Dr. Aris Kefalogiannis gives us a few reasons to love this surprisingly beneficial ingredient

Every day we make a plethora of decisions. And when the new year rolls around, we aim to make most of those decisions the healthiest ones we can. We choose water over soda, we pick a salad before fries and maybe even choose fruit over a sweet treat. One choice Dr. Aris Kefalogiannis, the C.E.O of Gaea, feels we should always make is one that may not cross our minds much: opting for olive oil over butter or regular oil. And why is that?

“It has monounsaturated fat, vitamin E, vitamin K, antioxidants such as phenols, oleocanthal and squalene, chlorophyll, and omega 3,” he says, which are all vitamins that improve the health quality our daily lives.

It is completely fair to overlook this swap as a “health” option. For one, not all oil is created equally.

“Some olive oil is further refined after the first pressing,” explains Dr. Kefalogiannis. “These oils can no longer bear the title extra ‘virgin,’ which is the highest quality olive oil and have less health benefits than the extra virgin olive oils. These three oils can be found in the market under the descriptions of light, refined, pomace and pure or simply olive oil. These should be avoided; instead the consumer should always choose extra Virgin olive oil, the result of the first pressing of fresh olives.”

And for two? Olive oil is high in fat, but that shouldn’t stop you from making the swap.

“Whereas studies have shown that high fat diets may increase the risk of certain diseases such as cancer and diabetes, it appears that it is the type of fat that counts rather than the amount of fat,” he clarifies. “We now know that a diet rich in monounsaturated fats and antioxidants such as the ones found in olive oil actually protect the body from many of these chronic diseases.”

“Good fat” is just one of the health reason you should consider choosing olive oil. Dr. Kefalogiannis explains that this ingredient also can aid in lowering cholesterol, help with digestion and even help your bone health.

It Lowers Cholesterol
Olive oil is rich in oleic acid, a common monounsaturated fatty acid. Numerous studies indicate that monounsaturated fat is about as effective as polyunsaturated fat in lowering total blood cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, when used to substitute saturated fat in the diet. Plus, monounsaturated fat does not lower the beneficial HDL cholesterol or raise triglycerides, unlike polyunsaturated fat, which, at high intakes, may lower HDL cholesterol, ie the good cholesterol.

It Fills You Up
Extra virgin olive oil is calorie—dense and falls into the fat food group. One tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil contains 119 calories and 13.5 grams of fat, exactly the same as all other types of oils-fat, which is 21 percent of the recommended daily value based on a 2,000-calorie diet, but around 75 percent of the fat from extra virgin olive oil is monounsaturated, a type of oleic acid that has been shown to decrease total blood cholesterol. In addition, olive oil creates a feeling of satiety and induces the consumption of salads and cooked vegetables by making them tastier and flavorful, leading to an overall balanced and healthy diet.

It Can Help Your Bones
Menopausal osteoporosis is caused by a combination of hormonal imbalances and inflammation of the joints. While olive oil may not be able to restore your estrogen levels to premenopausal times, it directly nourishes your skeletal system in several ways. Moreover, olive oil is known as a “good fat” and is commonly preferred over animal fat when preparing and cooking food. This oil has several benefits, the most important being its ability to help the body breakdown calcium so that it can be stored in your bones. The monounsaturated fat also makes sure that your bone marrow itself doesn’t develop too much fat – a condition that can prevent calcium deposits into bones. Last but not least, high quality extra virgin olive oil, and especially Greek olive oil, is rich in Oleocanthal, a substance that has strong anti-inflammatory action thus combating the inflammation of the joints.

It Can Help Digestion
When olive oil reaches the stomach it does not reduce the tonus of the muscular ring or sphincter at the base of the esophagus. Because of this, it reduces the risk of the flow or reflux of food and gastric juice up from the stomach to the esophagus. Olive oil also partially inhibits gastric mobility. As a result, the gastric content of the stomach is released more slowly and gradually into the duodenum, giving a greater sensation of “fullness”, and favoring the digestion and absorption of nutrients in the intestine. Owing to the sitosterol it contains, olive oil partially prevents cholesterol absorption by the small intestine. It also stimulates the absorption of various nutrients (calcium, iron, magnesium, etc.).

It Can Improve Your Diet Plan
Olive Oil is the healthiest option when compared with any other oil or fat. Olive oil contains only 33% saturated fat while butter is composed of 66% saturated fat. Olive oil has no cholesterol, while a serving of butter has 33mg of cholesterol. Other plant or seed oils are invariably rich in saturated fats, whereas margarines are associated with trans and saturated fats.

It Can Improve Your Skin
Use olive oil as a gentle moisturizer for dry skin. Olive oil has the same healthy fats as avocado, and plumps and moisturizes the skin with a combination of vitamin E and vitamin A. Furthermore, dry, itchy and inflamed skin is usually the sign of skin irritations, such as eczema and psoriasis. Instead of turning to prescription creams and home remedies, reach for some olive oil to relieve discomfort and irritation. Moreover, sun and pollution can damage your skin. In recent studies, it was found that vitamin E contained in olive oil was successful in fighting free radicals, photo aging and damage to maintain younger looking skin. In Greece irritated baby skin is always treated with olive oil.

It Can Help Your Hair
The fatty acids that olive oil is made up of will coat the shaft of your hair, helping to keep it healthy and protected. Using hair dye, flat irons and even using hair dryers can damage the outer layer of your hair. Olive oil will coat the damaged outer layers of your hair, giving them a sleeker, smoother, and healthier appearance. Hair care products are full of chemicals, which actually can damage your hair in the long run. Using a high quality olive oil as a hair treatment will give your hair back its health appearance, naturally. Using a high quality olive oil is the best natural treatment that your hair deserves.

It Can Curb Your Appetite
People who eat food with olive oil feel full much quicker and stay satisfied much longer than those who eat food with other types of oils. Olive oil is known for its health benefits but can also suppress the appetite and help with weight loss. Further, it has been found that this effect doesn’t come solely from the composition of the oil itself, but also from the aroma/smell of the olive oil. Just sniffing olive oil can make you less hungry!

It Can Lower Blood Pressure
Olive oil contains a potent mix of antioxidants that can lower your “bad” (LDL) cholesterol but leave your “good” (HDL) cholesterol untouched. The cholesterol-lowering effects of olive oil are even greater if you choose extra-virgin olive oil, meaning the oil is totally unprocessed and contains more heart-healthy antioxidants.

Hope this helps! Which Extra Virgin Olive Oil brand is your favorite and why?