Olive oil is most widely known for its tasty uses in the kitchen, but the benefits of olive oil go far beyond simply food preparation!

Olive oil is a rich non-drying oil suitable for use in various cosmetic applications. Olive oil can be used in a range of skin preparations including massage and bath oils, moisturizers, ointments and balms, soaps, shampoos and herbal infusions due to its amazing moisturizing benefits.

Olive Oil's chemical free nature also makes it suitable for those who have allergic reactions to substances used in mass-produced soaps. Olive oil soap produces a hard soap that dries quickly, is mild and non-drying to the skin, has a rich creamy lather and lasts longer than most other vegetable, animal and mineral oil soaps.

(Read the full profile for Olive Oil)

Skin Benefits of Olive Oil

Despite their many benefits, the cost of ingredients and production will keep olive oil-based cosmetics at the higher end of the market. Cheaper olive oils and blends can be used, however the trade-off for reduced price is a loss of quality.

Even if you do not eat it, another great benefit of olive oil is that it is an amazing health remedy. According to researchers, putting extra virgin olive oil on your skin after sunbathing could protect you from ultraviolet radiation.

It is not a sunscreen, but vitamin E and other antioxidants nab free radicals caused by the sun before they do too much harm. Just make sure you use extra virgin – the regular olive oil is not as effective.

Emollients containing olive oil are useful in psoriasis, eczema and dermatitis treatment; they slow the loss of water through the skin layers. The thicker the cream or lotion, the more effective it is likely to be.

Maintaining adequate moisture can relieve the pain of dry skin and reduce scaling and inflammation, without causing any side effects. Regularly applying thick lotions and creams directly to the skin is sometimes very effective in clearing the symptoms.

Olive Oil Benefits for the Heart

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), consuming about 2 tablespoons (23 grams) of olive oil a day may reduce your risk of heart disease. You can get the most benefit by substituting olive oil for saturated fats rather than just adding more olive oil to your diet.

Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fat and antioxidants like chlorophyll, carotenoids and vitamin E. Scientists have identified a compound in olive oil called oleuropein which prevents the LDL cholesterol from oxidizing.

It is the oxidized cholesterol that sticks to the walls of the arteries and forms plaque. Replacing other fats in your diet with olive oil can significantly lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart attack.

Olive Oil Benefits for Inhibiting Cancer

A study published in the Annals of Oncology in 2005 has found that oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid found in olive oil, has the ability to reduce the effect of an oncogene (a gene that will turn a host cell into a cancer cell). This particular oncogene is connected with the rapid growth of breast cancer tumors.

The conclusion of the scientists in the study was that oleic acid, when combined with drug therapy, encouraged the self-destruction of aggressive, treatment-resistant cancer cells thus destroying the cancer. Olive oil has been positively indicated in studies on prostate and endometrial cancers as well.

Unlike other fats, which are linked to a higher risk of colon cancer, olive oil actually helps to protect the cells of the colon from carcinogens. A study published in Food Chemistry Toxicology suggests that antioxidants in olive oil reduce the amount of carcinogens formed when meat is cooked.

A Spanish study results showed that rats fed a diet supplemented with olive oil had a lower risk of colon cancer than those fed safflower oil-supplemented diets. In fact, the rats that received olive oil had colon cancer rates almost as low as those fed fish oil, which several studies have already linked to a reduction in colon cancer risk.

Olive Oil Benefits for Blood Sugar Levels

Those suffering from, or at risk for, diabetes are advised to combine a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet with olive oil. Research shows that this combination is superior at controlling blood sugar levels compared to a diet that consists only of low-fat meals.

Adding olive oil to your diet is also linked to lower triglyceride levels. Many diabetics live with high triglyceride levels which put them at risk for heart disease.

Types of Olive Oil

Olive oil is produced by pressing or crushing olives. Olive oil comes in several varieties, depending on the amount of processing involved. Varieties include:

Extra virgin – this variety considered the best, least processed, comprising the oil from the first pressing of the olives.

  • Virgin – from the second pressing.
  • Pure – undergoes some processing, such as filtering and refining.
  • Extra light – undergoes considerable processing and only retains a very mild olive flavor.

The oil that results from the first pressing of the olive is extracted without using heat (called cold pressing) or chemicals, and has no off flavors is designated as extra virgin olive oil. The less the olive oil is handled and processed, the closer it remains to its natural state, the better and more beneficial the oil is.

Storing Olive Oil

Heat and light are the #1 enemies of oil, so please resist the temptation to showcase your beautiful bottle of olive oil on the kitchen window sill. Store olive oil in a cool, dark place, tightly sealed. Oxygen promotes rancidity. Olive oil is like other oils and can easily go rancid when exposed to air, light or high temperatures.

Where to get Extra Virgin Olive Oil

You can also get your olive oil at your local grocery store, but my preferred place to purchase it is Mountain Rose Herbs due the high quality and organic nature of the olive oil they offer.

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