Cold pressing is a common way to make olive oil without the use of heat or chemicals.
It involves crushing olives into a paste, then applying force with a mechanical press to separate the oil from the pulp. According to European food standards, temperatures cannot exceed 81°F (27°C).
Cold pressing may help olive oil retain its nutritional value, as nutrients and beneficial plant compounds can break down under high heat.
Here are 13 benefits and uses of cold pressed olive oil.
1. High in Nutrients
As it's virtually all fat, cold pressed olive oil is high in calories.
However, its main type of fat — unsaturated fat — is incredibly healthy.
Compared with diets high in saturated fat, those high in unsaturated fat are associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and other chronic illnesses.
Olive oil also boasts vitamins E and K. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant involved in immune function, while vitamin K plays a key role in blood clotting and bone health.
Just 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of cold pressed olive oil supplies:
- Calories: 119
- Total fat: 13.5 grams
- Saturated fat: 2 grams
- Monounsaturated fat: 10 grams
- Polyunsaturated fat: 1.5 grams
- Vitamin E: 12.9% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Vitamin K: 6.8% of the DV
Cold pressed olive oil also contains at least 30 beneficial plant compounds, many of which are potent antioxidants with anti-inflammatory effects.
Cold pressed olive oil is rich in healthy fats, dozens of powerful plant compounds, and vitamins E and K.
2. Packed With Healthy Fats
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends that you consume 20–35% of your calories from fat, mainly the unsaturated type.
Cold pressed olive oil comprises nearly all fat, with 71% coming from an unsaturated fat called oleic acid.
Studies suggest that oleic acid and other unsaturated fats may help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol when used in place of saturated fats.
An additional 11% of the fat in cold pressed olive oil comes from omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. These two unsaturated fats are involved in major bodily processes, such as blood pressure regulation, blood clotting, and immune system response.
Although olive oil contains 2 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon (15 ml), this is well within the 13–22-gram daily limit recommended by most health authorities for a standard 2,000-calorie diet.
Cold pressed olive oil mainly comprises oleic acid, a fat that may help lower cholesterol. It also provides omega-6 and omega-3 fats, which are essential for your health.
3. Contains Potent Antioxidants
Cold pressed olive oil may retain more antioxidants than lower-grade olive oils since it isn't treated with heat.
Antioxidants defend your body against unstable molecules called free radicals. In turn, this helps ward off chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Per tablespoon (15 ml), olive oil contains 12.9% of the DV for vitamin E — an essential nutrient and potent antioxidant.
It's also rich in plant compounds like oleuropein and hydroxytyrosol, which have demonstrated powerful antioxidant properties in animal and test-tube studies.
Researchers believe that these compounds may be partly responsible for the benefits of the Mediterranean diet, including stronger bones and a reduced risk of heart disease, brain conditions, and certain cancers.
Cold pressed olive oil contains powerful antioxidants that may safeguard your body against numerous diseases.
4. May Fight Inflammation
Prolonged, low-grade inflammation is believed to factor into many conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, and Alzheimer's disease.
Studies suggest that olive oil may help reduce inflammation due to its high concentration of healthy fats, antioxidants, and compounds like oleocanthal.
Oleocanthal is a natural anti-inflammatory agent. Test-tube studies indicate that it acts similarly to ibuprofen, an anti-inflammatory drug — although human studies are needed.
Remember that including more plant-based options in your diet may reduce inflammation more effectively than relying on a single compound, nutrient, or food.
Still, replacing foods high in saturated fat — such as butter, shortening, and lard — with cold pressed olive oil is an excellent place to start.
Due to its high concentration of healthy fats, antioxidants, and beneficial plant compounds, cold pressed olive oil may help reduce inflammation.
5. May Protect Against Heart Disease
Heart disease is the leading cause of death among both men and women worldwide, responsible for over 17 million deaths each year.
Numerous studies reveal that replacing foods high in saturated fat with olive oil may help reduce high LDL (bad) cholesterol and blood pressure levels — two major risk factors for heart disease.
One study in over 84,000 women found that substituting 5% of saturated fats for foods high in monounsaturated fats, including olive oil, reduced heart disease risk by 15%.
The Mediterranean diet, which relies on olive oil as its main source of fat, has been shown to reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke by up to 28%.
Replacing sources of saturated fat with cold pressed olive oil may reduce your risk of heart disease.
6. May Promote Brain Health
Diets high in cold pressed olive oil have been shown to support brain health.
One example is the MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet, which recommends primarily cooking with olive oil. It combines the traditional Mediterranean diet with the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet.
In population studies, individuals following the MIND diet demonstrate slower declines in mental sharpness and memory with age, as well as after stroke.
A 4.5-year study in 923 people found a 53% reduction in the rate of Alzheimer's disease in those who most strictly adhered to the diet.
The diet's combination of brain-boosting foods may likewise be responsible for its benefits. Besides olive oil, the MIND diet is high in vegetables, berries, nuts, whole grains, and fish. It's also low in sodium.
Furthermore, animal and test-tube research suggests that oleocanthal, a compound in olive oil, may help reduce brain plaques associated with Alzheimer's disease. All the same, human research is needed.
Diets high in olive oil may help prevent mental decline associated with aging, as well as reduce your risk of Alzheimer's disease.
7–10. Other Potential Health Benefits
Though research is limited, cold pressed olive oil may offer other potential health benefits. These include:
- Reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. Human studies link diets highest in olive oil — up to 1.5 tablespoons (20 ml) per day — with a 16% lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
- Improved blood sugar levels. In a small study, people taking 20 mg of concentrated oleuropein, a compound in olive oil, experienced a 14% lower blood sugar spike following a meal than those taking a placebo.
- Constipation relief. According to some small studies, taking as little as 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of olive oil daily may treat constipation.
- Delayed progression of osteoarthritis. Animal research notes that olive oil and its compounds may fight osteoarthritis by preventing damage to cartilage, the protective cushioning in joints.
Keep in mind that more research is needed.
Early research suggests that olive oil and its compounds may help reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes, improve blood sugar levels, relieve constipation, and fight osteoarthritis.
11. May Benefit Hair, Skin, and Nails
Though there is limited scientific evidence to support the topical application of olive oil, it's a common ingredient in many soaps, body washes, and lotions.
Some popular cosmetic uses for olive oil are:
- Hair treatment. Use 1–2 tablespoons (15–30 ml) of olive oil to treat split ends or gently massage it into your scalp to relieve dryness. Afterward, shampoo and rinse thoroughly.
- Moisturizer. To hydrate your skin, apply a thin layer after showering or mix a dime-sized amount into your regular lotion before use. You may need to blot excess oil with a towel.
- Cuticle conditioner. Massage a drop of olive oil into each fingertip to treat chapped, cracked, or dry cuticles.
Since lower-grade olive oils may harbor potential skin irritants, it's best to stick to extra virgin and virgin olive oils, which are both cold pressed.
People with sensitive skin should practice caution, as olive oil has been shown to further irritate dry skin, especially in infants and children.
Though olive oil may be an effective moisturizer for hair, skin, and nails, there's little scientific evidence to back these uses. What's more, it may be inappropriate for people with sensitive skin.
12. Easy to Add to Your Diet
Cold pressed olive oil is not only a great cooking oil for sautéing, roasting, and baking but also an ideal ingredient in salad dressings, sauces, and marinades.
Replacing saturated fat with this oil may be particularly beneficial for your health. Consider these easy food swaps:
- When cooking, replace butter, shortening, lard, or bacon grease with cold pressed olive oil.
- Instead of buying creamy salad dressings, try ones made with olive oil — or make your own.
- Opt for olive-oil-based sauces like pesto over cream- or cheese-based ones.
- For a vegetable dip, try hummus made with olive oil instead of blue cheese or ranch dressing.
- Instead of buttering your bread, dip it in cold pressed olive oil and seasonings.
Cold pressed olive oil also works for deep frying, but you should limit your use of this cooking method because of the excess calories it provides.
Furthermore, olive oil is still calorie-dense. If you monitor your calorie intake, be sure to use this fat within your daily allotment to avoid unwanted weight gain.
Cold pressed olive oil is a heart-healthy fat for daily cooking and works especially well in dressings, sauces, and dips.
The Bottom Line
Cold pressed olive oil may retain more nutrients than olive oils treated with heat.
It's loaded with healthy fats, vitamins E and K, and several antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. These nutrients may promote brain and heart health, in addition to other benefits.
You may stand to gain the most if you use cold pressed olive oil in place of other fats, such as lard, butter, or margarine.