Derived from the fatty liquid of pressed olives, olive oil is a versatile substance that’s loaded in nutritional value. Just a single tablespoon has 10 grams of monounsaturated fat, 1.2 grams of polyunsaturated fat, vitamin E, and other other key nutrients. While most people consume it for its delicious flavor and smooth characteristics, olive oil has surprising health benefits when consumed on a regular basis.
#1) Protects Against Heart Disease
Consumption of olive oil on a regular basis may lower your risk of heart disease. The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that approximately 600,000 people die each year from heart disease, making it the leading cause of death among men and women. Olive oil, however, can reduce your risk of heart disease by lowering levels of LDL cholesterol (the bad kind), while raising levels of HDL cholesterol (the good kind).
#2) Lowers Blood Pressure
A study involving 23 patients with mild-to-moderate hypertension found that consumption of olive oil over a period of just 6 months eliminated their need for blood pressure medication (source). How is olive oil able to ward off hypertension? Scientists believe the reason for this effect is due to its high concentration of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, both of which promote a healthy heart.
#3) Regulates Blood Sugar Levels
In addition to lowering the risk of heart disease and warding off hypertension, regular consumption of olive oil may also help to regulate blood sugar levels. This is particularly beneficial for people with diabetes, or people who are on the verge of developing diabetes. Olive oil works to stabilize blood sugar levels by slowing down the body’s natural digestion process, allowing for a more gradual and even release of glucose. Some studies have found olive oil to reduce diabetic patients’ reliance on insulin injections.
#4) Reduces Inflammation
Olive oil has also proven useful in reducing inflammation in the body. In fact, some experts compare its anti-inflammatory effects to aspirin or ibuprofen. (Of course, olive oil doesn’t come with all of the adverse health risks of medicines such as these!)
“By inhibiting these enzymes, inflammation and the increase in pain sensitivity associated with them is dampened,” says Paul Breslin. “Stronger-flavored oils from Tuscany or other regions that use the same olive varietal, have the highest oleocanthal levels,” he added.
#5) Protects Against Oxidative Stress
Olive oil contains powerful antioxidants, like Vitamin E, that prevent oxidative damage from compounds known as free radicals. These antioxidants essentially seek out and neutralize free radicals, preventing them from causing cellular destruction.