Olive oil benefits have enjoyed an enormous resurgence of popularity in recent years as people go back to nature and adopt a more natural (Biblical) lifestyle. Olives and olive oil are repeatedly mentioned throughout the Bible as a tangible representation of wealth, health, royalty, wholesomeness, and even good grooming.
Rich in polyphenols – a type of antioxidant that fights oxidative stress and can help people in their battle against aging-related diseases like heart disease, hypertension and more – pure olive oil should be in everyone’s pantry!
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What are “Good Fats” and “Bad Fats”?
What did they know then about olive oil health benefits that we don’t know today? Probably not much—prior to modern oil extraction methods, olive oil was among the easiest fats to mechanically press with primitive equipment. And both wild and cultivated olive trees were extremely prolific in the holy land.
On the other hand, with the benefit of hindsight, we can easily point out God’s provision for his people’s health in the form of fresh, pressed olive oil.
Wait, isn’t fat bad for me?
Most adults today grew up knowing that aerobic exercise is good for us, and that fat is bad for us. It was the basic prescription for weight loss, except it didn’t always work. So how can olive oil be beneficial?
The truth is, there are good fats! Essential fats are actually necessary for proper metabolic function, and keeping a balanced total amount of fat in your diet is necessary for brain development and hormonal balance. Clearly, a diet that is excessive in any type of fat is unbalanced and brings negative health consequences, but enjoy reasonable portions of healthy fats like olive oil every day!
Labeling some fats as “good fats” implies that there are also “bad fats”. Unfortunately, it is not so simple to describe the entire nutritional profile of any food as simply good or bad. It is more accurate to think of fats (and most other foods) as if they are on a scale of more nutrient dense to less nutrient dense. Olive oil is very close to the top of the health scale of edible fats.
What are the Different Types of Oils?
What makes some oils and fats better than others? One factor is what type of fat you are eating. Are your oils mono unsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) or poly unsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs)? What’s the difference? PUFAs are less likely to oxidize into harmful free radicals than MUFAs, especially at high heats although both provide important nutrients.
- MUFAs are high in most fruit oils including olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, and even canola oil. MUFAs are always good for lower heat cooking, dressing, and marinating. Some are also ok for higher heat cooking, just check the smoke point—the higher the better.
- PUFAs are high in oils that also have a higher omega 6 to omega 3 ratio (not great) such as grain oils like corn oil and vegetable/ soy oil. These oils oxidize fast unless they are highly refined. This is why manufacturers choose to refine them, removing most nutrients. This refining process also gives them a very high smoke point, making them favorites for deep frying.
Saturated fats, such as lard and butter present an entirely different nutrient profile that is not without its benefits such as probiotics and beta carotene, nor without its risks such as arterial harm. If some oils are better and some worse, nutritionally, what justifies the label, “ugly”?
5 Olive Oil Health Benefits
Amazing olive oil health benefits have been studied, but may be even more important for what it doesn’t do—clog your arteries and raise your cholesterol—which is problematic for many cooking fats. Olive oil is actively healing to many systems of your body, including your heart, pancreas, endocrine system, and gut biome! It adds luxurious richness to your diet without the health problems most commonly associated with indulging in rich foods.
1. Beneficial in Overall Diet
This diet, which is nearly identical to the Maker’s Diet, has been shown to reduce the signs of aging when it includes olive oil. In addition, olive oil as a part of the Mediterranean Diet, reduces the incidence of type 2 diabetes compared to a low- fat diet, even with no calorie restriction.
Other dishes that highlight olive oil include salad dressings such as vinaigrettes, toppings or dipping oil for bread like garlic oil, homemade mayonnaise, and oil- rich cakes. Olive oil can replace cooking oil for all but the highest heat applications (like deep frying).
Try fresh-pressed olive oil for $1 direct from the growers!
2. Helping with Medical Concerns
Olive oil health benefits are seemingly endless. No wonder it has achieve superfood status.
- Bone Health – Studies show olive oil helps prevent osteoporosis, but without causing estrogenic issues like many other treatments. Olive oil has also been found to be analgesic (helps stop pain), and to fight cancer and inflammation.
- Heart Health – People have chosen olive oil for years to improve heart health, but a recent study shows it can make a difference whether the subject’s diet is healthy or obesity-causing. Regular consumption of olive oil may also improve endothelial function and inflammation, and reduce inflammation in the prevention and treatment of coronary artery disease.
- Pregnancy & Infants – Extra virgin olive oil can even help birth outcomes and child development. When the mother’s diet contains extra virgin olive oil, the birth weight of newborns is improved, and both weight and specific biochemical indicators are still improved in offspring at adolescence compared with mothers who consumed no olive oil.
- Immune Boosting – Olive oil is great for a number of health concerns, including improving immunity by working on the gut biome, and increasing insulin sensitivity in subjects with metabolic syndrome.
- Cancer – Many studies demonstrate olive oil’s significant cancer-fighting properties. It is antioxidant, anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer. Another study confirms olive oil is both anti- cancer and anti- diabetic. And it significantly lowers the overall incidence of cancer.
Overall, swapping out less healthy oils and fats for olive oil is one of the healthiest moves you can make.
3. Uses for Beauty & Body Care
Olive oil health benefits extend beyond the kitchen table. It has long been a part of beauty treatments. Even scripture mentions it as a hair and skin treatment. A lovely way to protect, soften, and improve texture of skin is to apply olive oil with your favorite essential oil blend to wet skin in the shower before towel drying. Use it in this DIY lotion bar for a skin soothing benefit.
Olive oil creates a protective barrier, but also penetrates better than coconut oil, which in turn, penetrates better than grape seed oil and avocado oil. This makes olive oil an important carrier oil for both medicinal and cosmetic use. Further, it is synergistic with other ingredients in addition to its nutritional value when applied alone.
Olive oil, like both avocado oil and coconut oil demonstrates slight ultra violet protection; however, none of them are suitable for use as a sun block when used alone. Additional ingredients are better in homemade sunscreens if you are wanting to DIY.
A clinical study shows that olive oil, used topically or cosmetically is anti- inflammatory, antioxidant, wound healing, prevents skin cancer and may be antibiotic. That is an impressive array of benefits for a beauty product!
4. Olive Oil Uses for Pet Care
Olive oil health benefits aren’t limited just to humans! It is as good for most pets as it is for you. Always consult your veterinarian first if you have any questions, of course. Olive oil is used as a carrier for pet-safe essential oils or topical medications that need to be diluted—with fur to contend with, a good penetrating oil is even more important than it is for human use.
Olive oil can be used alone for relief of hair balls, ear mites, or even mange. Internally it lubricates the gastro intestinal tract, allowing hairballs to pass. Externally it helps to smothers mites and soothe irritation. The most popular use of olive oil for pet care is adding a drizzle over food once a week to keep coats shiny and healthy.
5. Olive Oil House Care and DIY Cleaning Ideas
Olive oil is great for natural wood—just be sure not to apply to floors or other surfaces where a slippery surface could be dangerous. To restore real wood cabinet fronts, mix a tablespoon or two of olive oil with lemon essential oil into vinegar water and buff until wood is softly shiny. Wipe away any excess. Use it in our Homemade Dusting Spray also!
Olive oil works great in a pinch to replace hardware lubricants such as fixing squeaky door hinges and freeing sticky zippers, but never use it in engines or machinery. It also loosens semi- dry latex paint for easy cleanup. It even doubles as a subtle shoe polish for real leather.
Kitchen Tip! If you measure the oil first in our naturally healthy recipes, olive oil coats the measuring cups or spoons, keeping other ingredients from sticking. If you have a recipe with honey or syrup, you will get truer measurements by doing your oil first.
Comparison to Other Common Oils
Coconut oil vs olive oil. Both coconut oil and olive oil demonstrate significant health benefits. Coconut is even believed to improve the experience of Alzheimer’s patients. Both oils contain MUFAs and PUFAs as they are both expressed from fruit; however, olive oil contains far more of the heart healthy fats—around ten times as much!
In addition, coconut oil has around ten times as much saturated fat. In fact, while virgin coconut oil decreases both bad and total cholesterol, the effects aren’t as marked as what olive oil can do. However, coconut oil helps weight loss via improved calorie burning. Both oils are rich in antioxidants.
1. Canola Oil vs. Olive Oil
Canola oil can be a sensitive subject—it offers great health benefits, but it is almost always genetically modified. Canola has been considered an endemic weed in many areas, so pollen spreads from field to field easily on the wind. This means that even strictly organic canola fields are frequently tainted with GMO pollen, and for this reason, many health- conscious people avoid all canola oil. Learn more about the pros and cons of canola oil here.
That is unfortunate because canola is more prolific and renewable than olive oil, producing a generous harvest from the first growing season, whereas olive trees take years to mature. Canola oil is significantly better than olive oil for high heat cooking as well.
Olive oil does have a health edge compared to canola oil, as it is higher in oleoyl serine which prevents cardiovascular disease. Canola is also no match for olive at improving memory, synapse firing, and neuropathology in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
2. Vegetable Oil vs. Olive Oil
The first thing to understand about vegetable oil is that nearly all products labeled “vegetable oil” are actually genetically modified SOY oil.
Olive oil is superior to soy oil at reducing chronic inflammation. It also reduces or protects against oxidative stress to the heart. Olive oil is significantly better than soy oil, nutritionally. Compared to soy oil, olive oil significantly reduces the risk of all-cause mortality, cardiovascular death, general cardiovascular diseases, and stroke.
One study comparing extra virgin olive oil to genetically modified soy oil found that the olive oil blocked damage from oxidative stress, protected subjects from chronic diseases including liver fibrosis, hyperlipidemia, diabetes, and even cancer. No benefit was found from consuming the soy oil.
In fact, soy oil is so reliably, actively harmful that it is used experimentally to damage fertility and induce obesity, so that other substances’ healing abilities can be tested on the soy-damaged subjects. In short, olive oil helps while genetically modified soy harms.
3. Corn Oil vs. Olive Oil
Corn oil, like soy oil, is almost always genetically modified, and thus, it may be difficult to assess the value of non-GMO corn products. Even before the proliferation of GMO corn, olive oil demonstrated significant health advantages.
The significantly better nutritional profile, especially the higher percentage of MUFAs and antioxidants, make olive oil a clear winner.
4. Avocado Oil vs. Olive Oil
We’ve touted the health benefits of avocado on this site before. So it’s no surprise that avocado oil may be olive oil’s most serious rival for health-giving culinary oils. They are both excellent for cardiovascular disease prevention and treatment. They also demonstrate a similar protective factor on the liver in the presence of excessively sugary diets (i.e. the typical American diet).
Extra virgin olive oil and avocado oil share a nearly identical lineup of healthy fats and antioxidants, so the nutritional benefits are also very similar.
Due to the novelty of avocado oil, fewer studies have documented its health benefits. Avocado oil seems to have an edge due to its higher smoke point, but olive oil has a superior flavor in low heat applications.
5. Butter vs. Olive Oil
Comparing olive oil to butter may seem like an unfair fight despite the fact that they may be used interchangeably in many recipes. It’s true that comparing an animal product such as butter to a plant oil, like olive oil is like apples to oranges. Still butter, especially from organic, pastured, and grass- fed mammals, offers amazing health benefits.
Famous nutrition-minded doctors actually recommend such high- quality butter as a supplement for dental and brain health. However, one cannot expect similar results from cheap, factory-farm animals’ butter. The studies below are conducted with conventional butter, not high- quality organic butter.
Butter—even conventionally farmed butter, can help prevent prediabetic markers including hyperinsulinemia and may improve the cholesterol profile. In fact, butter may lower diabetes long term when replacing other fats. Still, olive oil is better at improving diabetes markers and cardiovascular markers than butter.
Most researchers agree that butter itself is not unhealthy. Still, replacing a significant percentage of your dietary butter and high-cholesterol foods with olive oil may improve many health conditions, including male infertility.
Olive oil is really one of the most healing, beneficial oils you can use, whether in topical or culinary applications. If you aren’t using it yet, find a trusted source and enjoy some delicious, healthy recipes with it today!
Olive Oil Adulteration
Fake, adulterated oils that are not at all what they claim to be are very ugly. Authorities estimate that up to 80% of olive oil sold in the United States is adulterated or mislabeled chiefly by the Italian agri mafia. Diluting olive oil with other, cheaper, and less nutritious oils is so widespread that researchers have developed and trialed complex new detection methods.
Sorry to burst any bubbles, but the refrigerator test (i.e. olive oil solidifying when placed in the fridge) we read so much about online is not an accurate evaluation of whether or not your olive oil is fake. I contacted my local supplier of olive oil to ask him about “tests” that we can do at home to determine if the olive oil we’re buying is the real deal and he told me there’s nothing we can do. Similar to the home tests people try to use to determine if their essential oils are pure, you need a chemical analysis to see if your olive oil has been adulterated.
There are stamps of approval and label promises, but I don’t trust them. Like choosing essential oils, you need to vet your company out and find a supplier that you can trust.