Extra Virgin Olive Oil (known as EVOO) is the juice squeezed directly from the olive fruit. EVOO is not refined or extracted using chemicals or heat, so it’s naturally high in antioxidants and beneficial fats. Oils that aren’t classified as Extra Virgin are generally extracted using chemical and heat so don’t have the same health benefits of EVOO. There’s plenty of high-quality evidence that consumption of EVOO has multiple health benefits. In particular, it’s a key ingredient of the Mediterranean Diet, a diet linked to reduced incidence of chronic diseases and longer lifespans. Here, we have listed the top five reasons why EVOO is beneficial for our health and how much to consume to reap the benefits.
Top 5 benefits of consuming Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1. Mental health
The SMILES Trial (2012 – 2015) was a large study that shows dietary changes – from following a Mediterranean Diet – can improve symptoms in those with clinically diagnosed depression. The diet was rich in Extra Virgin Olive Oil, which has benefits for gut health and inflammation management and is linked to improved mental wellbeing. Learn more about the link between food and mood here.
2. Heart health
The PREDIMED study (2003-2011) was a long-term study that examined the effects of the Mediterranean Diet on the prevention of cardiovascular disease in people at risk of CVD. The participants who followed the Mediterranean Diet supplemented with 50ml of EVOO per day throughout the study had lowered risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. The biophenols in EVOO have been linked to protecting good cholesterol (LDL cholesterol) in the body from damage, helping to maintain healthy cholesterol levels and support heart health.
3. Skin health
Squalene is a fat naturally produced by our skin cells, but is also popularly used in skin care products and is naturally present in Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Squalene forms part of the skin lipid layer that protects skin from the external environment, improving skin integrity and is linked to reduced risk of developing skin cancer. Squalene has antioxidant effects, which protects the skin from free radical damage helping to slow the signs of ageing in the skin. In Mediterranean regions, EVOO is commonly used in soaps, skin care and people are known to rub EVOO directly on to the skin. Although anecdotal, these traditions are backed by the latest research linking squalene and other compounds such as oleocanthal with skin health.
4. Weight management
Extra Virgin Olive Oil is a key ingredient in the Mediterranean Diet, which has been consistently linked to reduced incidence of overweight and obesity. Overall diet patterns are important for weight management, but specifically including EVOO as part of a healthy diet can be beneficial for managing a healthy weight. Oleic acid, present in EVOO, is a fatty acid that has been shown to improve satiety following a meal. This means that people can feel fuller for longer when meals incorporate a serve of EVOO, helping to manage appetite and energy intake across the day.
5. Illness and injuries
Extra Virgin Olive Oil is high in oleocanthals, a polyphenol compound that has been found to display similar effects to Ibuprofen (anti-inflammatory). During injury and illness, inflammation is the body’s natural response that helps to send signals to the rest of the body. However, longer term inflammation can have a negative effect on recovery time, so nutrition strategies can help with inflammation management. Incorporating EVOO into the diet can help the body to manage inflammation in a healthy way and may also help pain management during injuries.
How much olive oil should I consume?
On average, 25 to 50mL of Extra Virgin Olive Oil per day is associated with positive health benefits. This is equivalent to roughly 3 to 4 tablespoons of EVOO. Try incorporating EVOO into salad dressings, using it on toast or sandwiches in place of butter, dressing steamed and roasted vegetables for more flavour and using it in baking or making homemade dips. EVOO is extremely versatile and is also proven to be one of the safest oils to cook with, withstanding high temperatures.
Want more Med diet recipes to improve mood and mental health? Download our Food & Mood recipe eBook below.