8 proven benefits you only get from extra-virgin olive oil

Olive oil, the fat source at the heart of the Mediterranean diet, is one of the healthiest oils you can put in your body.

All olive oils are rich in monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), particularly oleic acid. This omega-9 fatty acid may improve heart health by lowering cholesterol and reducing inflammation.

But if you want to reap the full health benefits of this miracle oil, not just any olive oil will do…

Differentiating olive oil

You can usually find two types of olive oil on your grocery store shelves: regular olive oil and extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO). There is also virgin olive oil, but that version is much less common.

EVOO is “cold pressed,” meaning that it’s made by grinding olives into a paste, then pressing them to extract the oil. No heat is used in this lengthy process. The resulting oil is green in color and has a pleasant, fruity odor and grassy, peppery flavor.

To call this cold-pressed olive oil EVOO, it must be certified, which takes time and involves meeting a lot of rigorous standards. If the oil fails to meet all these standards but is still judged to maintain the purity and taste of the olive, it receives the label “virgin” olive oil. Virgin olive oil often has a little EVOO mixed in.

Any cold-pressed olive oil that fails to meet these virgin or extra-virgin standards is usually heat-refined to get rid of impurities. Not only does that process degrade the color and taste of the oil, but it can also reduce the number one reason you should choose EVOO…

Go extra-virgin

Unlike regular refined olive oil, EVOO contains more than 200 antioxidant plant compounds, including polyphenols. And it’s the polyphenols that account for many of EVOO’s health advantages as well as its delicious flavor.

Polyphenols can help reduce inflammation, which is thought to contribute to a wide range of chronic conditions like heart disease, type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.

Here are just some of EVOO’s health benefits:

  • In one study, participants who consumed more than half a tablespoon of olive oil a day — about the amount used in a serving of salad dressing — had a 28 percent lower risk of dying from dementia compared with those who never or rarely consumed olive oil. Also, people who replaced just one teaspoon of margarine and mayonnaise with a teaspoon of olive oil each day had an 8 to 14 percent lower risk of dementia-related death.
  • Research published in the journal Nutrients concluded that consuming two tablespoons of EVOO a day can improve blood pressure and HDL and LDL cholesterol levels in as little as three weeks. It also found that two tablespoons of EVOO a day could reduce fasting blood glucose in as little as two weeks.
  • A study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed those who had 1½ tablespoons of EVOO per day were 57 percent less likely to die of cardiovascular disease and 34 percent less likely to die from all causes compared with those who consumed none. Regular olive oil didn’t have this benefit.
  • According to a study published in the journal Foods, Greek men and women over age 70 who exclusively used olive oil in food prep and cooking had higher scores on a scale of successful aging attributes such as a good body mass index (BMI) and participation in social activities, compared with those who used no olive oil and those who used olive oil and other fats.
  • Researchers from Temple University discovered that EVOO helps reduce tau build-up in the brains of mice. Accumulation of tau has been connected to cognitive decline and dementia.
  • A team of international researchers found that consuming 1.5 tablespoons of EVOO a day led to a whopping 68 percent reduction in invasive breast cancer risk.
  • A study found that when combined with dark chocolate, EVOO slows or prevents atherosclerosis, the narrowing of the arteries due to plaque build-up.
  • Harvard researchers followed a group of 90,000 for two decades and found EVOO reduced mortality from four major health threats.

Does cooking hurt EVOO?

One of the downsides of EVOO is that it has a relatively low smoke point, meaning it’s not good for high-heat cooking. And there has been a question as to whether the health properties of EVOO are lost when it’s heated.

Researchers studied the impact of cooking with EVOO on its health benefits, and what they found was reassuring. Even when heated to 338°, around the temperature at which food is commonly sauteed, the concentration of antioxidants in the EVOO, while reduced, still met all the parameters set for good health, including heart protection.

Still, if you’re going to consume EVOO for health reasons, it’s probably best to consume it raw. Aim for two tablespoons a day and use it in salad dressings, as a dip for bread, drizzled over your meals or even mixed into a smoothie. It is also tasty drizzled on roasted vegetables after they come out of the oven.

Also, make sure when storing your EVOO that you keep it in a dark glass bottle or tin and store it in a cool, dark place since light and heat can shorten its lifespan.

Editor’s Note: You’re invited to join a tiny handful of Americans who enjoy rare, fresh-pressed olive oil all year long. Take my word for it, there’s a difference in taste, quality and benefit! Click here to learn more…


Are all olive oils equally healthy for you? A look at the research. — Washington Post

Regular Vs. Extra-Virgin Olive Oil: What’s The Difference? — Tasting Table

Regular Olive Oil vs. Extra-Virgin Olive Oil: Is There Actually a Difference? — The Kitchn

Oleic Acid – Uses, Side Effects, and More — WebMD

Is Extra Virgin Olive Oil the Critical Ingredient Driving the Health Benefits of a Mediterranean Diet? A Narrative Review — Nutrients

Only virgin type of olive oil consumption reduces the risk of mortality. Results from a Mediterranean population-based cohort — European Journal of Clinical Nutrition

The Effect of Exclusive Olive Oil Consumption on Successful Aging: A Combined Analysis of the ATTICA and MEDIS Epidemiological Studies — Foods

Mediterranean Diet and Invasive Breast Cancer Risk Among Women at High Cardiovascular Risk in the PREDIMED Trial — JAMA Internal Medicine

Carolyn Gretton

By Carolyn Gretton

Carolyn Gretton is a freelance writer based in New Haven, CT who specializes in all aspects of health and wellness and is passionate about discovering the latest health breakthroughs and sharing them with others. She has worked with a wide range of companies in the alternative health space and has written for online and print publications like Dow Jones Newswires and the Philadelphia Inquirer.