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Anti-Inflammatory Diet Tip: Olive Oil

Olive oil is rich in polyphenols, which keep inflammation and pain at bay.

If you're living with an inflammatory condition, especially one that causes pain, olive oil is like liquid gold. It's rich in antioxidant polyphenols, the micronutrients found in colorful fruits and vegetables, which keep inflammation at bay. Plus, some studies show that olive oil may work inside your body in a way that's similar to aspirin or ibuprofen. That's great news for people who don't like popping pain pills.

But the benefits don't stop there. Healthy diets that include olive oil may also lower your bad cholesterol. And polyphenols can prevent heart disease, cancer and osteoporosis. They may even protect against brain diseases and diabetes. As an added bonus, when you swap your tub of butter for a bottle of olive oil, you're cutting saturated fats from your diet. That's a win-win because saturated fats have been shown to trigger pain.

What Do Experts Say?
"This should be the principle oil in your diet -- and luckily, it's a delicious one," says dietitian Janis Jibrin, MS, RD. "It's comprised mainly of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, plus antioxidant compounds called polyphenols."

How Should You Eat It?
First, opt for the least processed type of olive oil, known as extra virgin. It usually comes with a higher price tag, but it has the highest amount of polyphenols. If you're on a tight budget, virgin olive oil is the next best option. Steer clear of olive oils labeled "light" or "lite," which are the most processed and offer the fewest health benefits.

Once you've got your bottle in hand, it's easy to swap this oil for others. Add it to pasta sauces, mix up your own salad dressing or use it to sauté. Just don't go overboard, or you could end up with extra calories on your plate.

Medically reviewed in October 2018.

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