Social media trends can be … interesting. So, hearing TikTokers are encouraging their followers to take a swig of olive oil first thing in the morning might understandably give you pause.
The thing is, this is one trend TikTok is late to the party on. Like, 2,500 years late.
That’s roughly when ancient Greeks and Romans began using olive oil as a cooking oil. Were ancient Romans chugging olive oil like water (or wine)? No, but they sure consumed A LOT of it, using up to a fourth of a cup per day.
Considering olive oil is still a staple of many households and cooking shows – EVOO, anyone? – the trend of using (or drinking) olive oil isn’t a fad, whether you drink it or cook with it. And while many social trends are bad for your health, olive oil provides several surprising health benefits.
But what exactly is olive oil? Simple: It’s the oil extracted from olives. And it's packed full of some serious health benefits.
Fatty AcidsThe oil itself is full of fatty acids like omega-3s and omega-6s. Typically, about 11% of any given olive oil is made up of these polyunsaturated fats.
This isn’t unique to olive oil; almost all oils have a different mix of fatty acids. However, the fatty acids found in olive oil are especially important to work into your diet.
The most prevalent fatty acid found in olive oil is oleic acid. Accounting for more than 70% of the acid content of olive oil, oleic acid is known to reduce cholesterol and inflammation, both of which keep your heart healthy. Hence, the Romans were on to something when they decided to use olive oil as a part of their diet, whether they realized the health benefits or not.
But what about when you actually drink it?
Well, olive oil is also full of antioxidants and vitamins. Specifically, olive oil is rich in vitamins E and K.
Vitamin E is a vitamin with antioxidant properties that protect your cells from any harmful substances. Antioxidants and similar vitamins can actually prevent your cells from being damaged by cancer, diabetes, or heart disease, simply by defending your cells against harmful substances.
Vitamin E is also an important nutrient — it keeps your brain, blood, and skin healthy and can even help your vision.
Besides your daily dose of nutrients, vitamin E has more long-lasting health benefits. Because of its antioxidant properties, vitamin E can help regulate the antioxidant levels in your brain, which leaves your brain less stressed. A less-stressed brain means a lower chance of developing cognitive disorders like Alzheimer's.
Vitamin K, while decidedly not an antioxidant, is still a necessary nutrient. Like vitamin E, vitamin K helps keep your blood healthy. While vitamin E might keep your blood flowing, vitamin K actually stops it from flowing, helping your blood clot and preventing excessive bleeding. Considering ancient Romans weren’t exactly known for being peaceful *cough* gladiators *cough* they might have needed plenty of olive oil.
So, olive oil is a healthy fat with antioxidants and essential nutrients. What else can it do?
Well, it’s also antibacterial. Much like you might use Clorox to disinfect your counters, olive oil can help disinfect your stomach. Specifically, it can kill the bacteria Helicobacter pylori, which can cause stomach cancer or ulcers. Olive oil fights eight strains of this bacteria, some of which are resistant to actual antibiotics.
At this point, I’d be surprised if you aren’t looking for the nearest bottle of olive oil to take swigs from.
However, not all olive oil is made the same. So, what kind of olive oil should you be buying?
If you want all the benefits of the oil, you should be buying extra virgin olive oil. That’s because it is made purely from olives, so it retains the antioxidants and vitamins better than refined olive oils, which contain some processed oils.Trendy or not, olive oil is a healthy alternative to other, less vitamin-dense cooking oils. And if you want to take a swig of it in the morning, well, this is one social trend that might actually be good for you.