Olive Oil Benefits and Uses

Virgin and extra virgin olive oils are the only vegetable oils that can be consumed raw, without having been refined or rectified, so they retain all of their vitamins, essential fatty acids and other natural components of high dietetic value.
olive oil, like all fats, is characterised by its high content of fatty acids. But not all fatty acids are the same. A distinction has to be drawn between ‘saturated’ and ‘unsaturated’ fatty acids.
Saturated fatty acids come from animal sources (except for coconut and cocoa oils) and their consumption is associated with ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL) accumulating in the blood and arteries, which can give rise to cardiovascular diseases.
Unsaturated fatty acids, meanwhile, generally come from plant sources (except for fish) and their consumption is associated with higher levels of ‘good’ cholesterol (HDL), which is capable of removing ‘bad’ cholesterol from the cardiovascular system and returning it to the liver, where it is eliminated. Within this group, a distinction has to be drawn between monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
• Linoleic acid, which is found in seeds such as those from the sunflower, is a polyunsaturated fatty acid that helps to reduce ‘bad’ cholesterol, but it has the drawback of oxidising easily, which involves the formation of free radicals that are harmful to our health.
• Oleic acid, contained in olive oil is a monounsaturated fat that reduces ‘bad’ cholesterol and, even more importantly, favours ‘good’ cholesterol, meaning that it works to keep the heart healthy and reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, oleic acid is more resistant to chemical decomposition caused by high temperatures and is less absorbed into the foods that are fried in it, which increases their digestibility and reduces the amount of calories in the end product.
Other studies have also suggested that virgin olive oil has anticoagulant properties that help prevent the formation of blood clots, prevent bacterial infections, and reduce the risk of developing cancer and Alzheimer’s.
Extra virgin olive oil was used as a medicine in antiquity due to its natural properties and pharmacological action.
• Antioxidant properties:
Olive oil contains polyphenols that prevent cellular oxidation which causes ageing and the appearance of tumours. It can also act to prevent some types of cancer, such as colon or breast cancer, although this has not been scientifically proven. The oil with the highest polyphenol content is extra virgin olive oil.
• Protects against the development of cardiac disorders:
It reduces arterial tension, lowers bad (LDL) cholesterol and raises good (HDL) cholesterol, impedes the obstruction of the arteries, thereby preventing the oxidation of LDL cholesterol and making it incapable of causing atherosclerosis. In short, it reduces the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack and stroke.
• Prevents cognitive deterioration:
Olive oil protects the brain from deteriorating, slowing down the process of premature ageing. It helps to maintain cognitive capacities, memory and intellect which are gradually lost with age. Although not proven, it is believed that olive oil can prevent neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
• Good for the digestive system:
Olive oil improves intestinal, digestive and pancreatic function. It also stimulates the production of bile, inhibits the absorption of cholesterol by the intestine, makes diabetics require less insulin and improves the intestinal absorption of mineral salts.
• Improves bone mineralisation:
It reduces the risk of developing osteoporosis and fractures caused by ageing.
• Good for the skin:
Olive oil has been used as a cosmetic since antiquity due to its skin moisturising properties. Its consumption also improves the structure of the epidermis and slows coetaneous ageing from the inside.

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