Nutritional values of extra virgin olive oil

Olive oil, especially in its extra virgin form, has been highlighted as a crucial component behind the notable longevity and low incidence of chronic diseases among the inhabitants of the Mediterranean region.

This precious liquid is not only fundamental in the gastronomy of these countries, but also plays an essential role in their health and well-being. Scientific research has linked regular consumption of extra virgin olive oil to the prevention of a number of conditions, including coronary heart disease and certain types of cancer. Scientific research has linked regular consumption of extra virgin olive oil to the prevention of a number of conditions, including coronary heart disease and certain types of cancer.

The key to these benefits lies in the high quality of the oil, which retains a rich composition of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds due to its purely mechanical extraction method. This article explores how extra virgin olive oil contributes to health and longevity, highlighting the importance of its quality in maximizing its protective effects.

Nutritional composition of olive oil

Olive oil, considered a pillar of the Mediterranean diet, is a food rich in essential nutrients and bioactive compounds. Per 100 grams, it provides approximately 899 calories, almost entirely from lipids, making it a concentrated source of energy.

At the serving level, considering a portion of 10 grams, it provides about 90 calories, making it suitable for moderate consumption within a balanced diet.

Nutritional importance

The composition of olive oil makes it an exceptionally healthy food. Its high content of MUFA (monounsaturated fatty acids), in particular, makes it more stable and resistant to oxidation compared to oils rich in PUFA (polyunsaturated fatty acids), which also makes it ideal for cooking, including frying. The quality of olive oil, especially when extra virgin is chosen, is crucial to take full advantage of its nutritional and protective health benefits.

In summary, the nutritional composition of olive oil underlines its role as an essential component of a healthy diet, contributing to the prevention of chronic diseases and promoting a long life, distinctive features of the Mediterranean diet and its adherents.

Oil as a health element

Fatty acids and their impact on health

The fatty acid composition of olive oil is a key determinant of its nutritional properties and health benefits. Understanding how each type of fatty acid influences the body is key to fully appreciating the value of this food in a healthy diet.

The lipids in olive oil are mainly divided into three categories: saturated fatty acids (SFA), monounsaturated (MUFA), and polyunsaturated (PUFA), present in proportions of approximately 17%, 71%, and 11%, respectively. This composition endows it with a number of unique nutritional and health properties.

Saturated fatty acids (SFA)

Why saturated fatty acids are harmful to health

Saturated fatty acids (SFAs) are considered harmful to health mainly because they can increase levels of LDL cholesterol, known as the “bad cholesterol”. A high level of LDL in the blood is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, such as atherosclerosis, which occurs when fatty plaques form on the walls of the arteries, reducing blood flow and increasing the likelihood of heart attacks or strokes.

Despite making up a smaller proportion, the SFAs in olive oil do not increase the risk of cardiovascular disease when consumed as part of a balanced diet, due to the balance with other more beneficial fatty acids.

The SFAs present in olive oil represent approximately 17% of its fat composition. Unlike other vegetable oils and animal fats, which may have higher levels of SFAs, olive oil contains a moderate amount, which contributes to better cardiovascular health compared to more saturated fats.

Although SFA have been linked to an increase in LDL cholesterol levels (known as the “bad” cholesterol), the effect is much less pronounced when consumed within the context of a diet rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as the Mediterranean diet.

Consumption recommendations suggest limiting SFA intake, but olive oil is considered a healthier option due to its predominant fatty profile in MFA and PUFA.

Monounsaturated fatty acids (MFA)

Why monounsaturated fatty acids are beneficial to health

Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA), such as oleic acid found in olive oil, are beneficial for cardiovascular health. They help reduce LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels without adversely affecting HDL (“good”) cholesterol, maintaining a healthy balance between the two. This effect helps to reduce the risk of atherosclerotic plaque formation in the arteries, thereby reducing the likelihood of heart disease and stroke. In addition, MGAs can improve insulin sensitivity and stabilize blood sugar levels, which is beneficial in preventing type 2 diabetes.

Oleic acid, the main MUFA component of olive oil, is known for its positive effects on cardiovascular health. It helps regulate blood cholesterol levels, reducing LDL (“bad” cholesterol) and maintaining or increasing HDL (“good” cholesterol). This lipid profile is essential to prevent the formation of atherosclerotic plaques and improve heart health.

Oleic acid, which makes up about 71% of the fatty acids in olive oil, is the most abundant MFA and has significant beneficial effects on cardiovascular health. This fatty acid helps regulate blood cholesterol levels, lowering LDL while maintaining or increasing HDL (“good” cholesterol). This balance is crucial to prevent the formation of atherosclerotic plaques in the arteries, thus reducing the risk of heart disease. Regular consumption of olive oil, especially in the context of a Mediterranean diet, has been associated with a lower incidence of adverse cardiovascular events.

Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA)

Why polyunsaturated fatty acids are beneficial for health

Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), such as omega-3 and omega-6, are essential to the body and have numerous health benefits. They contribute to cardiovascular health by reducing levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood, which helps prevent heart disease and stroke. In addition, PUFA are important for brain development and function, especially during pregnancy and childhood. They also have anti-inflammatory properties, which may help reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease.

They include omega-3 and omega-6, essential for brain function and cardiovascular health. Although present to a lesser extent, they contribute to maintaining the body’s inflammatory balance and preventing chronic diseases.

Although in smaller proportions (approximately 11%), AGPs such as omega-3 and omega-6, are essential components of olive oil that play important roles in brain and cardiovascular health. Omega-3s, in particular, are known for their anti-inflammatory effects and their ability to lower blood pressure. In addition, they contribute to nervous system health and may lower the risk of heart disease. The presence of omega-6, on the other hand, is essential for cellular growth and the maintenance of skin and eye health. Olive oil, by offering these PUFAs, although in smaller amounts compared to its richness in MFAs, remains a valuable source for achieving the recommended balance of omega-3 and omega-6 in the diet.

Bottle optimized to Extend Oil Shelf Life

Antioxidants and vitamins

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is especially known for its benefits in skin health. It contributes to its hydration, elasticity and ability to fight inflammation, in addition to protecting it from the damaging effects of UV radiation and other harmful environmental factors. In terms of the immune system, this vitamin strengthens the body’s defenses against viruses and bacteria, playing a vital role in cellular immunity.

Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant that plays a crucial role in protecting cells against oxidative damage. This type of damage is caused by free radicals, unstable molecules that can damage cells and contribute to aging and disease. Vitamin E helps neutralize these free radicals, thus protecting cell membranes, proteins and DNA from damage that could lead to chronic diseases.

Vitamin E and delaying the signs of aging

Vitamin E is closely related to aging. Its role as an antioxidant makes it essential in the fight against oxidative stress, one of the main contributing factors to the aging process. By neutralizing free radicals, vitamin E helps protect cells and tissues from damage that can accelerate aging.

Benefits of vitamin E on aging

  • Cellular protection: By protecting cells from oxidative damage, vitamin E helps maintain cell integrity and function, which is vital to delay the signs of aging.
  • Skin health: It contributes to skin health by protecting against damage from UV radiation, pollution and other environmental factors that can accelerate skin aging. This results in a reduction of fine lines, wrinkles and other visible signs of aging.
  • Supports the immune system: With age, the immune system weakens. Vitamin E helps strengthen the immune response, protecting the body against infections and diseases that can affect quality of life in advanced stages.

Incorporating foods rich in vitamin E into the diet, such as nuts, seeds, vegetable oils and green leafy vegetables, is an effective strategy to fight aging from within. In addition, the use of topical products containing vitamin E can offer direct benefits for skin health, complementing the effects obtained through diet.

Phenolic compounds

The phenolic compounds such as oleocanthal and hydroxytyrosol are chemical substances found mainly in extra virgin olive oil and are characterized by their remarkable antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Oleocanthal has been compared in its action to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, offering anti-inflammatory effects without the side effects associated with synthetic drugs. This makes it particularly valuable in the management of chronic pain and inflammation.

Hydroxytyrosol is another phenolic compound with strong antioxidant properties, capable of protecting against oxidative damage to cells. It has been shown to have protective effects against certain types of cancer, including breast and colon cancer, by inhibiting cancer cell growth and inducing apoptosis (programmed cell death).

Anti-inflammatory and protective benefits against certain types of cancer

Regular consumption of foods rich in phenolic compounds may offer protection against inflammatory diseases and reduce the risk of certain types of cancer. These compounds interfere with the progression of chronic diseases, not only because of their antioxidant properties but also because of their ability to modulate inflammatory processes in the body.

The inclusion in the diet of foods rich in vitamin E and phenolic compounds, such as extra virgin olive oil, can be an effective strategy to promote health and prevent disease, highlighting the importance of a balanced diet rich in essential nutrients.

Olive oil acidity

The relationship between extra virgin olive oil and longevity

The effect of olive oil on longevity and the prevention of chronic diseases is remarkably broad and extends across various aspects of health. Regular consumption of this golden liquid is linked to a significant decrease in the incidence of cardiovascular problems. This relationship benefits primarily from olive oil’s ability to improve the health of the endothelium, that inner layer of blood vessels that plays a crucial role in regulating blood pressure and preventing inflammation, both essential factors in keeping the heart and blood vessels functioning optimally.

In addition, olive oil contains a wealth of antioxidants and phenolic compounds that play a key role in the fight against cancer. These substances not only possess anti-inflammatory properties but are also capable of inducing cancer cell death, thus promoting cellular health without compromising the integrity of healthy cells. This ability to discriminate between healthy and malignant cells makes it a valuable ally in the prevention of various types of cancer.

The protection that olive oil offers against neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, adds another layer to its benefit profile. The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds present in olive oil help mitigate the risk of age-associated cognitive decline, supporting brain health and maintaining mental acuity.

Together, these properties make olive oil not only a delicious addition to the diet, but also an essential component in promoting a long and healthy life, protecting the body against a wide range of chronic diseases. Its incorporation into the daily diet can be seen as an investment in long-term health, offering benefits that go beyond simple gustatory pleasure to encompass comprehensive protection against modern health challenges.

Recommended consumption

The recommended consumption of olive oil may vary according to different factors, such as age, gender, level of physical activity and overall diet. However, dietary guidelines suggest that, for adults, an amount of approximately 2 tablespoons (about 30 ml) of olive oil a day can be beneficial within a balanced diet rich in plant foods and low in saturated fats.

For men and women, there is no differentiated recommendation as to the amount of olive oil; the differences in daily energy intake are adjusted rather in the total proportion of fats. Since olive oil is a source of calories, it is important to integrate it into the diet without exceeding the total caloric requirement.

Choosing a quality olive oil is a decision that goes beyond simple culinary preference; it is a commitment to health and wellness.

A high quality extra virgin olive oil will not only enrich your dishes with its distinctive flavor profile and aromatic notes, but will also provide maximum nutritional benefits. These oils retain antioxidants and health-supporting phenolic compounds better than lower quality oils that have been overly processed.

We invite you to consider olive oil not as a simple ingredient, but as an integral part of your diet. Making olive oil a constant presence in your diet can be a step towards a healthier life, providing support for your cardiovascular system, boosting your immunity and offering protection against oxidative stress and inflammation.

The regular inclusion of olive oil in your diet is a simple practice that can have profound and lasting effects on your overall health.

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