Summer in Texas means three things: high temperatures, outdoor grilling, and swimming. For many of us, it also means struggling to balance our love of BBQ with bathing suit season.
If you’re looking for health tips this summer, we’ve got good news. Whether you’re working on your summer body or want to invest in long-term health, incorporating extra virgin olive oil into your diet is an easy (and tasty) way to good health.
As the building block of the widely praised Mediterranean diet – the only diet proven medically and backed by doctors everywhere – olive oil has been studied rigorously by scientists. Countless experiments have concluded that consuming olive oil can help you keep your mind, body, and waist in check.
But, not all olive oils are created equal. In order to reap the benefits of this Mediterranean superfood, you need to know which ones to buy. Learn all about the health benefits in the right olive oils below and how to choose them.
What’s in Olive Oil, Anyway?
Extra virgin olive oil (meaning it has not been processed, simply pressed) is packed with health benefits. It’s rich in antioxidants, vitamin K and vitamin E. It has monounsaturated fats (i.e. the good kind) like oleic acid and palmitoleic acid, as well as omega-6 and omega-3s, two important polyunsaturated fats that are essential for human health, but that our bodies don’t produce.
It’s not just what’s in olive oil that makes it good for us, but what’s not. Olive oil is free of both carbs and cholesterol.
So, what exactly are those compounds and how do they help our bodies?
The Healing Properties of Olive Oil
The magic of olive oil seems to stem from its anti-inflammatory properties. Although inflammation is a natural and necessary bodily response to a threat against your immune system, too much inflammation can be a bad thing. Chronic inflammation contributes to heart disease, Alzheimer’s, arthritis and other diseases. Olives contain polyphenols that can help reduce chronic inflammation by preventing
organ tissue damage.
Extra virgin olive oil helps with the following health problems:
The main type of fat in olive oil, monounsaturated fatty acids, improve risk factors related to heart disease such as high blood pressure, and therefore may help lower your risk of developing heart disease. Monounsaturated fats have been found to lower total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels and triglyceride levels. And while it lowers bad cholesterol, it does not diminish good cholesterol (HDL). Extra virgin olive oil has a higher percentage of these health superstars than any other oil.
One study in patients with high blood pressure found that olive oil reduced blood pressure significantly and reduced the need for blood pressure meds by 48%. Olive oil also contains phytochemicals that thin blood, reduce inflammation of blood vessels, prevent oxidation of fats in the bloodstream, protect blood vessel walls, and dilate the blood vessels which improves circulation.
The Food and Drug Administration recommends two tablespoons every day to reduce the risk of heart disease.
People who consume olive oil are also at a lower risk for strokes – the second most common cause of death in the developed nation. Strokes are caused by insufficient blood flow to the brain. Vitamin K, found in olive oil, plays an important role in helping blood clot.
Studies have shown that the incidence of cancer is much lower in Spain, Italy, and Greece than in northern Europe or the United States. Studies suggest that Mediterranean consumption of olive oil is the reason for their healthier lives.
Both olives and olive oil contain substantial amounts of compounds known as “anticancer agents” like squalene, terpenoids, and oleic acid, or oleocanthal. When researchers at Rutgers University added oleocanthal to cancer cells in the lab, it destroyed the cancer cells in less than an hour without harming the healthy cells. A study published Annals of Oncology in 2005 showed that oleic acid – the principal monounsaturated fat in olive oil – greatly decreased the growth of aggressive breast tumors in test tubes.
Oleic acid is also highly resistant to oxidation. Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of cells in the body, which can be caused by oxidative damage due to free radicals. Extra virgin olive oil is high in antioxidants called polyphenolic compounds which are responsible for preserving the enzymes that fight free radicals in the body. Vitamin E, which olive oil also contains, also helps limit free-radical production.
A diet high in monounsaturated fatty acids is also good for people who are at risk for type 2 diabetes, as research shows that they benefit insulin levels and blood sugar control.
In 2016, scientists from Temple University published incredible findings regarding olive oil’s ability to prevent cognitive decline and preserve memories.
Affecting nearly 44 million people worldwide, Alzheimer’s is the most common neurodegenerative disease and a leading cause of dementia. It causes a buildup of amyloid-beta plaque in certain brain neurons. In their experiment, the scientists from Temple showed that Alzheimer’s affected mice with an olive oil rich diet had lower levels of amyloid plaque and performed better on cognitive tests.
A study by The Monell Chemical Senses Center concluded that a daily dose 4 tablespoons of olive oil offers the same benefits as about 10% of the recommended ibuprofen dose for adult pain relief, meaning you could reap the long-term benefits of repeated ibuprofen use, such as keeping Alzheimer’s at bay.
Research also links olive oil and weight loss. There’s a large misconception that all fat is bad and leads to weight gain. In reality, unsaturated fats are beneficial to our health and monounsaturated fat, found in extra virgin olive oil, can help the body’s breakdown of stored fat. We should steer clear, however, of trans fat and eat only limited amounts of saturated fats.
Several studies suggest that a Mediterranean diet helps people shed weight and keep it off. Others have shown that people eat less when they consume monounsaturated fat. Therefore, dressing your BBQ sides in extra virgin olive oil is a small step you can take if you want to keep off the pounds!
Beware Which Olive Oil You Buy
There you have it. Olive oil is basically liquid gold in terms of how powerful a health punch it packs.
Yet, not all olive oil is created equally. A lot of the olive oil on the market is lower quality, extracted using chemicals, or diluted with other cheaper oils. To reap the health benefits, you need to buy extra virgin olive oil grown responsibly and without chemicals.
Olive oils labeled “virgin” or “extra virgin” have been pressed or extracted from olives by mechanical or physical means. Not using chemicals or heat ensures that the olive oil remains unaltered and that it retains its nutritional value.
You should always opt for extra virgin olive oil for dressing salads, pasta, or anytime you’re not heating it up. Extra virgin olive oil is the freshest and highest grade, which means it has the shortest shelf life. Bottles labeled with only “virgin olive oil” are lower in quality, more acidic, and may have flavor defects.
Even then – regulations aren’t strictly enforced. Too many companies put “extra virgin” on their labels dishonestly, without complying with the standards. Unfortunately, companies routinely put profits over quality products and their customers and often lie about the source of their olive oil. Because of that, it’s important to buy from a company that you know and trust.
Olive Oil You Can Trust: Texas Olive Ranch
At Texas Olive Ranch, we first cold press our extra virgin olive for the most natural oil and freshest flavor and every bottle is the result of a lot of preening and caring hard work at our Ranch in Carrizo Springs, Texas.
Our commitment to transparency means what you see is what you get. Our website details our story, our values, and our simple, yet high-quality process. In fact, Texas Olive Ranch extra virgin olive oils test at approximately five times beyond the standard for the U.S. and at about two to three times the California standard, so you can be confident you’re getting olive oil’s full health benefits with every tablespoon.
This summer, start eating like you’re on the Mediterranean and soak in all the benefits of pure extra virgin olive oil along with the sunshine. Your body will thank you, in the short and long term.