You get olive oil from grinding or pressing whole olives and collecting the oil that seeps out. You can use olive oil in all kinds of dishes. You can cook with it, drizzle it on bread, pasta, or salads, or use it as an ingredient in baked goods. Best of all, it comes with a whole host of health benefits.
Olive oil comes in one of three types, or grades: extra virgin, virgin, and refined (light). They're labeled based on how much processing they go through before they're bottled and sold. Refined olive oil is the most processed of the three.
The olive oil that goes through the least amount of processing to make is extra virgin olive oil (EVOO). Because of this, EVOO has more nutrition than virgin or refined olive oils do. For example, it's high in healthy plant nutrients called phytochemicals that may help fight cancer and heart disease. So to get the most from your olive oil, reach for the EVOO.
Large studies have shown that when you get more extra virgin olive oil in your diet, you lower your risk of getting heart disease. Active compounds in EVOO help lower blood pressure and keep your arteries from hardening.
Replacing less healthy fats with olive oil in your recipes may lower your chance of getting a stroke by more than 40%.
Inflammation in your body leads to chronic disease. Certain antioxidants in EVOO can reduce inflammation in your body in the same way that drugs such as ibuprofen do. The oleic acid in olive oil is an anti-inflammatory, too.
Free radicals are unstable atoms in your body that damage your cells. Antioxidants are compounds that can help prevent or slow down that damage. EVOO is teeming with antioxidants that can lower your risk of disease.
Some of the nutrients in olive oil can fight harmful bacteria. Helicobacter pylori is a stomach bacteria that can cause ulcers and even cancer. Compounds in olive oil help destroy it.
A Mediterranean diet favors plants over meat and is rich in olive oil. Researchers have found that people who eat this way have a much lower risk of certain cancers, such as colorectal, endometrial, breast, pancreatic, and prostate cancers.
Another bonus of an olive-oil heavy Mediterranean diet: It can give your brain a boost. Studies show a menu that's high in olive oil can help you think, understand, and remember better, and may even help ward off Alzheimer's disease.
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