Is Olive Oil Good for You? 10 Benefits of Eating It
What is not to love about olive oil? From the unique flavor to the rich mouthfeel, olive oil is a welcomed addition to many dishes. But many may not realize that olive oil isn't just a delicious flavor addition to salads and meats (and most recently, coffee—thanks to Starbucks). This oil offers some unique health benefits that other condiments can't come close to.
Olive oil is rich in fat—but don't let that scare you! While consumption of certain fats, like saturated and trans-fats, are associated with unwanted health outcomes (think the increased risk of heart disease factors), consumption of healthier fats can result in some amazing benefits. Since olive oil is rich in "healthy" monounsaturated fat, it should not be viewed in the same light as fat sources like lard and butter.
People who live by the Mediterranean Sea, and thus live in regions that produce olives, tend to eat a large amount of olive oil and reap health benefits. However, an important detail to consider is that they consume much more monounsaturated fat than saturated and trans-fats. In other words, they are consuming olive oil and other "healthier" fat sources while limiting the consumption of fried foods, processed foods, and other "unhealthy" fat sources.
If you decide to include olive oil into your diet on a consistent basis, you may be wondering what you can expect to see in terms of your health. Here are 10 things you may experience when you are sneaking in a healthy dose of olive oil in your sauces, sauté pans, and even baked goods regularly. Read on, and for more on how to eat healthy, you won't want to miss these 10 Easy Tricks for Eating Healthy Every Day.
You may have a reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease
While there are many factors that play into your risk of developing Alzheimer's disease—with some being completely out of your—consuming an antioxidant found in olive oil called oleocanthal may have a positive impact. It has been suggested that olive oil, particularly its phenols, could be responsible for the beneficial effect of the Mediterranean diet on brain health. There is data showing that adherence to this diet is linked to a reduced risk of dementia.
You may have a reduced risk of macular degeneration
Macular degeneration occurs when a part of your retina, called the macula, becomes damaged. Having this condition can cause a person to have blurred or distorted vision. In some cases, those with macular degeneration may see spots. Data shows that dietary patterns that are rich in foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids, like olive oil, protect against macular degeneration better than dietary patterns that follow more of a Western style. Particular dietary patterns containing ω-3 FAs-rich foods (nuts, olive oil, and fish), such as the Mediterranean diet, seem to be protective against AMD progression compared to Western diets rich in fats and carbohydrates. And one study showed that regular use of olive oil is linked to a protective effect for late macular degeneration among an elderly population.
You may experience softer stools
Living with constipation or hard stools can be uncomfortable, to say the least! Consuming olive oil may help people with constipation experience softer stools and thus, an have an easier time passing stools. Consuming olive oil has been found to be as effective as mineral oil at relieving constipation. And it can taste much better, too.
You might reduce your risk of stroke
Every year, more than 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke, so it is no wonder why finding a natural way to reduce this risk is desired by many. Turning to olive oil as a monounsaturated fat source may be a wise step in reducing the stroke risk. In one study evaluating 841,000 people, olive oil was the only source of monounsaturated fat associated with a reduced risk of stroke.
You can reduce your risk of heart disease
Heart disease is another huge risk factor for Americans. As of 2018, there has been enough evidence suggesting that olive oil consumption may reduce the risk of developing this disease that the Food and Drug Administration has granted a Qualified Health Claim supporting this relationship.
Specifically, consuming oleic acids in edible oils, such as olive oil, sunflower oil, or canola oil, may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. To reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease even more, eat more of these 20 Foods That Can Help Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease.
You can decrease rheumatoid arthritis disease activity
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune and inflammatory disease that causes painful swelling in certain parts of the body. Evidence suggests that intake of olive oil may result in a reduction in inflammation in those managing rheumatoid arthritis, thus possibly resulting in less pain. For more ways to reduce inflammation in your body, check out these 30 Best Anti-Inflammatory Foods.
It may help support fertility efforts
What you eat can quite possibly play a role in your fertility if you are trying to expand your family. Many studies suggest that both men and women who follow a Mediterranean-style diet, which is rich in olive oils, may result in an improved chance of pregnancy.
It may help reduce your risk of developing diabetes
Olive oil consumption has been linked to positive effects on blood sugar. And data suggests that following the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in olive oil, results in a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
You may have stronger bones
While calcium-rich foods like milk and tofu are excellent foods to support bone health, including olive oil into your diet can be an excellent bone-boosting addition to your diet. In one small study, consuming olive oil appeared to result in better bone mineral density in women. Sounds like a perfect reason to drizzle some olive oil on a scoop of ice cream.
May eliminate bacteria that can cause stomach ulcers
H. Pylori is a type of bacteria that can cause stomach ulcers. Data suggests that taking a daily dose of 30 grams (or two tablespoons) of extra virgin olive oil may eliminate H. pylori infection in as little as two weeks. You can get that easily with a glug on your salad and another on your cooked veggies. You can get that easily with a glug on your salad and another on your cooked veggies.
A previous version of this story was originally published on October 9, 2020. It has been updated to include additional copy and proofreading revisions, more research, and updated contextual links.
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