Are There Health Benefits to Using Extra Virgin Olive Oil?

Olive oil can come with many different prefixes. One of the most trumpeted is “extra virgin.” The term refers to the degree to which the olive oil has been processed by manufacturers. Extra virgin olive oil is often shortened to EVOO.

Chemicals and heat are used to process olive oil prior to selling. The more processing olive oil experiences, the longer its shelf life at the supermarket. However, many feel the cleaning process alters the oil’s flavor.

Extra virgin olive oil is the least-processed, freshest olive oil on the market. To maximize freshness, extra virgin olive oil is often made via cold press or stone press. This means no heat was used in the oil’s production. Avoiding heat is one of the best ways to preserve the polyphenols and other antioxidants in olive oil.

Not everything is better with extra virgin olive oil, though. It is faster to smoke and turn bitter when heating, making regular olive oil an easier choice for cooking. Extra virgin olive oil also tends to be more expensive.

Are there also different health effects associated with extra virgin olive oil? Medical research may hold the answer. 

Nutrition Information

The specific nutritional content of an extra virgin olive oil will fluctuate slightly between manufacturers. This can be due to differences in olive varieties, the time of year the oil was pressed, and more. 

One tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil contains approximately:

  • Calories: 126
  • Protein: 0 grams
  • Fat: 14 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 0 grams
  • Fiber: 0 grams

There aren’t many micronutrients in extra virgin olive oil. The exceptions are Vitamin E and Vitamin K. A single tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil provides approximately 13% of your daily recommended value of Vitamin E, and approximately 9% of your daily recommended value of Vitamin K.

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Potential Health Benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Quite a few healthful compounds are found in all olive oils, including cholesterol-lowering monounsaturated fatty acids. However, there are some specific health benefits to extra virgin olive oil.

Heart Health

Much has been said about the “Mediterranean d iet” and its benefits for a healthy heart. One of the core components of this diet is extra virgin olive oil. Studies have indicated that extra virgin olive oil is anti-inflammatory, contains abundant antioxidants, and is beneficial for vasodilation.

Anti-Cancer Properties

The antioxidant activities of polyphenols in olive oil may reduce the risk of developing cancer. The highest concentrations of polyphenols in any variety of olive oil are in extra virgin olive oil.

Bone Health

A number of studies have linked high olive oil intake to maintaining healthy bones. This includes reduced risk of hip fracture and improved bone density. The mechanism behind this is also suspected to be based in polyphenols.

Potential Risks of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

There aren’t many known health risks to consuming moderate amounts of extra virgin olive oil. Even “rancid,” or stale-smelling, olive oil is not known to have significant side effects, beyond altering the taste of your meal.

The high number of calories in extra virgin olive oil is also not considered a major health risk. This is largely due to the fact that the dense, calorie-rich oil is thought to keep you full longer, ultimately reducing hunger and food cravings.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on September 30, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

Allina Health: “Top health benefits of olive oil.”

Endocrine, Metabolic, & Immune Disorders Drug Targets: “Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Cardiovascular Benefits For Human Health.”

ESHA Research, Inc., Salem, Oregon: “Extra Virgin Olive Oil.”

International Journal of Molecular Sciences: “Potential Health Benefits of Olive Oil and Plant Polyphenols.”

Mayo Clinic: “Why should I choose olive oil over other types of fat?”

Nutrients: “Olive Oil Consumption and Bone Microarchitecture in Spanish Women.”

Olive Wellness Institute: “11 Health Benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil That You Can’t Ignore.”

UC Davis, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences: “When Good Oil Goes Bad.”

WHFoods: “Olive oil, extra virgin.”

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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