Nutritional Value

The nutritional value of olive oil is primarily due to its chemical composition. Olive oil is mostly a mixture of esters of glycerol (triglycerides) with higher fatty acids. This mixture is the soapable fraction of olive oil and represents 99% of the oil.


Higher fatty acids found in this mixture are distinguished in saturated and unsaturated and the latter in mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated.
The usual composition of fatty acids in olive oil – in accordance with the limits set by the international olive oil Council - is as follows:

 

Oleic (mono-unsaturated): 56%  -  83%
Palmitic (saturated): 7,5% -  20%
Palmitelaic (mono-unsaturated): 0,3 %  -  3,5%
Steatic (saturated): 0,5%  -  5%
Linelaic (poly-unsaturated): 3,5%  -  20%
Linolinic (poly-unsaturated): 0,0%  -  1,5%

 

Mono-unsaturated fatty acids dominate at a percentage of 56.3%-86.5% vs. poly-unsaturated at 3.5%-21.5% and saturated at 8.0%-25.0%. As the vegetable oils contain mostly poly-unsaturated fatty acids while animal fats mainly saturated, it is concluded that olive oil is the main source of mono-unsaturated fatty acids for the human organism.


The prevalence of mono-unsaturated fatty acids in olive oil only, is the main reason that olive oil is the best ally of our health, in a way that will be mentioned below. The remaining 1% of the oil is the non soapable fraction in which are included numerous substances that give it its particular organoleptic characteristics – flavor and taste - as well as its great nutrient value.

 

Among the substances included in the non-soapable fraction of olive oil are: vitamins, minerals, phenols and polyphenols, tocopherols, eleuropain, hydrocarbons, squalene, beta-carotene, fiber and other alcohols. These ingredients can be classified roughly according to their properties as follows:

 

-Antioxidant substances: Tocopherols, phenols and polyphenols, squalene, beta-carotene antioxidant substances etc. first of all they protect the olive oil from self-oxidation and high temperatures (cooking) but they also protect the human body as they reduce free radicals which are involved in the development of chronic diseases and aging.
-Pigments: Carotenes, chlorophyll. Mainly the chlorophyll stimulates the metabolism, the development of cells, the production of blood and speeds the healing of wounds.
-Eleuropain: increases the production of «pepsin» and facilitates digestion of proteins and digestion in general.
-Alcohols: it is estimated that the increase of bile secretion helps the removal of cholesterol.
-Vitamins: help the organism in various ways. Vitamin E specially helps when, according to studies, the ratio between linelaic acid and vitamin E has a value larger than 0.79 mg vitamin E per 1g linelaic acid. A related table for various fats is listed below.

 

Fats

Vitamin Ε

(mg/100gr oil)

Total poly-unsaturated

(%)

Relation
Extra virgin olive oil 15,0 8 1,87
Soybean oil 17,5 57 0,30
Cottonseed oil 30,0 40 0,75
Sunflower oil 25,0 57 0,40
Corn oil 20,0 40 0,50
Rapeseed oil 17,5 17 1,00

 

All the components of the olive oil have a global effect to the organism and according to reports of nutritionists-dietitians and researchers, the benefits from the consumption of olive oil as the principal source of fat intake, can be summarized briefly as follows:

 

-Reduction of "bad" cholesterol (LDL) in the blood
-Preservation of blood content in "good" cholesterol (HDL)
-Protection against arteriosclerosis
-Reduction of coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease
-Protection against memory loss and cognitive processing failures
-Improvement of bowel function
-Therapeutic effect on ulcer of stomach and duodenum
-Reduction of gastric juices and their modification
- Improvement of the function of the bile
-Prevention and protective action of many forms of cancer
-Improvement of glucose metabolism of diabetics
-Better absorption of calcium, fat soluble vitamins and proteins
-Skin rejuvenation

 

Many of the above occur in conjunction with the Mediterranean diet and physical exercise.


All the benefits of olive oil in the human body are a result of its unique combined characteristics which are:
a) Good relation between saturated and mono-unsaturated fatty acids
b) Good relation between vitamin e and poly-unsaturated fatty acids
c) Presence of natural antioxidants in optimum concentration
d) Small percentage of poly-unsaturated fatty acids
e) Great content in hydrocarbon squalene which plays a special role in the metabolism
f) Pleasant smell and taste that causes change in the composition of the gastric juices – increasing pepsin content - facilitating digestion and absorption of nutrients from food.

 

Bibliography around the world contains more than 2000 scientific articles on the effect of olive oil in various diseases.

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