5+ benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
The quality of Australian olive oil is among the best in the world. So, why should we be using it?
It is high in monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA, a healthy fat), which has only one double bond in its chemical structure and is therefore a relatively stable type of fat. This is in contrast to polyunsaturated fats, which have many double bonds. This means that they are more unstable and susceptible to free radical damage, which is known to play a role in processes involved in the development of health issues such as heart disease and cancer. Therefore, including food sources high in MUFA in your diet may contribute to cell protection from this damage. In addition, replacing saturated fats (for example, coconut oil) in your diet with sources of MUFA can contribute further benefits to overall health such as lowering cholesterol.
The health benefits of olive oil go beyond the MUFA content. Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) is the highest grade of olive oil due to gentler extraction techniques used to obtain the juice from the olive (first cold pressed). In contrast, the processing involved in production of cheaper, refined olive oils changes the flavour of the end product and removes natural compounds which are believed to contribute to health benefits.
EVOO is high in natural phytochemicals including antioxidants and is trans fat free. It is these phytochemicals (polyphenols in particular) that are found in much larger quantities in EVOO compared to other types of oils, which increasing research is suggesting may be linked with a positive impact on health ranging from weight management, body composition, cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, gut health, arthritis, Alzheimer’s and possibly osteoporosis. Below is a summary of five of the key evidence based health benefits:
1. Improves heart health -> PREDIMED study participants who consumed the most EVOO had a 35% lower risk of heart disease (heart attack and stroke).
-> Risk of heart disease dropped by 10% for every 10g (about 1/2 a tablespoon) of EVOO consumed daily.
2. Lowers BP
-> A polyphenol rich olive oil (such as EVOO) has been found to both protect against high blood pressure and lower high blood pressure.
3. Reduces risk of type 2 diabetes
-> A large, ongoing study found that those who consumed more than a tablespoon of olive oil per day had a 10% lower risk of type 2 diabetes compared to those who never consumed it (The Nurses’ Health Study).
4. Reduces risk of cancer
-> EVOO contains the phytochemical ‘oleocanthal’ which is known to have anti-inflammatory effects and may contribute to preventing the growth of human cancer cells.
5. Protective against UV rays for the skin
-> This is thought to be due to a compound in EVOO called squalene, which is known to protect against free radicals and skin cell damage.
EVOO is a powerful plant food with a large body of evidence supporting its role in a healthy diet. Not only does it have a great flavour, but it is also extremely versatile as it makes an excellent cooking oil and can be used cold in dressings.
Accredited Practising Dietitian