Olive oil is one of the most healing substances you can put in your body — especially if you have rheumatoid (RA) or osteoarthritis (OA), thanks to its powerful inflammation-fighting compounds.
1. A top Arthritis Healing Superfood. Olive oil is a mainstay of The Arthritis Healing Diet due to its rich supply of polyphenols, powerful antioxidants also found in green tea and red wine. These compounds block the oxidative damage that free radical molecules wreak on cells, accelerating the aging and degeneration of joint tissue.
2. Two tablespoons of pain relief. Research shows that consuming olive oil produces the same pain-relieving effect in your joints as a 200-mg tablet of ibuprofen. That’s certainly impressive, especially when you consider that using olive oil won’t put you at risk for the intestinal bleeding and kidney damage that can occur when you use NSAIDs long-term. But don’t overdo it: Studies also show that consuming no more than two tablespoons at a time produces the optimal health benefit.
3. Not all olive oil is healing. Olive oil cools joint pain by blocking inflammation, but you’ll only get this benefit from “extra virgin olive oil” (EVOO), the liquid of the first olive pressing. This makes EVOO far richer in oleocanthal, a natural compound which exerts strong anti-inflammatory effects in the body. It’s easy to detect how “healing” your olive oil is because oleocanthal produces a peppery burning feeling in the back of your throat. The stronger this stinging sensation, the higher its healing properties.
4. Handle olive oil with care. Oleocanthals are heroes when it comes to soothing your arthritis, but they are destroyed by the heat of the refining processes, which is why you should only purchase “extra virgin” olive oil. Look for the words “cold pressed” on the label to ensure that harsh heat or chemicals weren’t used in extracting the oil. Other grades of olive oil, such as “virgin” or “pure” are refined by heat, which compromises their nutritional and anti-inflammatory properties. Purchase EVOO in opaque or dark bottles to protect this delicate oil from light, which also can reduce its healing power. Store it like the precious gift it is, avoiding light and heat, ideally in your refrigerator or a dark, cool pantry. For convenience, keep a small bottle on your counter or dinner table for daily use.
5. Not for high heat cooking. EVOO has a low smoke point, meaning that high heat destroys its healing benefits — although light sautéing is fine. The ideal way to enjoy it is fresh “Mediterranean style,” splashed on fresh produce and lightly cooked vegetables, as salad dressings, as a dip for whole grain bread, or as a flavorful veggie topping.
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