Studies show that the consumption of just 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil a day is enough to dramatically impact your health. Sounds pretty incredible, doesn't it? Especially when you consider that it tastes amazing and as much of a treat as many of your favourite foods. So, what's the story?
The Ratio of Essential Fatty Acids is perfect
We've all heard about omegas-3 & 6 and how essential they are for good health. Just so we're really clear I'm going to list the benefits below.
Omega-3 is crucial for:
- cardiovascular health
- lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol
- stroke prevention
- brain function - everything from memory to clarity and on top of that there is so much work being done on the effect regular consumption has on dementia that I'll come back to that in another post
- blood health
- avoiding inflammation in the body which, as you probably know, is considered to be the root cause of many diseases such as arthritis and even some cancers. It also affects how we age
- stimulates skin and hair growth
- maintains bone health
- regulates metabolism
- maintains the reproductive system
But that's not all you need to know. The big takeaway is this - while omega-3 and 6 are both essential, it's crucial that we consume them in the right ratio because while omega 3 is great for managing inflammation in the body, too much omega-6 can cause inflammation. Most experts agree that the ideal ratio is about 1 part omega-3 to 10 parts omega-6 and this, is exactly the ratio offered by Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Many foods in the Western diet offer ratios between 20 and 50 parts omega 6 to 1 part Omega 3. In sunflower oil it's 40 to 1.
The antioxidant connection
Olive oil is high in antioxidants. Antioxidants reduce the negative effects of free radicals, which contribute to the development of inflammation and disease in the body. Free radicals are found everywhere - our bodies produce them when we convert food to energy, they are in the air we breathe, the pesticides added to so many things we consume are packed with them and then some are generated by the sunlight’s action on the skin and eyes. So, long story short, we are exposed to A LOT of free radicals.
Early harvest olive oils - an extra boost in the fight against free radicals
So-called "early harvest" olive oils (which most of Sarah & Olive's Extra Virgin are), have higher levels of polyphenols than other olive oils, even extra virgin olive oils. Polyphenols are a group of over 500 phytochemicals, which are naturally occurring micronutrients in plants. As with other antioxidants, polyphenols help prevent cellular damage from free-radicals. Harvesting early means that the olives are greener and so give the oil an even bigger antioxidant boost and this is what lowers our risk of many chronic diseases.
Another thing worth mentioning is that early harvest olive oil are not just healthier they also taste deliciously fresh and green making them fabulous for dressing salads and veggies.
Will it make me fat?
The short answer is no. Studies have shown that regular consumption of olive oil does not lead to weight gain or obesity. As a very nutrient-rich food, olive oil helps the body to feel sated thereby lessening our need to indulge in unhealthy snacks.
Raw or cooked?
While it's a myth that you can't cook with extra virgin olive oil, given the calibre of our prize-winning extra virgin olive oils I think they are best used for drizzling or salads, bread and all your favourite dishes and ingredients. This way, you'll preserve all the goodness and flavour.
For cooking, roasting, frying and sautéing we stock some excellent options made by some of our best producers that come at a great price for the cooking then to really make things special finish you favourite dishes with a drizzle of something special of one before serving. Check out our list of favs here. That way you'll get all the goodness and flavour without breaking the bank.
In the meantime, I hope this article serves to make clear just why good quality extra virgin olive oil needs to be part of any healthy diet. They're not all the same and it really is worth investing in a good one (or two). As I always say, they cost about the same as a decent bottle of wine, last for months rather than hours and really do make everything taste amazing. It's a win-win really.
All the best,