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Olive Oil: To Drink Or Not To Drink?

Extra virgin olive oil

Have you ever taken a sip of olive oil? Or, better yet, considered drinking it every day? Sounds a bit crazy, right? Well, it may not be. Consuming a daily ounce of olive oil, in particular extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), is an old tradition that’s just now starting to gain traction across the globe. The routine of beginning the day with a shot of EVOO – a shot of life – is a practice that started in Mediterranean countries, namely Greece, Italy, Spain, and France, where EVOO has been consumed as a daily supplement for generations. Although there is limited research on drinking olive oil, there is ample research on the benefits the juice itself holds. The meeting-III International Conference on Virgin Olive Oil and Health supported by the Diputación de Jaén (Spain) argues that there are a bunch of healthful compounds found in olive oil that benefit the heart, fight cancer, improve bone health, and fight obesity (5). Additionally, it’s great for skin health and fighting inflammation

Olive oil

Why Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)?

EVOO is a great oil to cook with AND consume alone because it’s minimally processed. To maximize the freshness of the oil, the olives are cold-pressed (no heat used) to retain their high level of antioxidants, which, in-turn, help your body fight free radicals. High levels of free radicals can contribute to multiple illnesses, including heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer, so it’s best to fight them off. And, lucky for you, extra virgin olive oil does just that. The ADA (American Diabetic Association) also recommends that people “Include more monounsaturated fats in [their] diet, try to substitute olive or canola oil instead of butter, margarine or shortening when cooking. Extra virgin olive oil contains high levels of antioxidants like vitamin K, vitamin E, oleic acid, oleocanthal, an anti-inflammatory, and oleuropein, which “is best known for its blood pressure-lowering effect” (1). Some foods high in monounsaturated fats include avocado, cashews, almonds, peanuts, pecans, olives, and peanut butter. 

An AHA (American Heart Association) Study

Now you may be wondering if it’s really necessary to incorporate olive oil in your diet. Let’s take a deeper look … A study done by Marta Guasch-Ferre, Ph.D., a research scientist in the department of nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston investigated whether consuming high amounts of olive oil increased heart health for the U.S. population. Dr. Guasch-Ferre’s study, consisting of 63,867 women from the Nurses’ Health Study and 35,512 men from the Health Professionals Follow-up, found that “Consuming more than half a tablespoon of olive oil daily was associated with a 15% lower risk of having any type of cardiovascular disease and a 21% lower risk of having coronary heart disease” (AHA). One way to reach this ½ Tbsp recommendation is by replacing margarine, butter, mayonnaise, and other fats with equal amounts of olive oil. Dr. Guasch-Ferre also found that replacing other fats with olive oil “Was associated with a 5% lower risk of any cardiovascular disease and 7% lower risk of coronary heart disease in this observational study” (AHA)

Mediterranean diet

The Mediterranean Diet vs. The American Diet

The American diet consists of convenience foods that are high in calories, sodium, and sugars. Large portion sizes and foods that are filled with trans fats and saturated fats contribute to high rates of obesity and chronic diseases that continue to grow at alarming rates. On the other hand, the Mediterranean diet relies on a “Great abundance and diversity of nonstarchy vegetables, minimally processed whole-grain cereals, legumes, nuts, and seeds'' (2). The main source of fat is cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil. Additionally, very little meat and milk is consumed along with moderate amounts of white wine. The Mediterranean diet is one of the best in the world and is associated with an increased life expectancy and decreased chance for chronic diseases. 

Key Takeaway 

Ultimately, consuming 2 Tbsp (1oz) of extra virgin olive oil a day is recommended to receive all of its benefits. If that’s a bit too much for you start small – drink a teaspoon, then try two. Get used to the flavor of the oil. If taking a shot of pure EVOO will never be for you, don’t worry! You can easily incorporate 2 Tbsp (1oz) into your diet throughout your day. Use the oil to fry your eggs, make salad dressing, roast vegetables, make bread dipping, and sauté your protein. You’ll hit the 2 Tbsp (1oz) mark before you know it!

Written by Mandy Zhen
Reviewed by Kelly Powers, MA, RDN, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who takes a holistic approach to nutrition and health. Kelly is a recipe developer with a food blog highlighting whole foods, simple recipes, and her life in San Francisco. She’s the creator of 52 Weeks, a weekly meal plan program that helps users get back in the kitchen and feed themselves well. Kelly is also a co-founder of Olivaio.

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