Research shows that olive oil has a number of benefits for your heart, and the use of olive oil is associated with a lower rate of early death from diseases like Alzheimer’s. But did you know that this healthy liquid fat can also help your gut?

There are several different components of olive oil that can improve overall health. These include:

Phenolic compounds

These are molecules that are found in plants. Oleuropein, hydroxytyrosol, and tyrosol are the phenolic compounds found in olive oil, and they are powerful antioxidants that protect cells from damage caused by free radicals.

Monounsaturated fats

This type of “good” fat helps lower blood pressure, lower “bad” cholesterol, and raise “good” cholesterol levels, according to the American Heart Association.


In addition to phenolic compounds, olive oil is also high in vitamin E, which helps fight inflammation and disease.

How Does Olive Oil Impact the Gut?

All of the healthy components in olive oil can also benefit your gut health, which refers to the health and amount of specific microorganisms, known as the microbiota, living throughout your entire digestive system.

“Research has shown that olive oil can increase the diversity of the gut microbiota,” says Caroline West Passerrello, RDN, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and a dietitian in private practice in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. A study published in the journal Food & Function found that polyphenols, a type of compound found in extra virgin olive oil, can be directly absorbed by the intestine. These polyphenols may help maintain a healthy microbiota in the intestine, which is tied to improved immunity and reduced inflammation.

A July 2020 study published in the journal Nutrients found that polyphenols in olive oil increase beneficial bacteria such as Bifidobacteria in the gut, which could have positive effects on cholesterol, as well as on obesity, as they increase feelings of fullness.

What to Look for When Shopping for Olive Oil

Of course, you don’t need to look far to find this beneficial food; olive oil is available at most supermarkets and stores, and there are likely many different types and brands for you to choose from. However, not all of these will be equally good for your gut and your overall health.

If your goal is to impact your cardiovascular or gut health, it’s important to look specifically for extra virgin olive oil, also known as EVOO, as opposed to refined olive oil.

“The process of refining involves high heat, high pressure, and chemicals which can compromise the quality,” explains Megan Hilbert, RDN. EVOO also has a more intense flavour than refined olive oils. When shopping, look for unfiltered, expeller-pressed EVOO for the high amounts of polyphenols and other compounds that benefit health.

EVOO is more expensive, but it’s also higher in quality. Refined olive oil, which is usually cheaper, uses olives that have already had oils removed using the high-pressure process to extract oil. A chemical process using solvents extracts the last remaining oils, which then has to be refined to remove these chemicals and impurities, which results in an olive oil that is devoid of compounds such as polyphenols that make olive oil healthy.

With multiple options available, it can be confusing to know what kind of olive oil not to buy. Refined oils may be labelled “pure,” “light,” “pomace” or simply as “olive oil.” “Single country origin olive oil tends to be best – if olives are sourced from all over, this may be a sign the manufacturer is buying cheap olived from everywhere,” says Hilbert.

If the oil is packaged in clear glass or plastic, this can degrade the quality of olive oil much faster, so look for packaging in dark coloured glass or a tin, Hilbert adds. “Check the colour of the oil as well,” she says. “High- quality olive oil should be green-ish in colour. Lower-quality brands are often more yellow-looking.”

The North American Olive Oil Association (NAOOA) says that olive oil will retain its goodness for about two years after it’s bottled, so you may also want to look at the harvest date or best-by date. The NAOOA also suggests consuming olive oil within a few months of opening a bottle, since it can degrade when exposed to light, heat, and oxygen.



How Much Olive Oil Should You Consume?

Even though it has many benefits, olive oil is also high in fats – which means it should still be consumed in moderation. It should not be eaten in addition to other fats you eat, but in place of them.

“The recommendation for maximum health benefits is to replace animal fats and other oils with extra virgin olive oil, rather than simply add olive oil to the diet without making other adjustments,” notes West Passerrello. One tablespoon of olive oil has about 14 grams of fat, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, so 1-2 tablespoons of oil per day is plenty. This can be a mix of using it in salad dressing, or using it to bake or saute food.

SOURCE: Everyday Health