A basic kitchen staple, olive oil is a powerhouse of healthy nutrients that nourish your body when eaten and also when used topically, working its magic inside and out to slow the aging process. It's rich in omega-3 fatty acids and good cholesterol, and with the highest level of monounsaturated fat of any vegetable oil, olive oil is prized for its numerous age-fighting components. Whether whipped into creamy skin and hair potions or delectable salad dressings, versatile olive oil is a must-have for your anti-aging arsenal.
Healthy Fat for Cooking and Baking
As a celebrated centerpiece of the Mediterranean diet -- long-renowned for the low levels of cardiovascular disease and obesity in those who follow it -- olive oil is widely touted as a super food. It contains polyphenols, powerful antioxidants that help slow and prevent age-related diseases. Equal to fish in its omega-3 fatty acids that lower blood fat, and packed with high-density lipids known as HDL, or the good cholesterol, olive oil is one of the most nutrient-dense of all vegetable oils. Composed of monounsaturated fats, or MUFAs, which do not oxidize in the body, olive oil not only decreases the risk of heart disease but is known to control blood sugar and insulin, particularly beneficial to those with type 2 diabetes.
Olive Oil and Weight Maintenance
Weight management is a problem for many people as they age, partly because of dwindling activity levels. The combination of the potent nutrients in olive oil can help you maintain a healthy weight when combined with a Mediterranean-style diet that is rich in vegetables, fruit, legumes and whole grains, moderate in dairy and low in meat -- three servings of poultry, lamb, pork or fish per week and red meat only once or twice per month. In this diet, the calories that might normally come from eating meat are replaced by olive oil and plant-based foods.
Adding More Olive Oil to Your Diet
Nutritionist and associate professor of clinical medicine Dr. Mary Flynn, who has studied the benefits of olive oil since the 1990s and is co-author of the book, The Pink Ribbon Diet, recommends consuming 3 tablespoons of olive oil per day. To introduce more olive oil into your diet, you can substitute it for butter and margarine and other oils in both cooking and baking. Spread on a thick slice of baguette, trickled over cooked pasta, or infused into cakes and muffins, there are myriad ways to incorporate this luscious oil into your diet every day.
The Extra Benefits of Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Extra-virgin olive oil, known as EVOO, is the purest form and highest quality of olive oil. Extracted from the first pressing of the olive fruit, it's cold-pressed without the use of heat or chemicals, and contains no additives or preservatives. With its distinctive taste and enticing aroma, it is also superior to virgin olive oil in its anti-aging benefits. Naturally containing the phytonutrient oleocanthal, an anti-inflammatory with a similar effect to ibuprofen, it can help alleviate the pain of arthritic joints, putting a youthful spring back into your step.
Olive Oil for Beautiful Hair and Skin
Olive oil contains protein, minerals and vitamins -- all effective skin-softening agents and essential nutrients skin and hair need to retain moisture. In fact, the skin and hair is made up of these very same components. Skin creams, body lotions and hair-care treatments made with super-emollient olive oil contribute to a dewy, more youthful complexion, a silky smooth body and a lustrous, more voluminous head of hair. Olive oil also preserves elasticity and resiliency in aging skin, thus reducing the appearance of those dreaded wrinkles.