Why Extra Virgin Olive Oil Is So Essential
Olive oil is widely known as one of the world's healthiest oils.
In fact, people tend to live longer and healthier lifestyles in areas where olive oil is a staple part of the diet.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) is the highest quality olive oil available, extracted from the olive fruit without the use of any heat or chemicals.
Within this article we're taking a look at the major health benefits of adding Extra Virgin Olive Oil to your dietplan, based on the latest scientific evidence.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil is a Fantastic Source of Antioxidants and Healthy Fats
Regular olive oil is refined and stripped of important nutrients and antioxidants.
In contrast, the natural extraction procedure used to produce Extra Virgin Olive Oil ensures it retains all the nutrients and antioxidants from the olive fruit.
In particular, it contains over 30 various types of phenolic compounds, which are powerful antioxidants that help protect the body against free radicals. Free radicals are molecules that cause cell damage and contribute to disease and the aging process (1).
The fat composition of Extra Virgin Olive Oil is also a major contributor for its healthfulness. It is primarily made up of monounsaturated fat (approximately 73%), a heart healthy fat that is a staple of the Mediterranean diet.
Studies consistently link a diet high in monounsaturated fat with favourable effects on markers of cardiovascular disease (heart disease and stroke). This includes a reduction in markers of chronic inflammation, blood pressure, cholesterol levels and blood sugar levels (two , 3, 4).
Crucial Message: Extra Virgin Olive Oil is a rich source of antioxidants and monounsaturated fats, both of which are thought to protecting cardiovascular health.
More Olive Oil May Help Reduce Your Risk of Heart Disease
Heart disease is the primary cause of premature death worldwide.
Interestingly, populations living in mediterranean regions have reduced rates of mortality (death) from heart disease. Even though this is a result of a combination of factors, their high consumption of Extra Virgin Olive Oil is regarded as a major one.
It appears the active compounds from Extra Virgin Olive Oil have powerful cardio-protective properties, such as helping to lower blood pressure and preventing atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
One giant review study, that included data from over 840,000 subjects, found that those who ate the most olive oil were 9 percent less likely to have heart issues and 11% less likely to die early compared to those who ate the least olive oil.
Crucial Message: Extra Virgin Olive Oil contains a number of active chemicals that lead to heart health. Observational studies consistently find that those who have the most have a lower risk of heart disease.
Olive Oil May Protect Against Stroke
Stroke is the second largest killer after heart disease.
It is closely linked to heart disease and shares many of the same risk factors, such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
One French study that compared olive oil use and stroke incidence that those who consumed the highest amounts of olive oil had a 41% lower risk of stroke. A number of other studies have also found similar results.
These findings make sense because individuals who use olive oil will probably be replacing other less heart healthy fats in their diet. Combine this with the high antioxidant and monounsaturated fat content from Extra Virgin Olive Oil and it's clear why it appears to have a favourable impact on cardiovascular health.
Key Message: A diet high in olive has been demonstrated to dramatically lower the risk of stroke in observational research.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil May Help Lower Your Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
Around one million people in Australia are believed to have type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes is characterised by the reduced effectiveness of insulin, the hormone that moves glucose (sugar) out of the blood and into cells to be used as energy.
It is thought that the phenolic compounds present in Extra Virgin Olive Oil aid in sugar metabolism and enhance the sensitivity and effectiveness of insulin.
A large analysis found that including olive oil in your daily diet could decrease the risk of type two diabetes by 13%. In comparison to a low-fat diet, a diet high in olive oil was also found to help normalise blood glucose in those who already had type 2 diabetes.
These beneficial effects are even more pronounced when coupled with a Mediterranean diet. 1 study found that a Mediterranean diet enriched with nuts or Extra Virgin Olive Oil decreased the risk of type 2 diabetes by more than 50 percent.
Key Message: Extra Virgin Olive Oil may help improve insulin sensitivity, which can help protect against type 2 diabetes or to manage pre-existing diabetes.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil is the Best Cooking Oil
There are a lot of different cooking oils that claim to be the best.
But when you think about the major factors that influence how an oil reacts to high temperatures -- oxidative stability and ratio of monounsaturated fats -- Extra Virgin Olive Oil is number one.
While virgin coconut oil has a similar oxidative stability (due to the high saturated fat content), it's very low in antioxidants. By comparison, Extra Virgin Olive Oil is rich in beneficial antioxidants such as tocopherols and hydroxytyrosol.
Additionally, if you use an oil regularly you must consider the known health effects of its primary fats. Saturated fat (coconut oil) has zero understood benefits while monounsaturated fat (olive oil) appears to significantly benefit heart health in the long term.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil is also more practical for cooking because it comes in a variety of different flavour profiles (much like wine) and can complement both sweet and savoury dishes.
Crucial Message: When you think about its oxidative stability, superior antioxidant contents and ratio of monounsaturated fat, as well as its varied flavour profile, Extra Virgin Olive Oil is easily the best choice for cooking.
Cooking With Extra Virgin Olive Oil Can Make Your Food More Nutritious
Still not convinced that Extra Virgin Olive Oil must be your main cooking oil?
Studies indicate that cooking with Extra Virgin Olive Oil can increase the nutrient content of your food.
This is because the antioxidants in Extra Virgin Olive Oil are so resistant to high heat that they don't break down and instead end up being absorbed by the cooked food. In addition, it also assists the cooked food to retain some nutrients that are usually lost through cooking.
For example, one study demonstrated that if broccoli was cooked with sunflower oil as well as refined olive oil, several beneficial compounds in the broccoli (such as vitamin C) were reduced. But when cooked in Extra Virgin Olive Oil the amounts of these beneficial compounds remained unchanged.
Key Message: Cooking with Extra Virgin Olive Oil can help retain -- and in some instances increase -- the number of nutrients and antioxidants in the cooked food that could otherwise be lost or damaged.
Olive Oil Consumption May Improve Bone Health
Olive oil, especially those rich in antioxidants such as Extra Virgin Olive Oil, may protect against bone loss with aging.
Animal and human research propose that olive oil can inhibit bone reabsorption (the breakdown of calcium) and increase bone formation.
The outcome of a current research in 870 participants seem to support this theory. They found that people who consumed the maximum amount of Extra Virgin Olive Oil had a 51% reduced risk of bone fractures.
This is an exciting prospect, but more research is required as most human studies have been relatively small in size.
Key Message: Emerging evidence links polyphenols and olive oil consumption to a reduced risk of bone loss in old age. More research is required to show this with any certainty.
The Compounds in Olive Oil May Protect Against Certain Cancers
It is understood that what and the way we eat can influence cancer risk.
Observational studies have shown a lower incidence of some cancers in regions where olive oil intake is high.
A large analysis of 19 previous studies found that people who have a higher consumption of olive oil had a lower risk of breast cancer and cancers of the digestive system.
Just how or why isn't entirely understood, but researchers suspect that the distinctive oleocanthal content of Extra Virgin Olive Oil may play a protective role. Interestingly, oleocanthal is an antioxidant that forms during the malaxation of Extra Virgin Olive Oil and is not found in any other food... not even olives.
We cannot say for certain that Extra Virgin Olive Oil has anti-cancer properties, but the early evidence is promising.
Key Message: Extra Virgin Olive Oil could potentially protect against some cancers, at least theoretically.
A Diet High in Extra Virgin Olive Oil May be Good for Brain Health
Olive oil could potentially lessen the risk of Alzheimer's disease and age-related dementia.
The phenolic components of Extra Virgin Olive Oil may help clear the chemicals that cause brain degeneration.
One study compared an Extra Virgin Olive Oil-enhanced Mediterranean diet using a standard low fat diet and found people who on the Extra Virgin Olive Oil diet suffered less cognitive decline (loss of brain function and memory) after a 6.5 year follow up.
More research is need to confirm these benefits but it's a hopeful area.
Crucial Message: Early research indicates that a diet high in Extra Virgin Olive Oil may inhibit the compounds responsible for Alzheimer's disease and dementia.
Olive Oil Can Contribute to Health and Longevity
In regions where olive oil is a central part of the daily diet, individuals have a tendency to live longer.
A large epidemiological study followed over 40,000 Spanish themes over 13.5 years. People that have the greatest olive oil intake were far less likely to die early compared to those consuming the least amount of olive oil.
Key Message: Observational studies consistently demonstrate that those who eat a diet rich in Extra Virgin Olive Oil are inclined to live longer.
Australian Extra Virgin Olive Oil Is The Highest Quality
Not all Extra Virgin Olive Oil is created equal.
Data proves that Australian certified olive oil is the highest quality in Australia when it comes to freshness and quality.
For the healthiest and most nourishing olive oil make sure to source yours locally and check for this Australian certification triangle.
- Neil Naran