We've all heard about the benefits of olive oil for cardiovascular health, but a new study suggests we should use olive oil for another reason: Strong bones. Research published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism followed three groups of midlife and elderly men for two years and found that those who ate a diet high in virgin olive oil showed signs of increased bone health at the end of the two year period.
All the men in the study ate heart-healthy Mediterranean diets, but the group that ate the extra olive oil was the only one that showed signs of stronger bones—specifically, higher blood levels of osteocalcin, a protein related to bone health. This may be a key reason that people living in Mediterranean countries have lower rates of osteoporosis than the rest of us.
So it sounds like we should all use olive oil as much as we can, but keep in mind that not all oils are created equal—in fact, much of what's sold as "extra virgin" olive oil has been doctored with far cheaper (and less healthful) seed oils. A journalist-turned-olive oil crusader named Tom Mueller has written a book on the subject (Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil) and founded a website called Truth in Olive Oil. Here is his list of the best olive oils found in American supermarkets.
And don't think that quality olive oil must come from Europe! Last month a Consumer Reports ranking found that many of the best olive oils come from California—the two top-rated ones are McEvoy Ranch (which is delicious but $22 per bottle) and Trader Joe's California Estate, a bargain at just $6 per bottle. I frequently by the TJs one and can attest to its fresh grassy flavor and yummy scent.
Final tip: To get the full health benefits of olive oil, and the best taste, know that olive oil is quite perishable, so only buy oil in a dark glass bottle, and buy it in small quantities so you'll use it before it goes bad. And always store it away from heat and light.
More about bone health: