Benefits of olive oil

16th February, 2024
Olive oil - What's the hype?

What’s the hype with olive oil?

A Mediterranean staple, you probably have olive oil in your kitchen cupboard. It’s essentially the oil extracted from olives and is used for frying foods, roasting or as a dressing. Or even a straight shot, if you fancy it. It’s also been dubbed a bit of a beauty saviour too as a hair and skin moisturiser.

As part of Mediterranuary – where our resident gut expert Jordan (aka Mr Gut Health) followed a Med-style diet for the whole of January – we’re delving deep into the world of olive oil. Specifically extra virgin olive oil aka EVOO – the least processed form of the good stuff.

So what are the health benefits? Why does everyone rave about it? And what science is there to back up this salad staple?

The big benefits of olive oil

Digestion aid

We’re all about giving your gut some love. So is extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) like liquid gold for your gut? It turns out EVOO has some pretty big benefits for your tummy. It’s packed with powerful polyphenols (aka plant chemicals) that can help your good gut bacteria thrive. In turn, those magic microbes keep your digestion running smoothly.

Healthy hearts

Keeping your ticker healthy is super important so all that blood and oxygen can move around your body, making sure your organs are working well. Extra virgin olive oil is packed with healthy fats (aka monounsaturated)  – especially one called oleic acid – that can bring benefits to your heart and boost your ‘good’ cholesterol (HDL) while keeping your ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL) in check. It’s also anti-inflammatory and has antioxidant effects to protect your body from damage.

Brain boost

As you’ll know, your brain is the ultimate control centre of your body. It pretty much controls everything from your thoughts and movements to your emotions and memory. So we want to keep it sharp and alert. Enter EVOO. Studies show EVOO could even help to protect against brain disorders like Alzheimer’s disease. So upping your EVOO can mean a happy tummy and a happy mind!

Body balance

If we ever needed proof that (good) fats aren’t bad for our waistline, then this is it.

Yes EVOO is high in fat and calories. But there’s been a bunch of research to show it could actually help you maintain a healthy weight. How much EVOO do you need? The studies suggest around 2 to 4 tablespoons a day to reap the best benefits. So drizzle over a salad, mix into a pasta sauce or use it to roast colourful veggies like peppers, courgettes and sweet potatoes.

Disease defender

We all want to do what we can to avoid getting ill. And what you eat on the regular can have a big impact on your health – and sickness risk. Adding EVOO to your daily meals has been shown to help protect against lots of different diseases, including a 31% reduced risk of cancer. Pretty incredible, right? And that’s even if you’re not following a Med-style diet on the whole.

One for the ladies. EVOO could help reduce your risk of women’s illnesses including breast cancer, ovarian cancer and postmenopausal osteoporosis – keeping those bones strong and healthy.

The proof is in the (EVOO) pudding!

Jordan aka Mr Gut Health followed the Mediterranean Diet for month and ended up going through 4 bottles of EVOO! That equates to around 5 tablespoons per day. Whilst this seems like quite a lot, it’s not uncommon for people in the Med to consume this much daily.

Wonder what happened to his health after consuming this much? The results were surprising:

  • He lost 2.8% body fat after switching to EVOO as his primary source of fat. Studies have shown that olive oil can improve fat composition compared to other types of fat especially when in a calorie deficit.
  • His cholesterol and blood pressure improved. EVOO has been shown to also improve these markers of heart health in numerous studies.
  • The overall diversity of his gut microbes increased, specifically, he had more bacteria that produce a beneficial compound called butyrate. Previous studies have shown polyphenols found in EVOO can promote the growth of these good bacteria.

Some of these benefits may be attributed to the overarching Mediterranean Diet, but there’s no doubt that EVOO could reap rewards for your gut and overall health if you switch to it as your go to oil!

Easy ways to use olive oil

It’s not just about frying, roasting or sprinkling over salads. There are loads of other ways to enjoy EVOO…

  1. Delicious dip: warm, crusty bread dipped in EVOO is a match made in heaven. Simply sprinkle with a little sea salt for an awesome dip swap.
  2. Splash over soup: fancy sprucing up your soup? Drizzle olive oil on top for an extra rich and delicious bowl of goodness.
  3. Trickle over cheese: a block of grilled feta with pepper and olive oil makes for a great sharing dish with bread, olives and nuts. A great way to get your fill of other essential Mediterranean foods too.
  4. Mix into hummus: those blended chickpeas taste even creamier with a drizzle of olive oil on top.

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