Healthy Benefits of Olive Oil

Beyond the flavorful taste, there are many health benefits of olive oil. It’s naturally free of cholesterol, trans fat, salt, sugar, and gluten. In addition, olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fat (that’s the good kind).

According to medical experts, these essential properties give olive oil health benefits. It helps protect against heart disease, aids in digestion, and has been known to promote healthy aging. Promote healthy eating habits for you and your family by making olive oil a delicious, nutritious addition to your diet.

Nearly every nutrition expert agrees that a moderate amount of fat consumption plays an important role in eating a healthy diet. It provides our bodies with energy, is essential for growth and development, and is necessary for absorbing vitamins.

What are fats?

Fat is a nutrient with important functions. Among them:

  • It’s a rich source of energy. In fact, fats produce more than double the energy acquired from carbohydrates or proteins.
  • It’s a carrier for vitamins A, D, E and K.
  • It provides linoleic and alpha-linolenic acid, essential polyunsaturated fatty acids.
  • It contributes flavor and a sense of “fullness” when part of an eating healthy diet.
Olive oil in a fancy glass bottle

However, it’s important to know that there are good fats and bad fats.

What are good fats to eat?

As part of eating a healthy diet, you need to consume moderate amounts of good fats. These good fats include:

  • Monounsaturated fat — This is the primary fat source found in olive oil. Unsaturated fat, can help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. In fact, due to its high concentration of monounsaturated fat, olive oil can actually help to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. This is the main reason why olive oil is considered to be healthy for us.
  • Polyunsaturated fat — Found in nuts, fish, sunflower oil, corn oil, and of course olive oil, polyunsaturated fat helps to maintain heart health and lower blood cholesterol levels.
  • Omega-3 polyunsaturated fat — Found in fatty fishes like salmon or in vegetable oils, omega-3 polyunsaturated fat is truly brain food. It has been proven to promote mental acuity and brain development.
What are bad fats to eat?

If you’re committed to eating a healthy diet, you should try to avoid the following fats:

  • Saturated fats — Found in lard, butter, hard cheeses, whole milk, animal fats, palm oil, and coconut oils, saturated fats are known to raise blood cholesterol levels, increase the risk of heart disease, and contribute to other health problems. Nutritionists and dietitians strongly recommend that you avoid these fats as much as possible.
  • Trans fat — Typically found in meat, dairy products, margarine, and nearly any food containing the word “hydrogenated” on its label, trans fats can raise your LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. More about cholesterol
Fat and Olive Oil

Olive oil is widely known to be high in monounsaturated (good) fat. It contains zero trans (bad) fats and is lower in saturated (bad) fat than other commonly used ingredients such as shortening and butter. Simply put, olive oil is one of the best ways to add good fat to your diet and avoid bad fat.

Did you know that coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S.? Nearly 13 million Americans have it, and more than a half-million die from it each year. But, there’s good news: You can help reduce your risk of heart disease by making smarter choices in your lifestyle, especially your diet.

Olive oil is one of those smart choices. It’s high in monounsaturated fats, which studies have shown can help reduce “bad” cholesterol that causes heart disease, while boosting the “good” cholesterol that can help prevent it.

About cholesterol

Cholesterol is an important type of fat with a bad reputation. Everybody has it and everybody needs it, but when excess amounts accumulate in the blood and arteries, it can increase your risk of heart attack and stroke.

Salad with olive oil

As most people know, eating cholesterol lowering foods like olive oil, can significantly reduce your risk of heart disease.

Our levels of blood cholesterol are influenced by the types of fats we eat. It’s important to consider that there are two types of cholesterol in our blood. One is good and one is bad.

LDL, often described as “bad” cholesterol, is harmful because it’s the type that accumulates in your arteries. Studies have shown that saturated fats increase LDL cholesterol levels, whereas polyunsaturated fats can actually lower both LDL cholesterol levels and total cholesterol in your blood. Monounsaturated fats also reduce LDL cholesterol.

HDL is considered “good” cholesterol. It hangs around just long enough to benefit your body, and then it exits. Monounsaturated fats have no effect on HDL cholesterol; they just stand by and let it do its “good” thing. Conversely, polyunsaturated fats can actually lower HDL cholesterol. It can get confusing

The most important thing to keep in mind when eating a healthy diet is that monounsaturated fats, like the ones found in olive oil, are essential to maintaining a healthy balance of “good” and “bad” cholesterol.

Sources:

American Heart Association: www.americanheart.org

Covas, M.I. et al. The Effect of Virgin Refined Olive Oils on Heart Disease Risk Factors (Summaries for Patients). Ann Int Med 2006:145(5) I-53.

National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute: www.nhlbi.nih.gov

Webmd: www.webmd.com

Food and Drug Administration: http://www.fda.gov

People who live in the Mediterranean region in countries like Italy and Greece have the lowest rates of heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease, and have the highest adult life expectancies.

The Mediterranean Diet Pyramid

Health experts say one secret is the “Mediterranean Diet,” which combines fruits, leafy greens, legumes, whole grains, olive oil and fish, with only small amounts of red meat and wine in moderation.

Recent studies* have found that the Mediterranean Diet has a beneficial effect on health and longevity. People live longer overall, while death from illnesses such as heart disease and cancer is reduced by 33%.

Olive oil – The Essential Ingredient

Olive oil is an essential part of the cooking styles and traditional flavors of the Mediterranean Diet. It’s a daily choice for cooks in the region, used to season cooked dishes, salads and vegetables. And on every table you’ll find a bottle olive oil for flavoring foods and dipping bread.

No Mediterranean kitchen is complete without a bottle of quality olive oil. It contains no cholesterol, no sodium, no trans fats, no sugars, and is a rich source of monounsaturated fat — all of which add up to better health.

12 Steps to Mediterranean Living

Now it’s your turn to live a Mediterranean lifestyle. Start enjoying the health benefits of olive oil with these simple steps:

  1. Use olive oil as a substitute for butter and margarine.
  2. Snack on nuts, seeds and fruit, rather than processed snack foods.
  3. Include a generous variety of seasonally fresh and local produce (like leafy greens) with your main meal daily.
  4. Select whole grain sources of breads, rice, pastas and other grains.
  5. Eat at least a few vegetarian meals each week.
  6. Serve dishes that include legumes like beans and lentils.
  7. Try fish, poultry, beans, nuts and eggs as alternatives to red meat.
  8. Limit red meat to small occasional servings (a maximum of 12 to 16 ounces per month).
  9. If you drink red wine, include no more than a glass or two daily (1 for women, 2 for men).
  10. Enjoy fresh fruit for dessert.
  11. Set aside enough time to savor and enjoy each and every bite.
  12. Integrate physical activity to promote a healthy weight, fitness and sense of well-being into everyday habits.

*Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Athens Medical School studied the diets of over 22,000 adults in Greece aged 20 to 86 over a four-year period.

When a recipe calls for other cooking oils or fats, make a shift towards eating a healthy diet and use Filippo Berio® Olive Oil instead. It's easy — where you would usually use cooking oils such as vegetable or canola oil, or fats such as butter or margarine, simply substitute Filippo Berio® Olive Oil. It's better for you, contributes to lowering cholesterol, and adds an delicious splash of flavor to any recipe.

As a rule of thumb, substitute an equal amount of your olive oil for other cooking oils, and three quarters the amount for butter or margarine. Filippo Berio® Olive Oil as a butter substitute is cholesterol-free and contains no trans fats, no sugar, no salt, and no gluten.