Olive oil is linked to several health benefits. “Oleic acid1, the main fatty acid in olive oil, is a monounsaturated fat (MUFA) that can reduce inflammation2, lower LDL (harmful) cholesterol levels, increase HDL (healthy) cholesterol levels, decrease blood pressure, reduce cardiovascular disease risk, and support neurological function,” says Shapiro.
Olive oil also contains other bioactive compounds (it’s estimated to have more than 303) that offer additional health benefits. It’s rich in phenols and phytosterols, which have anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties, explains Shapiro. These bioactive compounds can neutralize free radicals in the body, protecting our DNA and other cells from oxidative damage.
“Ultimately, the antioxidant capacity of these bioactive compounds can be helpful in reducing risk of cardiovascular and cancer diseases, diabetes, and inflammation, which is the precursor for many diseases,” Shapiro says.
Research shows that olive oil can also have positive effects on mental health4 and stress levels, and it can moisturize your skin and hair.
It is important to note that extra-virgin olive oil is the healthiest olive oil since it contains the highest concentration of bioactive compounds compared to other oils. This is because it undergoes the least processing. Meanwhile, refined vegetable oil loses most of its beneficial qualities and nutrients during processing.
The nutritional breakdown of a tablespoon of olive oil5 looks like this:
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