in storage.
When storing your olive oil make sure it’s in a cool area or room (but not refrigerated), that’s unlit, and properly sealed. After opening a bottle, it can last for up to 5 months in storage given the right conditions.
Its healthy amount of antioxidants and monounsaturated contents in extra virgin olive oil are perfect for preventing common heart-related diseases, improved brain health, inflammation, and other cardiovascular complications.
But if you’re looking to use an oil mask to moisturize your hair or skin, we’d recommend using a coconut oil base instead.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Extra Virgin Olive Oil?
Olive oil is a pure liquid fat obtained by pressing olives, without the pits. The mixture is later heated and refined to the level that the producers want before being bottled.
Olive oil is best used for cooking since it can be used as a topping for bread, drizzled over a salad, or for light frying in a pan.
Extra virgin olive oils are the highest grade and quality of olive oil that you can get. Only being allowed to have a maximum acidic value of 0.8%.
To be defined as an extra-virgin olive oil, the olives have to be cold-pressed and have their oils extracted without any solvents or other refining treatments.
They’re also known to have one of the best flavor profiles. Unlike lesser grade oils, this has all the important antioxidants and anti-inflammatory effects that gave olive oil its prestige in the Mediterranean, and now globally.
Extra virgin olive oil’s smoke point is around 165–190 °C (325–375 °F).
Is Olive Oil Healthy?
Olive oil is very heart-healthy since it’s full of monounsaturated fats, these help lower bad LDL cholesterol (Low-Density Lipoprotein), improves your heart health, as well as minimizes other heart-related diseases, pains, and strokes.
The olive oil nutrition facts are very healthy, since 73% of its fat comes from monounsaturated fats, 11% from polyunsaturated fats, and 14% are from saturated fats.
There’s also has a large number of antioxidants. 100 grams of oil gives you 72% vitamin E and 75% vitamin K. That’s around 15 milligrams per day of Vitamin E and 90-120 micrograms of vitamin K per day (Females need 90 mcg/d, Males need 120 mcg/d).
These vitamins benefit your overall health by lowering your risk of getting infections and cancer. On top of that, Antioxidants also act as an inflammatory drug, similar to ibuprofen.
Its pain killer-like effects stem from the antioxidants which reduce inflammation improves your joint, bone, and gut health.
The side effects of olive oil are minimal, only occurring when over-consuming and when it becomes rancid due to excess heat or oxygen exposure.
How Is Olive Oil Made?
Most olive oil products are made by first harvesting a bunch of different kinds of olives, they can range by color, taste, nutrients, and ripeness. They’re first bunched up and thrown into a wash, to take off the twigs, dirt, and other residues. Afterwards, they head to a stone mill to get cold-pressed.
The olive paste is checked for its temperature and then tested for its oleic acid levels (acidity). If all quality checks are passed, the pulp gets stacked and layer between hemp mats to extract the pure liquid olive oil.
The stack of pulp goes into a hydraulic press which squeezes the oil out of the olive paste, it’s then collected bellow. At this point, if the liquid is a cloudy golden color, it’s a sign of high-quality olive oil.
Unrefined olive oil is considered to be the most valuable. If the residues are filtered out it becomes a lesser grade product.
The final result is a consumer-grade extra-virgin olive oil, which is then bottled, sealed, and shipped to global markets.
How To Use Olive Oil On Hair?
For men, measure around 1 to 2 ounces of olive oil into a small cup. For women, you should use between 4 to 6 ounces of olive oil.
Dab your fingers into the oil and start massaging your scalp while focusing on the driest areas of your head. Then starting from the roots, rub the olive oil towards the end of your hair.
Let your scalp, hair, and hair follicles absorb the oil to moisturize for at least 15 minutes, and no longer than 30 minutes. For women, it’s best to wear a shower cap while you wait.
Rise the olive oil out of your hair with warm water until the grease is gone!