Olive oil contains monounsaturated fatty acids, or MUFAs, that reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering total blood cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels, according to Mayo Clinic. Studies show that MUFAs help stabilize insulin levels and control blood sugar in Type 2 diabetes.
The oleic acid in olive oil provides anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that reduce pain and stiffness in individuals with rheumatoid arthritis, reports Healthline. The phenolic compound in olive oil called oleocanthal offers anti-inflammatory benefits similar to ibuprofen, according to a 2011 paper published by the National Institutes of Health. The efficacy of the health-giving properties of phenols is severely compromised if olive oil is heated too high when cooking, notes WebMD. Extra-virgin olive oil is best used on cold dishes and recipes that don’t require heat due to its low smoke point. Virgin olive oil is well suited for low-temperature cooking because it offers a higher smoke point with better flavor.
The grades in olive oil indicate the extraction process and the acidity content of the pressed oil, explains WebMD. Extra-virgin olive oil contains 1 percent acid and is obtained from the first pressing of the olives using only pressure in a process known as cold pressing. It has a shelf life of 18 to 24 months. Virgin olive oil contains approximately 3 percent acid and also comes from the first pressing.
A French research study discovered that olive oil plays a role in reducing the risk of stroke among elderly people, states Medical News Today. By studying two groups of people, one consuming olive oil, the study found a 41-percent reduced risk of stroke among that group. Others studies show that olive oil may also reduce the risk of breast cancer.
Olive oil is unique due to its high fat content. Monounsaturated fat is three-fourths of the fat in olive oil, with only canola oil and soybean oil coming close to that number, according to WHFoods.com. Diets high in monounsaturated fats lead to lower blood cholesterol, an increase in the ratio of healthy to unhealthy cholesterol, and lower blood pressure.
People who consume high levels of monounsaturated fats could be less likely to develop depression, states Medical News Today. A Spanish study assessed more than 12,000 people, with one group's dietary fat coming from olive oil and the other group's dietary fat coming from trans fat. They identified a 48-percent greater risk of depression in the trans-fat group.