Extra-virgin olive oil (lovingly known as EVOO) is the juice squeezed directly from olive fruits. It is not refined or extracted using chemicals or heat. This means that it’s naturally high in antioxidants and beneficial fats. We have plenty of evidence that the consumption of EVOO has a multitude of health benefits. In particular, it is closely linked to the Mediterranean diet, a diet that has been found to reduce the risk for chronic disease and increase lifespan. Here are the health benefits of olive oil you need to know to inspire you to include it more.
The SMILES Trial (2012-2015) was a large study conducted to show if dietary changes from following a Mediterranean diet improved symptoms in those with clinically-diagnosed depression. Participants’ diets were rich in extra-virgin olive oil, which benefited gut health and inflammation, both of which are linked to improved mental wellbeing.
Another study performed to examine the effect of the Mediterranean diet was the PREDIMED study (2003-2011). Researchers found that participants who followed a Mediterranean diet and supplemented with 50 ml of EVOO per day had a lowered risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. The biophenols in extra-virgin olive oil have been linked to protecting good LDL cholesterol from damage, helping to maintain healthy cholesterol levels and supporting heart health.
Squalene is a fat that is naturally produced by our skin cells. It is also popularly used in skincare products and naturally present in Extra-virgin olive oil. Squalene forms part of the skin lipid layer that protects it from the external environment. This improves skin integrity which, in turn, is linked to a reduced risk of developing skin cancer. It also has antioxidant effects, protecting the skin from free-radical damage and helping to slow down signs of aging.
In Mediterranean regions, EVOO is commonly used in soaps and skincare products and people are known to rub it directly onto their skin. Although anecdotal, these traditions are beginning to see backing from new research linking squalene and other EVOO compounds with improved skin health.
Extra-virgin olive oil is a key ingredient of the Mediterranean diet, and this diet has been consistently linked to a reduced incidence of obesity. While all diet patterns are important for weight management, specifically including EVOO can be beneficial for managing a healthy weight. Oleic acid, present in extra-virgin olive oil, is a fatty acid that has been shown to improve satiety following a meal. This means that it can keep you feeling fuller for longer, helping to manage appetite and energy intake across the day.
Beneficial during illness and injury
EVOO is high in oleocanthal. These are polyphenol compounds that have been found to have similar effects to Ibuprofen. During injury or illness, inflammation is the body’s natural response, sending signals to the rest of the body to take action. This is completely normal. However, longer-term inflammation can have a negative effect on recovery time, and nutritional strategies are used for inflammation management. Incorporating extra-virgin olive oil in the diet can help the body to manage inflammation healthily, and may also help with pain management during injury.
How much EVOO should you include?
On average, 25-50 ml of extra-virgin olive oil per day has been associated with positive health benefits. Try incorporating it into your salad dressing, using it on bread in place of butter, dressing veggies in it for more flavour, and using it for baking and homemade dips. EVOO is extremely versatile and has also been proven to be one of the safest oils you can cook with because of its ability to withstand high temperatures.