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Why extra virgin olive oil is better for you than other types of cooking oils
People who are watching their waistlines or trying to eat healthier should be mindful of the amount of oil they use when cooking. But that doesn’t mean we should eliminate all oil from our diet. This is because extra virgin olive oil, in particular, has numerous health benefits.
Numerous studies have shown that consuming olive oil, particularly extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), can have a variety of health benefits. For example, the Spanish Predimed study (the largest randomised control trial on the Mediterranean diet ever conducted) found that women who ate a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra virgin olive oil had a 62% lower risk of breast cancer than women who were advised to eat a low fat diet.
Experts who have since examined numerous scientific studies on the Mediterranean diet and its effect on chronic diseases have concluded that EVOO is a primary reason the diet protects against breast cancer. There is also evidence that EVOO may help prevent type 2 diabetes and even Alzheimer’s disease.
So, what distinguishes extra virgin olive oil from other types of cooking oil? The answer is found in its composition.
Along with fat, EVOO contains a variety of natural substances such as polyphenols. Polyphenols are found naturally in plants and have been linked to a variety of health benefits, including a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and cognitive disorders. According to studies, one of the main reasons why EVOO is good for our health is because of the polyphenols it contains. Polyphenols are thought to have numerous health benefits, including improving the gut microbiome.
Polyphenols found in extra virgin olive oil have been linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, according to research. In fact, when researchers stripped EVOO of its polyphenols, they discovered that it did not protect the heart as well. One of the benefits of EVOO on heart health is that its polyphenols prevent cholesterol from oxidising. Blood vessels are damaged when cholesterol reacts with oxygen and becomes oxidised.
Because EVOO is made by simply crushing olives, it contains a high concentration of polyphenols. More refined olive oils, such as light olive oil or spreads, do not contain as many polyphenols. This is because producing these requires more processing, which results in the majority of the polyphenols being lost.
Other types of cooking oils
The majority of other cooking oils, such as sunflower oil and rapeseed oil, are derived from seeds. Because seeds are difficult to extract oil from, they must be heated and the oil extracted using solvents. This means that the majority of the polyphenols in seeds are lost during the manufacturing process.
Rapeseed oil, commonly referred to as canola oil or vegetable oil, is occasionally touted as a healthy substitute for extra virgin olive oil. There is some evidence that raw rapeseed oil, which hasn’t been cooked during cooking, can temporarily lower cholesterol levels, but there isn’t any proof that it can reduce the chance of developing conditions like heart disease that are linked to high cholesterol.
Of course, the majority of us cook with oils. However, if an oil is heated to a high enough temperature, the air’s oxygen will react with it and break down the oil’s fat. As a result, dangerous chemicals that irritate the eyes and even carcinogens may form. Rapeseed oil is particularly vulnerable to this oxidation-related process – in particular when routinely used for deep fat frying.
Since EVOO contains polyphenols, it doesn’t oxidise when used at the high temperatures required for shallow frying. Low quantities of polyphenols in rapeseed oil and other oils, including sunflower oil, make the fats less resistant to oxidation during cooking.
The fact that monounsaturated fat is the predominant kind of fat in EVOO is another crucial factor in its stability. This fat is both good for you and oxidation-resistant. The predominant form of fat in rapeseed oil is also monounsaturated fat. But unlike EVOO, rapeseed oil also has large concentrations of alpha-linolenic acid, a type of polyunsaturated fat. This is another reason why overheating rapeseed oil is not a good idea because it is not very stable.
The use of coconut oil is frequently recommended as a healthy oil. However, the high quantities of saturated fats in coconut oil have been shown to considerably raise LDL cholesterol levels, also referred to as “bad” cholesterol. There is evidence that coconut oil’s saturated fat raises the risk of heart disease. Elevated LDL-cholesterol is associated with cardiovascular disease.
One of the key signals about EVOO is that, when consumed as part of a Mediterranean diet, which is often rich in fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, fish, and olive oil, it appears to be much more beneficial. This is presumably due to the interaction between extra virgin olive oil’s healthful polyphenols and the veggies consumed as part of this diet. Numerous chronic diseases, such as cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease, are associated with a lower chance of development while following a Mediterranean diet. This might just make the additional cost of EVOO worthwhile.