Olive oil is oil derived from olive trees. The olive tree is a part of the Oleaceae family of flowering plants.
The exact origins of olive trees are unknown. Historians believe olive trees were cultivated in the sub-Saharan African region.
Unlike many plants, olive trees thrive in harsh conditions. They can survive and flourish in dry, arid climates.
Olive trees flower during bloom, and bloom better without moisture. Therefore, olive trees are suspected to be originally native to areas where not much else could survive.
Olives were grown for thousands of years for use as lamp oil. Records of olives as edible fruit and a source of oil reach as far back as the Bronze Age.
Records detailing olive tree cultivation were discovered in the east region of the Mediterranean Coast. This region today consists of Palestine, Syria, Israel, Lebanon and Turkey.
Ancient Syrian documents dating back to 2000 BC were discovered concerning the value of olive oil.
At the time, olive oil was five times more valuable than wine. It was twice and a half as valuable as seed oils.
The commercial movement of olive trees and olive oil is well documented. Olives moved steadily westward into Europe as olives and olive oil became increasingly popular.
Olives moved to North Africa and Spain around 1000 BC. The Greeks were brought olive trees to the area that would eventually become Italy.
From then onwards, the Roman Empire began harvesting olives. The Roman Empire covered many regions, and spread olive tree cultivation across its territories. (Source)
In the past, it took immense effort to extract oil from olives. Olive trees were hit with sticks to cause the fruit to drop. This method of harvest would often bruise the olives, which reduced the quality of the oil produced.
Olives were then crushed whole in stone or granite wheels. These wheels had to be turned manually, a process that required both time and exertion.
Today, the process is simpler:
- Olives are picked carefully, and then washed.
- The olives are then ground in rollers, usually stainless steel.
- Once a paste is formed, water is slowly added and mixed in.
- This process – malaxation – lasts between 20 and 40 minutes.
- The paste is then put through a centrifuge to separate oil and water from paste.
- The oil is then separated from the water.
The resultant oil may then be subjected to a refining process. This is to eliminate residual unnecessary compounds. (Source)
The purest, most costly form of olive oil is Extra Virgin. The least pure form is “light” or mixed that tends to include artificial ingredients and vegetable oils. (Source)
Olive Oil Nutrition
Olive oil contains high quantities of monounsaturated fatty acids. It is considered to be one of the healthiest fatty oils.
Monounsaturated fatty acids have a range of health benefits. Additionally, this oil contains other healthy fats, such Omega 3 and Omega 6.
A tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil contains 120 calories. This same portion is devoid of sugar and carbohydrates.
That same tablespoon also contains the following:
- Vitamin K (10 percent of your daily value)
- Vitamin E (10 percent of your daily value)
- 14 grams of fat, 9.8 grams of which are monounsaturated (Source)
Olive Oil Health Benefits
The health benefits are abundant. Certain regional diets that are high in olive oil consumption are evidence of its healthy properties.
The so-called Mediterranean diet is one such regional diet. This diet, high in healthy fats and oils, is typical within Southern Europe and the Mediterranean coast.
Olive oil and olives are an essential part of most meals in these areas. Researchers have linked these high rates of olive oil consumption to better health and reduced cancer rates.
The Mediterranean diet is associated with multiple advantages to your physical health and well-being. These benefits include lowered risk of heart disease and certain cancers.
A lot of the benefits boil down to its molecular structure. It’s very high in compounds called phenols which are considered powerful antioxidants that are capable of lowering inflammation and fighting free radical damage. Inflammation is the main reason that endothelial dysfunction occurs (meaning problems with the inner linings of blood vessels), thrombosis and the inability to metabolize carbohydrates well.
Monounsaturated fats have been linked to improved heart health. Regular doses of olive oil can contribute towards lowering “bad” cholesterol (LDL).
Olive oil may also improve “good” cholesterol (HDL) and lower high blood pressure. This can significantly reduce risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Olive oil contains polyphenols, which are a powerful type of antioxidant. Polyphenols may assist in reducing inflammation within the body.
Healthy fats can positively influence weight loss and management. A study monitored the effects of regular olive oil consumption on weight loss.
Subjects were separated into two groups. Half of the subjects consumed a low-fat diet for eight weeks, the other half consumed a high-fat diet.
The higher-fat diet included regular servings of olive oil. The results of the study revealed that subjects eating the higher-fat diet lost more weight.
Healthy fats have been proven to promote brain health and cognitive ability. The brain itself is composed mostly of fatty acids. For this reason olive oil is considered to be a “brain food”. This is due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Olive oil can also help to boost your mood. A study monitored the relationship between fat intake and the risk of depression. Monounsaturated fats like olive oil were found to lower the risk of depression. Contrastingly, consuming trans fats (found in processed foods) increased the risk of depression.
Olive oil can reduce your risk of contracting diabetes. Monounsaturated fats can help to stabilize levels of blood sugar.
Furthermore, olive oil contains vitamin E, which can have rejuvenating properties on your skin.
You can use olive oil as a natural remedy for dry skin and hair. It can also be mixed with other ingredients such as sugar and lemon juice to create a refreshing facial mask or hair conditioner. (Source)
Read our guide to the Paleo Diet
The Paleo diet is based on one core founding principal. If a food or beverage wasn’t available approximately 3 million years ago, don’t eat it.
The entire diet is based off our Paleolithic ancestors’ eating habits. Humans during this period were hunter-gatherers.
Our predecessors ate only what could be caught or found in the wild. There were no donuts or sugary snacks during this era.
Agriculture was extremely basic – the agricultural revolution was thousands of years in the future. That meant few high carbohydrate foods were available.
The average Paleolithic-era human tended to be lean, lithe and fit. Contrastingly, today high rates of obesity abound across the globe.
Many of the popular foods we consume in excess are low in nutrients. They contain an excess of carbohydrates and sugar.
So what’s off the table on a Paleo diet?
- Cereal grains and grain-products
- Dairy (although some Paleo followers allow it in moderation)
- Refined sugar
- Tubers (i.e. potatoes)
- Processed foods
- Refined oils, including vegetable oils
- Sugary foods (i.e. candy)
The Paleo diet is about quality, not quantity. You’ll be eating natural, nutritionally rich foods.
On the Paleo diet, you will eat:
- Fresh, leafy green vegetables
- Meat (preferably organic or grass-fed)
- Fish (preferably wild)
- Nuts and seeds (in moderation)
- Healthy, natural oils (i.e. coconut oil)
- Fruit (in moderation, fruits contain fructose – a type of sugar)
*Check out our Paleo Diet Food List*
Olive oil is considered natural, healthy oil. It is an acceptable addition to the Paleo diet. (Source)
Find paleo-friendly meal plans here.
Is it Keto-Friendly?
Read our guide to the Keto Diet
The ketogenic diet is low in carbohydrates and high in fats. The keto diet aims to provoke your body into ketosis. Ketosis is a metabolic state that promotes weight loss.
The body enters ketosis when it is deprived of food. However, the ketogenic diet isn’t about unhealthily restricting calories.
Most individuals consume an excess of carbohydrates. These carbohydrates are then converted into glucose by the body.
The body then burns glucose as fuel. Unfortunately, when glucose is the primary source of fuel fat is stored unnecessarily.
When you restrict carbohydrates, the body will begin to burn fat. The liver will then begin to break down fat. This process creates ketones.
When ketones reach a certain level in your blood, your body is in ketosis. If you must have carbohydrates, limit them.
Try not to eat more than 15 grams per day of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates should make up only 5 percent of your diet.
So what will you be eating to achieve ketosis?
- Meats (in moderation)
- Vegetables that grow above ground
- Leafy green vegetables
- Nuts and seeds (in moderation)
- Healthy fats (i.e. coconut oil, saturated fats)
- Fatty dairy (i.e. high fat cream, butter, etc)
- Low-carb sweeteners (i.e. stevia)
These are the foods you will avoid on the keto diet:
- All grain-based and cereal products
- Sugar (i.e. honey and maple syrup)
- Tubers (i.e. potatoes)
- Fruit (except avocados and berries)
- Processed foods
Ideally, you should be eating mostly fats (70 percent of the diet). Protein should be had in moderation (25 percent).
Olive oil is high in monounsaturated fats. It is an ideal addition to the keto diet. (Source)
Check out our keto-friendly meal plans.
Is it AIP-Friendly?
Read our guide to the Autoimmune Protocol
AIP stands for autoimmune protocol. The AIP diet is an elimination diet that is divided into two phases.
The AIP diet is targeted at individuals with autoimmune diseases. These diseases can affect almost any part of the body.
All autoimmune diseases have one aspect in common. The immune system self-attacks, causing inflammation in the body that manifests as disruptive symptoms.
There is no cure for autoimmune diseases, only treatments to manage the symptoms. The AIP diet aims to improve gut health to reduce overall inflammation in the body.
A healthy gut is important to your general well-being. The AIP diet eliminates foods that are considered irritants or allergens.
Phase I of the AIP diet lasts 6-8 weeks. This phase is the elimination portion of the diet.
During this phase, you will be avoiding:
- Grain-based products
- Nightshade vegetables
- Nuts and seeds
- Processed foods
- Food additives
- Dairy products
- Sugary foods
- Seed oils
- Butter products (ghee, margarine)
Although this may seem highly restrictive, the goal is to allow your gut to heal by excluding all irritants.
These foods may be re-introduced in Phase II of the diet. However, they must be re-introduced one at a time to identify which foods provoke inflammation.
During Phase I of the diet, you will be eating only:
- Meats (grass-fed or organic)
- Fish (wild, not farmed)
- All vegetables exempting nightshades
- Fruit (maximum 2-3 pieces per day)
- Natural coconut milk
- Fermented foods (exempting soy products)
- Healthy oils (i.e. coconut and avocado)
This is to determine which foods irritate your gut. The end target is to permanently eliminate foods that provoke autoimmune disease symptoms.
Olive oil is not considered an irritant. It can be consumed on the AIP diet. (Source)
Get AIP-friendly meal plans here.
How To Buy Olive Oil
As with any other product, quality is important. The purer it is, the better the health benefits.
There are three distinct categories, ranging from most pure to least pure.
The purest form is Extra Virgin. This type is not processed with chemicals or subjected to high heats. This allows preservation of the nutrients and fatty acids. It is derived exclusively from perfectly ripe olives.
The second category of is virgin. This type of olive oil is derived from extra virgin oil, and is essentially double-pressed extra virgin oil.
The olives used for virgin olive oil tend to be slightly riper. It is still considered good quality oil.
The third category consists of oil blends/light olive oil. This category is usually chemically processed. It may be mixed with vegetable oils and artificial ingredients.
Ideally, purchase extra virgin or virgin. Check the ingredients label to be sure of the contents. You can avoid imitations and inferior products by buying organic, 100 percent olive oil that comes in a dark bottle. Look for labels that indicate your oil is “extra-virgin” and ideally cold-pressed. Cold-pressed or expeller-pressed oil hasn’t been refined so it holds all of its natural vitamins, essential fatty acids, antioxidants and other nutrients better.
Pure olive oil is doesn’t come cheap. Still, you get what you pay for.
How To Use Olive Oil
You can use olive oil in a variety of ways. For example, it makes a fantastic base for salad dressings.
It can also be added to existing sauces and dips. Simply add a teaspoonful to your dip or sauce of choice, depending on your preference. (Source)
It is also an ideal complement to most vegetables. You can drizzle extra virgin oil on roasted vegetables.
Olive oil’s unique flavor is fantastic for marinating meats and seafood. Mix oil with spices of your choice and allow your dish to marinate for several hours.
It can even be used in desserts. Mix it with batter for cookies and cakes for a savory-sweet flavor. (Source)
Skin and hair
Olive oil can be utilized to enhance your beauty regime, with beneficial properties for skin and hair. If you have dry and damaged hair, it can hydrate it.
To use as a hair mask, follow these simple instructions. Heat up half a cup of extra virgin olive oil. Do not allow the oil to boil.
Apply the oil liberally to your hair. Wrap your hair in a towel or plastic wrap. Let it sit for 45-60 minutes and wash out. Enjoy your moisturized hair!
Olive oil is gentle enough to be used to remove stubborn cosmetics. It can also easily remove sticky wax from skin.
- Furniture polish – make wood shine by mixing 1 part lemon juice to 2 parts olive oil and using as a polish.
- Leather cleaner – restore dry cracked leather. Allow olive oil to sit for 30 minutes and wipe off.
- Grease remover – clean car oil off your hands easily. Mix olive oil and one teaspoon of salt or sugar and rub vigorously. (Source)
Olive oil is a nutritious addition to your diet. It also has multiple uses for beauty and other purposes. Try it out today!
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