Olive oil is known as a healthy fat because it is an excellent source of the “good” fats, the monounsaturated fatty acids that have been shown to lower harmful LDL cholesterol levels in the blood and protect from heart disease. But it’s more than just healthy fats.
Olive oil contains specific fatty acids as well as polyphenols, compounds with antioxidant activity. These components of olive oil interact with other nutrients and increase the nutritional value of a meal.
We know that the presence of fat increases the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, but what about antioxidants?
A number of studies for example, have shown that consumption of tomatoes that have been cooked with olive oil improves their antioxidant activity. This was not observed using other types of oil.
Other research shows that combining olive oil with fatty fish may be beneficial for your arteries. Norwegian researchers observed that when omega-3 rich fish oil such as the type you find in sardines, anchovies or salmon was combined with extra virgin olive oil it prevented the hardening of arteries (atherosclerosis) to a greater extent than each of these foods alone.
It is important therefore, to view olive oil not only as an individual ingredient but also as a component of the diet that enhances the nutritional value of other foods.