If you’re always on the lookout for healthy food recipes that involves using plant-based products, consider olive oil your best friend. Think about making a green salad with a vegan-friendly oil dressing as a starter for your early dinner. Perfect meal, eh?
Olive oil is a natural liquid fat obtained from olives, thus, it is purely plant-based. The olive trees are traditionally cultivated in the Mediterranean Basin. It has a large global production in Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey, and Tunisia. It is known for use in cooking, beauty products, pharma, and more.
As someone who follows a strict vegan diet, it’s normal to check everything that you consume. Trust me, it’s worth the effort. So, if you’re curious about olive oil, look no further. Everything you need to learn to guide you through a healthy plant-based diet is in this article.
What Is Olive Oil?
Olive oil is naturally extracted from olives, the fruit of olive trees that are widely grown in the Mediterranean Basin. Olives change colors as they mature. This makes their oil taste different than the other, depending on the time that they are extracted. The colors vary from green to violet and black.
Experts recommend olive oil to be part of everyone’s diet as it offers health benefits that saturated animal oil doesn’t. It is heat resistant, although overheating can affect its taste. For centuries, olive oil has been the usual ingredient in Mediterranean cuisine, making it part of their food culture.
How Is Olive Oil Produced?
Using millstones or disk mill, olives are ground to make it into a paste, then placed into fiber disks to prepare for pressing. The process, called centrifugation, will separate the liquid from the paste.
Its taste varies according to the maturity of the olives. Green ones are more bitter while the overripe can have fermentation issues. To produce good and healthy olive oil, the olives must be in their perfect prime of about two to three weeks.
Experts recommend using olive oil, especially in cooking. It offers nutrients and other healthy aspects of unsaturated vegetable liquid. It’s a pure fat that doesn’t contain carbohydrates or proteins, thus, making it healthy for everyone.
Here are the proven health benefits of olive oil when you include it in your diet.
- Protective against type 2 diabetes
A randomized clinical trial suggested that it can help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
- Helps prevent strokes
Stroke is prevalent in most countries. And because olive oil has a high source of monounsaturated fat or MUFA, it helps reduce the risk of strokes and heart diseases.
- It helps combat Alzheimer’s disease
A study indicates that olive oil contains a substance that helps remove the beta-amyloid plaques in human brain cells that cause Alzheimer’s disease.
- Reduces rheumatoid arthritis
RA is an autoimmune disease that causes extreme joint pain and swelling of the affected area. Thus, olive oil helps reduce and treat RA.
- Reduces risk of chronic diseases
Olive oil contains strong antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce the risk of heart diseases, cancer, and more.
- It doesn’t cause weight gain and obesity
While olive oil is pure fat, making it part of your diet doesn’t cause weight gain. It can even help weight loss since it’s rich in antioxidants.
- It lowers the risk of stomach ulcers and stomach cancer
Olive oil is rich in antibacterial properties, which fight against a bacterium that’s responsible for causing stomach cancer and ulcer.
- It lowers bad LDL cholesterol and lowers blood pressure
Since olive oil is rich in anti-inflammatory properties, studies show that it helps lower bad cholesterol. A daily intake prevents the plaques to build up in your arteries, which prevents heart diseases and strokes. It also improves the lining of blood vessels that helps lower blood pressure and avoids blood clots.
What Is Extra Virgin Olive Oil?
The extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) undergoes less processing with fewer chemicals, better taste, and is richer in antioxidants and other nutrients. An unprocessed extra virgin olive oil tastes like fresh olives, a little fruity, and spicy. It is considered the healthiest kind of olive oil.
Research suggests that extra virgin olive oil contains more polyphenols, an antioxidant that’s beneficial to one’s health. In any case, everything is healthy when it comes to olive oil. It can even be the healthiest fat that you may have encountered.
The 10 Best Vegan Foods With Olive Oil
As healthy as it can be, the olive oil properties are a gift to home-cooked meals. May it be an orange olive oil cake or a spicy vegan garlic pasta.
Check out these healthy vegan foods that contain olive oil:
- Veggie cavatappi pasta
Cavatappi pasta, also known as cellentani, is a type of macaroni that’s made without eggs.
- Kale pesto cauliflower gnocchi
Cauliflower gnocchi is less starchy, which is low in carbs, but rich in fiber.
- Crisp rosemary and olive oil flatbread
Both the flour and rosemary are plant-based, which are perfect for making an olive oil flatbread.
- Spaghetti with olive oil, chili, and garlic
Spaghetti, a staple food of Italian cuisine is vegan. Although there are other types of spaghetti that include eggs in its ingredient, these are generally plant-based.
- Vegan garlic knots
The best pizza dough is homemade that doesn’t involve eggs, which is perfect for making this vegan garlic knots.
- Patatas a lo pobre (poor man’s potatoes)
This is a Spanish classic potato dish that is fried using olive oil. It’s affordable, healthy, and easy to cook.
- Vegan olive oil cake
If you are a cake lover but want everything plant-based, this is perfect for a dessert.
- Vegan chocolate olive oil cake with frosting
Think about chocolate cake with olive oil frosting that doesn’t use animal-derived ingredients. Yes, it’s vegan choco cake.
- Vegan pizza
Where’s the pizza party at? While pizzas are mostly made with meat, you can trust that there are plenty of dairy and egg-free pizzas out there. If you are into cooking, homemade is even healthier.
- Vegan burger
When life throws you a vegan burger, you know the drill. Eat it.
While olive oil is one of the healthiest plant-based oils that vegans can use, not everyone is open to making it a part of their healthy diet. Others are also worried about its environmental impact as it needs a massive amount of water to process the oil.
Olive oil extraction is also feared to leave a huge impact on the ecosystem. The toxic waste that it produces such as phenols can be an environmental threat if not properly disposed of. Phenols can be dangerous to animals, humans, plants, and all other living things.
Additionally, olive oil plantations, especially the large ones use huge water irrigation to maintain the olive trees and areas surrounding them. This may cause soil erosion, which might contaminate the ecosystem.
This is why other vegans opted not to include olive oil in their diet as it poses environmental dangers. Others might consider it if there is another sustainable process that won’t harm the environment.
More plant-based oil options
While olive oil remains on the top of healthy vegan options, its environmental impact might bother you.
So, here are other plant-based oils that you can choose from.
- Palm oil
Made out of palm tree fruit, palm oil is another healthy vegan oil alternative.
- Avocado oil
It can be a bit pricey, but the avocado oil has a high smoke-point property that makes it ideal for vegans to use on their diet.
- Coconut oil
Packed with a saturated fatty acid, coconut oil is rich in immunity-boosting solutions. Oxidation also doesn’t affect the oil.
- Canola oil
Made out of mustard rape plant, canola oil has been in the industry for decades. It is high in MUFAs, low saturated fats, and with a high smoking point.
- Rice bran oil
Extracted from the husk of rice through an expeller or solvent extraction, rice bran oil is another healthy alternative for vegans. It has a high smoking point that makes it ideal for high-temperature cooking. One of its chemicals is also rich in antioxidant properties.
- Sunflower oil
Rich in MUFAs with a neutral odor, sunflower oil is commonly used in cooking and cosmetics. It also has antioxidants that help protect the skin from sun exposure.
- Sesame oil
Derived from sesame seeds, its toasted varieties have a distinct nutty taste that works great as a flavor enhancer. Sesame oil contains heart-healthy fats, is anti-inflammatory, and protects the skin from sunburns.
Olive oil, in its strictest sense, is pure plant-based and is healthy for everyone, vegan or not. There are many olive oil brands available in the market that you can choose from. Its environmental impact though can affect your judgment whether you’d include it in your diet.
Whenever you consider olive oil your go-to cooking oil, it is worthy to note that it’s both beneficial to your health and well-being.