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Top 5 Reasons To Eat Plenty Of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
I use extra virgin olive oil a great deal in my recipes. So I thought it was about time I gave you an explanation as to why. According to Dr Mary Flynn, experienced researcher on olive oil health and nutrition, the health benefits of olive oil are found in the phenol antioxidant content, not its mono-unsaturated fats. Which is why the extra virgin olive oil – very high in phenols – has greater health benefits than the low-phenol refined olive oils.
Here are my top 5 reasons why I love Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1. It’s a really impressive oil for overall health
As Dr Simon Poole, specialist on the Mediterranean diet says “ The Mediterranean peoples have reduced risks of bowel, breast and prostate cancer, as well as heart disease, stroke and diabetes.’
Here’s a perfect example of research that backs up how healthy it is to eat extra virgin olive oil.
The PREDIMED study, published in 2013, is a scientific research trial conducted in Spain with 7400 men and women aged between 55-80 years, who were at high risk of cardiovascular disease but didn’t yet have it.
The group were randomly divided into three, and each were given intensive dietary education on one of the following:
• low fat diet (control group)
• Mediterranean diet with 30g nuts per day (provided)
• Mediterranean diet with 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil per day (provided)
The trial was due to run for 6 years, however it was terminated after just 4 years and 8 months because those people eating the Mediterranean diet, and especially those eating the Mediterranean diet plus the specified extra virgin olive oil had a 30% less risk for developing cardiovascular diseases and breast cancer. So it was deemed unethical to keep the remaining third of the group on a low fat diet.
For overall healthy ageing, extra virgin olive oil is really beneficial. It offers protection from ageing because it contains high levels of natural antioxidants such as vitamin E, which can help prevent cell damage caused by free radicals.
2. Extra Virgin Olive Oil is a natural anti-inflammatory which reduces inflammatory pain.
That’s because it contains Oleocanthal (a unique natural element in extra virgin olive oil). This works to limit the production of inflammatory compounds in the body. It has a similar mode of action to the anti-inflammatory drug, Ibuprofen. Oleocanthal causes the “burning” sensation when we swallow extra virgin olive oil.
In 2005, Professor Beauchamp and his fellow researchers, reported that the consumption of small quantities of Oleocanthal (via extra virgin olive oil) may be responsible for the lower prevalence of chronic diseases associated with a Mediterranean dietary pattern. These researchers noted that ingestion of 50 g of extra virgin olive oil daily will provide approximately 10 mg of Oleocanthal, which is considered to be equivalent to a low (10%) dose of Ibuprofen, for pain relief. 50g is about 3 ½ tablespoons.
3. Extra Virgin Olive Oil helps with weight loss.
The Mediterranean dietary pattern, which includes extra virgin olive oil as the dominant oil/fat, has been associated with a lower Body Mass Index (BMI) and reduced levels of obesity.
Dr Mary Flynn, says ‘a meal containing fat leads to satiety, causing us to stop eating because the meal has satisfied us. Additionally, meals containing fat extend the length of time it takes us to get hungry again for our next meal. In this way, using extra virgin olive oil helps control body weight.’
A randomised study in 2010 of 44 overweight women, showed that an olive oil-enriched diet with overall fat intake between 15 and 30% of total daily calories (as part of an overall Mediterranean dietary pattern) resulted in more weight loss than a standard low-fat diet.
4. Extra Virgin Olive Oil helps us to absorb other nutrients from our food.
Carotenoids are pigments that give colour to vegetables. They have proposed cancer fighting properties in the body. Carotenoids require dietary fat for absorption. Therefore, cooking in oil/fat (i.e. extra virgin olive oil) increases the absorption of carotenoids. Glucosinolates are well known bio-active substances from the cruciferous family (cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale), with proposed cancer protective properties. Glucosinolates are water soluble and are better preserved and absorbed with oil/fat.
5. Extra Virgin Olive Oil is one of the best oils to cook with.
The International Olive Council says cooking with extra virgin olive oil at temperatures at/or below 210ºC is safe. ‘It undergoes no substantial structural change and keeps its nutritional value better than other oils, not only because of the antioxidants but also due to its high levels of oleic acid.’
So research shows cooking with extra virgin olive oil is quite safe to cook with up to 210ºC. In fact more recent research demonstrated that cooking or heating Australia extra virgin olive oil is safe up to 240ºC (because generally Australian Extra Virgin Olive Oil is higher in polyphenols).
A note of caution – Just because an olive oil product has been listed as “extra virgin,” however, does not necessarily mean it truly contains extra virgin olive oil. Look for bottles or tins that state varietal type, country of origin, and chemical analysis. The chemical analysis includes at least the total phenol content. The European olive oil producers – from Spain, Italy, Greece, mostly –dominate the global olive oil trade. They are also subsidised and tariff-protected and the oils they export are typically low-quality refined oils labelled “pure” and “extra light”, at lower prices than Australian extra virgin oils, which are generally higher in the healthy phenolic content.