But how can you know which products offer the most health benefits of olive oil? There are a few clues on the packaging itself. If you see the words "cold pressed" on a bottle of olive oil, that means heat was not used when extracting the oil. Remember, heat destroys antioxidants, so cold pressed extra virgin olive oil is a good thing! In addition, you can look for darker packaging, which helps to protect from light and heat which can turn the oil rancid and destroy its healthy, antioxidant properties.
FDA Approved Qualified Health Claim for Olive Oil in Fighting Heart Disease
FDA statement on Health Benefits (19 November 2018)
In the United States, producers of olive oil may place the following health claim on product labels:
Limited and not conclusive scientific evidence suggests that eating about two tablespoons (23 grams) of olive oil daily may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease due to the monounsaturated fat in olive oil. To achieve this possible benefit, olive oil is to replace a similar amount of saturated fat and not increase the total number of calories you eat in a day.
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Extra Virgin Olive Oil is the least processed olive oil and it contains the most healthy components.
Hydroxytyrosol is the chemical in olive oil that receives the most attention and study for cardiac and anti-inflammation benefits. We get lots of calls asking which olive oil has the most hydroxytyrosol. All the extra virgin olive oils contain hydroxytyrosol. Italian producers do not test for that chemical so we don’t have information about which one has the most. However, if you want that peppery taste associated with hydroxytyrosol, we recommend you stick with the oils from Tuscany, Umbria, Abruzzo, and Marche regions.
Olive oil is a prime component of the Mediterranean Diet. Extra virgin olive oil production utilizes a natural extraction method which preserves the key components — taste, aroma, vitamins and properties — of the olive fruit. Olive oil’s health benefits are derived from its high content of both monounsaturated fatty acids and antioxidative substances. Studies have shown that olive oil offers protection against heart disease by controlling LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels while raising HDL ("good") cholesterol levels. No other naturally produced oil has as large an amount of monounsaturated fat as olive oil –primarily oleic acid. This is one of the key reasons that olive oil is good for the heart.
The Zone Diet
Barry Sears, Ph.D., has devoted the past 30 years of his research to the study of fats and their role in human health. He is a widely published scientist who serves as president of the Massachusetts-based biotechnology firm Zone Labs, Inc. Dr. Sears is the author of the best-selling book The Anti-Inflammation Zone.
The Zone diet program has been embraced by millions. The Zone balances protein, carbohydrates, and fat to help you lose weight and reduce the likelihood of chronic disease. The program advocates for healthy superfoods such as nuts and extra virgin olive oil as they are high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats—the fat that has no effect on insulin.
Both The Zone and the Mediterranean Diet have been studied and advocated for their many health benefits. We fully appreciate that both included high quality extra virgin olive oil as building blocks of their diet plans.
Other Healthy Benefits
- Healthy Heart Benefits: Replacing other fats in your diet with olive oil can significantly lower blood pressure, prevent LDL cholesterol from sticking to the walls of the arteries, and reduce the risk of heart attack. The healthy heart benefits of the plant-based phenolic compounds found in olive oil have also been studied by the American Journal of Cardiology. These phenolic compounds may explain the benefits of the Mediterranean diet, particularly when it comes to heart health.
Cancer Inhibiting Benefits: A study published in the January 2005 issue of Annals of Oncology identified oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid found in olive oil, as having the ability to reduce the affect of an oncogene (a gene that will turn a host cell into a cancer cell) associated with the rapid growth of breast cancer tumors. The researchers concluded that oleic acid when combined with drug therapy encouraged the self-destruction of aggressive, treatment-resistant cancer cells thus destroying the cancer. Olive oil has been noted positively in studies on prostate and endometrial cancers as well. Anti-cancer effects aren't as well-known as heart health olive oil benefits, but they are just as important to know.
- Anti-Inflammatory Properties: The body uses the healthy fats in olive oil to produce natural anti-inflammatory agents. These anti-inflammatory agents can help reduce the severity of both arthritis and asthma. Well-nourished cell membranes are more fluid and better able to move healthy nutrients into the cells and move waste products out. A lower incidence of osteoporosis and dementia is found in areas where people consume large quantities of olive oil. If you struggle with certain types of inflammation or wish to reduce the risk of diseases and conditions associated with inflammation, it's a good idea to include extra virgin olive oil in your diet.