Olive oil Health Benefits, Uses, Quality & Best Products Compared

Author: Dr. Michael Tyler
Date: 27.08.2020
Reading time: 18:33 min

Olive oil is arguably the most famous of all essential oils. Its cultural roots stretch back thousands of years, for both medicinal and culinary purposes.

Name Virgin olive oil
Lat. Name Olea europaea
Origin Mediterranean Basin
Price per 10ml 20
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Teebaumöl from

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Inner impact

Healthy fatty acids

The human body needs fat to function properly. Our brain mostly consists of fat. The fatty acids in the myelin layer protect your nerves. Fat functions as a rapid energy source when it matters. Olive oil is one of the healthiest fats in the world. It consists - approximately three quarters - of monounsaturated oleic acid, also called oleic acid.

This healthy fat strengthens the immune system, inhibits inflammation and has a beneficial effect on the cardiovascular system. A study published in 2015 by Spanish scientists describes how oleic acid can prevent atherosclerosis. Interestingly, this fatty acid in olive oil is both suitable for prevention and can also remedy the blood vessels.

In addition, olive oil also provides omega-3 fatty acids that can effectively fight chronic inflammation. This is important for diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases and cancer.

Contrary to press reports, olive oil is actually ideal for cooking, including frying - even virgin, cold-pressed olive oil. This is proven by a Greek study in 2017. As a rule, when roasting in a pan you usually reach temperatures between 180 and 190 degrees Celsius. At these temperatures, olive oil, including virgin olive oil, functions better than most other vegetable oils. Its host of natural antioxidants obviously prevents harmful substances from being produced when heated. However, do not expect any particular health benefits from olive oil used in the frying pan. The heat removes many healthy ingredients.

Several antioxidants

Olive oil provides your body with a treasure trove of antioxidants. The pronounced, strong taste of olive oil shows that this oil contains numerous herbal substances. Phenols and other antioxidants are noticeable in food in terms of aromas, smells and colours. So far, around 200 different substances have been discovered in olive oil, most of them phenols, but also carotenoids, small amounts of vitamins A, E and F as well as triterpenes and sterols.

The numerous phenols of olive oil inhibit inflammation and even destroy dangerous germsItalian researchers compared the effects of a common phenol, oleuropein, with ibuprofen.   The antioxidant hydroxytyrosol is also frequently found in olive oil. This substance can inhibit the growth of cancer cells, protect nerve cells and the heart and has a balances hormonal balance.

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Inhibits inflammation

Thanks to its healthy fatty acids and numerous antioxidants, olive oil effectively inhibits inflammation. This effect should be the basis for numerous other positive effects of olive oil for our body.

As with all herbal products, it is not easy to pinpoint the causes of certain effects. That should also be the case with olive oil. The key word here is synergism. In principle, it means that the whole is larger than the sum of the individual parts. So far, there is no study that deals with the synergistic effects of individual components of olive oil. However, it was shown that the combination of thyme with olive oil influences the blood fat concentration better than olive oil alone. Synergism or not: Olive oil definitely inhibits inflammation. It is currently uncertain whether the healthy fatty acids or the numerous antioxidants contribute to this effect. The anti-inflammatory effect can prevent numerous diseases. For example, type 2 diabetes, cancer and diseases of the cardiovascular system. In addition, olive oil has a beneficial effect on all chronic diseases, for example rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel diseases and autoimmune diseases such as lupus erythematosus or Hashimoto.

Prevents strokes

In addition to heart disease, strokes are one of the most common causes of death worldwide. This is according to the World Health Organization (WHO). One more reason to choose olive oil.

This healthy vegetable oil can effectively reduce the risk of stroke. This was the result of a meta study, for which an Austrian scientists examined a total of 32 studies with over 840,000 participants. Accordingly, the increased consumption of olive oil can reduce the risk of stroke by a respectable 17 percent.

The study indicated that integrating olive oil into your daily diet extends life by 11 percent. An Italian-Spanish meta study also came to a similar conclusion in 2014.

Protects against heart disease

The Mediterranean diet became so famous because it is so good for the heart. In addition to fresh ingredients and a healthy mix of fish and meat, olive oil should be largely responsible for this effect. Strokes and heart diseases are responsible for most deaths worldwide, according to the WHO. One reason for the preventive effect of olive oil against heart diseases is likely to be its effect on LDL cholesterol. This 'bad' cholesterol causes fat to accumulate in the arteries around the heart. Olive oil prevents this and at the same time maintains optimal viscosity of blood. This means that it does cause excessively thick blood (blood clotting)  At the same time, olive oil lowers blood pressure, a strong risk factor for all heart diseases. Italian scientists found in a study that almost half of all participants, 48 percent, needed less blood pressure lowering medication if they consumed more olive oil. Dozens of scientific studies show that - especially virgin - olive oil protects your heart from diseases. If your family is prone to heart disease, include olive oil in your diet.

Stay fit and slim

Olive oil also seems to have a beneficial effect for slimming. Like any fat, olive oil provides around 700 kilocalories per 100 grams. But, the body does not immediately distribute this to love handles. Those who follow the Mediterranean diet remain fit and slim - although olive oil is used extensively in their dishes. This is demonstrated by a Spanish study that followed around 7,400 participants over two years. During the study, the participants often enjoyed high-fat dishes. Large amounts of olive oil do not necessarily result in higher body weight.

Prevent chronic illnesses

Olive oil can help prevent chronic diseases thanks to its positive health effects. So far, the effects of olive oil on Alzheimer's disease, rheumatoid arthritis and type 2 diabetes have been investigated. This is how olive oil prevents negative deposits in the brain. They prevent nerve cells from functioning and are thought to trigger Alzheimer's disease. In rheumatoid arthritis the combination of olive oil with omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil or algae is particularly effective.

Destroy Helicobacter Pylori - stomach ulcers

The bacterium Helicobacter Pylori causes ulcers in the stomach and can cause stomach cancer at a later stage. Olive oil is able to destroy this bacterium. This was shown in a study under laboratory conditions. Investigations in humans showed that olive oil alone can defeat the bacteria in about every 33% of participants.

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External impact

In cultures of the Mediterranean, olive oil has been used for skin and hair care for hundreds of years. So far, scientific studies have primarily dealt with the internal effects of olive oil. There are only a relatively limited number of studies on the external effects, which mostly relate to findings from animal experiments.

Accelerates wound healing

The antioxidants in conjunction with vitamins A and E and monounsaturated oleic acid mean that olive oil can accelerate wound healing. Oleic acid influences the inflammatory cytokines, which activate the immune system for wounds. Olive oil has a particularly favourable effect on wound healing - if it is mixed with other substances. Sesame oil and honey were effective in healing burns. The combination with sea buckthorn oil also accelerates the healing of burns.

Prevents skin cancer

Numerous antioxidants in olive oil seem to be quite successful in combating the free radicals that occur during sunbathing. This has been shown by an animal experiment. Hairless mice were rubbed with olive oil and then exposed to UV rays. Then damage to the genome was measured. The result: the DNA of UV-irradiated mice was obviously worse than the DNA of non-irradiated mice thanks to olive oil. That is why olive oil is well suited as a carrier oil - especially for skin care after a visit to the beach or after extensive sunbathing.

Olive oil for hair care: best with egg

The cosmetic industry blends olive oil with numerous shampoos and hair care products. Olive oil is able to penetrate the inside of the hair. With heat, it leaves a thin film on the hair, which gives it shine and makes it easy to comb. To promote hair growth, you can mix olive oil with egg yolk. Egg yolk contains peptides - certain protein compounds that promote hair growth.

Side effects

Worsens acne

Although olive oil can destroy certain pathogens, this does not apply to Propionibacterium acnes, the a causative agent of acne. Seemingly, these bacteria have a special preference for oleic acid, the monounsaturated fatty acid in olive oil. They connect to it and so penetrate more hair follicles. That is why it is advisable for all forms of acne not to use olive oil for skin care. Other oils like coconut or argan oil are better for people with this skin condition.

Worsens eczema

People with atopic dermatitis, also called eczema, should also refrain from using olive oil in skin care. This was shown, among other things, in a study by English scientists, which was published in 2016. A total of 115 newborn babies participated in the study. The left side of her body was treated with olive oil, sunflower oil or no oil, either twice a day. The profile of the skin’s uppermost layer, it’s moisture and water loss through the skin were then measured. The results were similar to a study in adult participants that had taken place three years earlier. Seemingly, olive oil weakens the skin's natural protective barrier. This can have an adverse effect on skin diseases such as neurodermatitis.

Application

You can reap the full health benefits of virgin olive oil if you do not heat high-quality oil, but use it raw, so to speak. There are several ways to do this in the kitchen. You can use olive oil in any salad dressing, make a herbal or spice oil and give your dishes that extra zest, or simply drizzle It over dishes with an extra shot of olive oil. Steamed vegetables, fried eggs or grilled fish add a taste to a tablespoon of olive oil.

Of course, one can use olive oil like any other oil in your kitchen. It is also suitable for roasting if you don't let the food roast for hours - and who does? However, it is advisable to use a different oil for frying. Ghee butter is the better solution here because it does not impart its own taste into food. Here are a few suggestions on culinary experiments with olive oil.

Classic salad dressing vinaigrette

Ingredients for 4 servings:  

  • 2 tablespoons of vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • Spices like mustard, honey, horseradish, garlic

A vinaigrette is an unstable emulsion. That means the oil mixes in tiny droplets with the vinegar. If the vinaigrette stops, it breaks up into its individual components relatively quickly. You therefore always mix a vinaigrette immediately before use. The easiest way is to shake your vinaigrette together. For this you need a jar that you can close tightly. Now add the vinegar with the salt and any spices such as finely chopped garlic, herbs or other ingredients to the jar, close it and shake until the salt has dissolved. This makes it easier for the oil to spread out in the vinegar mixture. Then add the oil, shake again and mix the sauce with the salad.

You can expand the quantity as you like. What is important is the ratio between vinegar and oil, which should always be one to two.

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Spice oil

You can easily enrich olive oil with the aromas of herbs or chilies. All you need is a bottle that can be sealed airtight. Put the herbs in a bottle and fill the bottle with olive oil. You should cut garlic into thin slices so that the oil absorbs the flavourings more easily. 750 ml is ideal. This is an amount that is easily consumed in most households in six months - that is how long the oil lasts.

Let the oil soak in a dark, cool place for at least two weeks.

You can use fresh or dried herbs. Mixtures also taste good. Here are a few suggestions for classic flavour combinations:

  • 4 sprigs of rosemary with 3 cloves of garlic and zest of half an organic lemon
  • 6 sprigs of thyme, 2 sprigs of rosemary, 2 sprigs of oregano, 2 cloves of garlic
  • 10 red chili peppers, 12 peppercorns

Olive oil as a carrier oil

Olive oil is warming and is therefore the perfect carrier oil for massage oils in the colder season. However, its inherent aroma can slightly distort the scent of other essential oils. It is therefore advisable to always mix olive oil as a carrier oil with a neutral oil. Wheat germ oil or grape seed oil perfectly complement olive oil for this task. Jojoba oil or almond oil are equally good partners.

Wintry fragrance combinations for massage oils

The following quantities are suitable for 100 ml of carrier oil:

  • Cuddling makes you happy - 6 drops orange, 4 drops [lavender](https: //www.best-essential-oils.com/lavender-oil), 3 drops of vanilla

  • Aroma of wine - 4 drops of orange, 5 drops cinnamon, 2 drops [vanilla](https: //www.xn-- therische-le-fcb6x.com/vanilleoel), 1 drop of clove.

  • Advent glow - 3 drops cinnamon, 2 drops clove, 2 drops orange, 2 drops geranium, 1 drop rosemary

Body scrub

With this peeling, you remove old skin cells and care for your skin at the same time. This peeling is the perfect preparation for a relaxing shower or bath. You can enrich the peeling with essential oils that care for your skin and delight you with its fragrance.

Ingredients for a body peeling:

  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil

  • 2 tablespoons of fine sugar or fine sea salt

  • Up to 4 drops of essential oil of your choice

Mix olive oil with sugar or salt and use immediately: massage the peeling into your skin with circular movements without applying too much pressure. Then shower off the peeling.

Face mask

Egg yolk complements olive oil perfectly. The following face mask is intended for mature skin that needs an extra helping of moisture. Honey has a calming and antiseptic effect. This ingredient in the face mask prevents blemishes.

Ingredients for a face mask:

  • 2 teaspoons of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • 1 egg yolk

Mix ingredients and apply to cleansed skin. Leave on for a good 20 minutes, then wash off with warm water and care for your skin as usual.  

Aftersun lotion

  • 10 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 10 tablespoons of aloe vera gel
  • 15 drops of lavender oil

Place the ingredients in a suitable container and beat with a hand mixer at the highest setting until a slightly creamy emulsion has formed. Then store in an easily sealable jar. If the emulsion decomposes, shake the closed glass well.

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Hair treatments

The following hair treatment is suitable for brittle hair:  

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 100 ml of water

Mix the ingredients with a hand mixer into a creamy mass. After washing, put the cream in the hair and massage it in well. Leave on for five minutes and then rinse thoroughly.

This hair treatment gives your hair a beautiful shine:

  • squeeze1 lemon

  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil

Put lemon juice with olive oil in a glass and close. Shake until an emulsion forms. Apply to the ends of hair in freshly washed hair, as far as possible not touching the hairline. Wrap the head with cling film and leave the hair treatment on for 45 minutes. Then wash out with a mild shampoo.

Manufacturing

The countries of the European Union are the largest producers of olive oil worldwide. Four out of five litres of olive oil are produced in Europe. Olive oil production has been the main economic activity in many regions of Spain, Italy and Greece for centuries.

Around a third of all farmers in Europe produce olive oil. This large number shows that in addition to large olive plantations, numerous medium and small-scale producers earn their living with olives and their oil. Other important olive oil producers are Turkey, Tunisia, Morocco and Syria.

Harvesting in winter months

Olive oil fruits are harvested before they are fully ripe. The time of harvest is usually between October and December. Depending on the size of the farm, the olives for oil production are harvested by hand or with a shaker. Then you mechanically shake the branches. Sometimes the trees are trimmed traditionally with truncheons and then trimmed straight away. This saves a later work step, because olive trees need regular pruning. Bludgeons are disadvantaged, however, because they can injure the trees. 

In all methods, nets are stretched under the trees. They catch the falling olives, which are then shaken directly from the nets into the collecting container.

Immediate processing

After harvesting, the olives are processed as quickly as possible, ideally on the same day or the day after. They are washed first in the mill. Small branches and leaves that have found their way from the nets into the collection container are removed. Granite grindstones crush the fruit into a pulp. For cold-pressed oils, this slurry is now further compressed with hydraulic presses at a temperature of no more than 27 degrees Celsius. During gentle cold extraction, the porridge is spun in a vacuum to remove amniotic fluid from the porridge.   Finally, the oil is centrifuged and - if necessary - filtered before it is filled. Depending on the variety, 5 to 10 kg of olives are required for 1 liter of olive oil.

The hot pressing is also called the second pressing. The fruit pulp for cold pressing is mixed with hot water or steam. The olive pomace is then pressed again to obtain the remaining oil. During this process, the heat destroys some of the healthy ingredients.

Ingredients

The proportions of the ingredients in olive oil can vary widely. The weather, the type of olives and the time of harvest are just examples of the factors that influence them. It is clear that oleic acid is by far the most represented among the various fatty acids. Plant active ingredients such as polyphenols, carotenoids and vitamins can make up to 1.3 percent. The following quantities are to be understood as guidelines:

  • Oleic acid 55 - 83%                           

  • Palmitic acid 7.5 - 20%                           

  • Stearic acid 0.5 - 5%                           

  • Linoleic acid 3.5 - 21%                           

  • Palmitoleic acid 0.9 - 3%             

Chlorophyll gives the olive oil its typical greenish colour. Oil from very ripe olives can also appear golden yellow. The oil has a density of 0.91 to 0.92 g / cm³. It freezes at -5 to -9 ° C.

Grades of Olive Oil

In the European Community, olive oil is divided into eight different grades. At that time, Brussels approved the sale of the highest quality extra virgin olive oil from blends of different oils of dubious quality. According to the regulation, these oils may contain 150 mg / kg alkyl ester.

These are chemical compounds that mainly occur in low-quality oils. A high-quality oil contains a maximum of 15 mg/kg, in exceptional cases this value can also be 30 mg/kg. When declaring the content of an olive oil in the EU, it is not necessary to state the value of the alkyl ester. So consumers have no way of really assessing quality.

The following grades are allowed in the EU:

  1. Extra virgin olive oil is obtained in mechanical processes at temperatures below 40 ° C. The acidity is below 0.8 percent.

  2. Virgin olive oil is obtained in the same way, but can have an acidity of up to 2 percent.

  3. Lampant oil is cold-pressed oil with defects that needs to be refined.

  4. Refined olive oil must not be sold to consumers, but must be processed into olive oil.

  5. Olive oil consists of refined and cold-pressed oils of the first and second grade. The mixing ratio is arbitrary. However, the acidity may only be up to 1 percent.

  6. Raw olive pomace oil is extracted with solvents from the pomace, the residue from the first pressing. It must be processed into refined olive pomace oil.

  7. Refined olive-pomace oil is obtained by refining it from raw olive-pomace oil. It must be processed into olive pomace oil.

  8. Olive pomace oil is a mixture of refined olive pomace oil with virgin oil of the first two grades. As with olive oil, the mixing ratio is arbitrary. Only the acidity is required, which can amount to up to 1 percent.

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History

Olive oil was already very popular in the province of Galilee in northern Israel 5,000 years BC. Archaeologists suspect that the inhabitants of Crete built the first olive trees around 3,500 BC purely for oil production. At the same time, olive oil was already known in Italy. Phoenicians and Greeks probably imported their techniques to the neighbouring country. Olive cultivation spread from the south of Italy to the north. Around 600 BC the olive reached the French Rhone. However, historians suspect that the Phoenicians had brought the olive to Spain earlier.

Olives for the sun god Ra

The ancient Egyptians also cultivated olive trees on a large scale. Ramses III had almost 3000 hectares planted for the sun god Ra. However, the Egyptians mainly used olive oil for ritual purposes. Cultivation was only possible in a few areas. That is why Egypt had to meet its needs through imports.

The Romans had been trying to plant olive trees in Carthage in North Africa since the second century BC. They also imported olive oil from Attica. In order to meet demand, olive oil was produced in large quantities even in distant provinces of the Roman Empire. Several emperors gave olive oil to the citizens of Rome to make themselves popular.

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