Olive oil is mainly made up of mostly monounsaturated fatty acids, the most important of which is called oleic acid. Oleic acid is known to be extremely heart-healthy and capable of fighting free radical damage (or oxidative stress), which has numerous health implications. This is especially true when compared to compounds found in more refined vegetable oils, trans fats or hydrogenated fats.
Diets high in extra virgin olive oil, including the famous Mediterranean diet, are associated with “a lower incidence of atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease, and certain types of cancer,” according to many large reviews of clinical studies. Most recent interest has focused on the biologically active phenolic compounds naturally present in virgin olive oils. Olive oil phenolics have positive effects on certain physiological parameters, including plasma lipoproteins, oxidative damage, inflammatory markers, platelet and cellular function, and antimicrobial activity.
How much extra virgin olive oil should you aim to consume daily in order to benefit your health? While recommendations differ depending on your specific calorie needs and diet, anywhere from one to four tablespoons seems to be ideal to gain these olive oil benefits.