The Health Benefits of Olive Oil

Understanding the health benefits of olive oil might help us explain and apparent paradox:

In some parts of the world an excessive fat intake leads to increases in chronic and degenerative conditions such as atherosclerosis, diabetes, colon cancer, asthma and arthritis, while in other high-fat-intake countries, the risk of developing these conditions is much lower. How is that possible?

Well, it seems not to be geographically related. Instead, research is showing that it's the type of fat ingested that makes the difference.

Some regions, like Crete and other Mediterranean areas, tend to consume the very healthy olive oil and thus their risk of developing these conditions is reduced. Conversely, in places like the United States and the U.K., where people take in high levels of animal fats, the risk is considerably higher.

After you've read the article, see whether you can answer the following questions:

  • What seems to be the reason for the greater health enjoyed by the people in Crete?
  • How does olive oil affect cholesterol?
  • What other health benefits does olive oil have?
  • What is olive oil effect on gallstones?
  • Why is virgin olive oil better than other oil?

The Cretan Diet

Cretan Diet

The people in the Greek island of Crete know all about the health benefits of olive oil. A long term study conducted on these people revealed that they were healthier than people from seven other countries.

Compared to the Americans, for example, they had half the cancer death rate and an astonishing one-twentieth of the mortality from coronary artery disease.

Compared to the Japanese, they had half the overall death rate - even though the Crete diet was a 40% fat diet that contained three times more fat then the Japanese diet.

The main reason seems to be their greater intake of olive oil and a much lower intake of the omega-6 oils (found in safflower, sunflower, and corn) and saturated fatty acids found in animal products.

How does olive oil make people healthier?


olives and olive oil

For one thing, particles of LDL cholesterol in the blood that are made up of the monounsaturated fats present in olive oil are less likely to become oxidized than other less healthy oils and fats.

This is important, for as far as researchers can tell, it's only oxidized cholesterol that adheres to vessel walls and inevitably forms the plaque that can lead to heart attacks or strokes.

But to reap the health benefits of olive oil, the unhealthy dietary fats still need to be eliminated from the diet. It's only in this case that the LDL levels can drop and HDL levels can rise.

Further Reading: Causes of High Cholesterol


The health benefits of olive oil seem to extend to people with diabetes. Many studies show that people who eat meals with olive oil gain better blood sugar control as well as lower levels of triglycerides (another type of fat in the blood).

These results are better than for those diabetics who eat lower-fat meals without the olive oil. This may also decrease risk of heart disease in these patients.

Read more on Blood-Sugar-Lowering Foods


Olive oil contains high amounts of antioxidants, especially mixed tocopherols (the natural form of vitamin E) which may further protect against the risk of oxidation of cholesterol in the blood, reducing the risk of heart disease even further.


Olives and olive oil may also be important in the prevention and treatment of asthma and arthritis.

Since healthy oils are important for lowering systemic inflammation, it's not surprising that the health benefits of olive oil are seen by people who suffer with arthritis and asthma, reducing their symptoms.


olives and olive branch

Research has shown that women who regularly ingest olive oil also have a smaller risk of breast cancer.

Oleic acid is the main fatty acid found in olive oil. One article, published in the Annals of Oncology, reported that oleic acid significantly cut levels of a breast cancer-promoting gene by up to 46%.

When you compare diets around the world and within countries, animal fat often pops out as concentrated in the diets of those with higher cancer rates.

Also, omega-6 polyunsaturated fats, such as corn oil, are a potential cancer danger. However, the monounsaturated fats predominant in olive oil, has not been designated a cancer culprit. On the contrary, new evidence suggests olive-oil-type fat helps counteract cancer.


Greek researchers recently documented that people who ate lots of animal fats, such as meat and butter and even vegetarians who eat a lot of cheese, were more likely to develop gallstones.

Interestingly, they found that a high consumption of olive oil actually discourages formation of gallstones.

What is the Best Olive Oil to Buy?

fats in olive oil

To get the most of the health benefits of olive oil you ought to buy extra virgin olive oil. "Extra virgin" means that the oil comes from the first pressing of the olives and has a low level of acidity.

Extra virgin oil also has the highest amount of monounsaturated fatty acids, the most omega-3 fatty acids and the lowest omega-6 fatty acids, making it the healthiest of all the various kinds.

"Pure olive oil" is virtually any oil that is able to be pressed out of the olives, regardless of the number of pressings.

Extra virgin oil is richer in taste and has up to four times the level of free oleic acids as the other grades.

"Cold pressed" denotes that the crushing of the olives was done without any heat. Although this process of eliciting the oil is more difficult, the quality is even higher and you get the best of the health benefits of olive oil, for heat can promote the oil going rancid.

Oils generally have the tendency to take in any chemicals in their surroundings. So buy organic, cold-pressed, extra-virgin olive oil only, if you can.

Some Serving Suggestions to Enjoy the Best Health Benefits of Olive Oil:

olive oil dressing
  • Italian salad dressing: Mix aged balsamic vinegar, olive oil, lemon and/or lime juice and oregano well and pour over salad.
  • Olive oil is an excellent marinade foundation; try it with beef, chicken, fish and soy products, such as tofu and tempeh.
  • Dipping oil for fresh Italian bread or French baguette: Mix olive oil, salt, black and red pepper flakes.
  • Purée roasted garlic, cooked potatoes and olive oil together to make great garlic mashed potatoes. Salt and pepper to taste.
  • Drizzle olive oil over steamed vegetables before serving. Top with garlic powder and a touch of salt.
  • An olive dip: Purée olive oil, garlic, and your favourite beans together in a food processor. Season to taste and serve as a dip or sandwich spread.

Now that you've read the article, can you can answer the following questions?

  • What seems to be the reason for the greater health enjoyed by the people in Crete?
  • How does olive oil affect cholesterol?
  • What other health benefits does olive oil have?
  • What is olive oil effect on gallstones?
  • Why is virgin olive oil better than other oil?

Further reading on the health benefits of olive oil

Olive Oil and Heart Disease


Clearspring Italian Extra Virgin Olive

Buy Clearspring Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Goodness Direct

This is without any doubts one of the best Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil you can find.

Buy it form Goodness Direct where you can find other varieties as well to suit your taste.

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