In the first days of a new year, many of us resolve to make changes to our daily habits in order to be healthier. But let’s be real, we really love cooking and eating delicious food. The good news? The two don’t have to be mutually exclusive! And the great news? There's one superfood you probably already have in your pantry and are likely using every day! You guessed it, extra virgin olive has been proven time and time again to have significant health benefits. Let's breakdown what makes extra virgin olive oil a superfood:
The term ‘superfood’ is one of those label callouts that can be pretty confusing. It seems that in order to be a superfood, an ingredient should fit certain clear specifications. But, ‘superfood’ doesn’t really have an exact definition. While marketing and media hype can make the whole category of superfoods seem fuzzy, the term has some validity too.
We’ll let you in on a little secret. Your body wants to be fed fresh, nutritious, wholesome food. Just being a little more intentional about incorporating seasonal produce and nutrient-dense ingredients into your routine can have huge health payoffs. But, for extra credit, there really are certain foods that are highly nutrient-dense and can have a positive effect on you health (as a part of a broader healthy lifestyle, of course!). While some superfoods have been coined as miracle cure-alls without real evidence to their case, wholesome foods are crucial in order to achieve the right levels of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fatty acids. There is no such thing as a miracle food, but there is such thing as a lifestyle that features plenty of nutrient-dense foods and thus supports a long and healthy life.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Extra virgin olive oil is unique in that extensive research has been conducted on its purported health benefits. People across the globe have been eating extra virgin olive oil since long before it was coined a ‘superfood.’ The Mediterranean diet has been highly lauded, and for good reason. People in the Mediterranean live longer and are happier. This has been credited in part to the large portions of fruits and vegetables, fish, and healthy fats like nuts and olive oil in their diets.
Olive oil’s rich flavor and versatility are reasons enough to incorporate it into your daily diet. But, if you need a little more convincing, considerable research has been to done to uncover the extensive health benefits of extra virgin olive oil, especially when used to replace other fats like butter, margarine, and refined oils. Here’s what the studies tells us are the main benefits:
High-quality extra virgin olive oil has high levels of phenolic compounds, an antioxidant that destroys free radicals, kill cancer cells, and can reduce the risk of heart disease and increase longevity.
This specific phenolic compound found in extra virgin olive oil is said to be responsible for the burning or tingling sensation that is experienced when tasting a high quality extra virgin olive oil. It has anti-inflammatory properties, and as such can have similar effects to pain-killers and fever reducers. The oleocanthal can also help clear beta-amyloid plaque from the brain.
3. Monounsaturated Fatty Acids (MUFAs)
Monounsaturated fats are the type of fatty acid commonly found in nuts and high fatty fruits, like olives and avocados. These types of fats are central to the Mediterranean lifestyle, and studies have shown that they can increase the fluidity and elasticity of the cell membranes, and at about 75% MUFA content, extra virgin olive oil is a great source. The MUFAs in 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil per day can reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, atherosclerosis, and color cancer.
4. Vitamin E
Each tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil has about 1.9 mg of Vitamin E, a fat-soluble anti-oxidant that can protect the body against eye and skin problems and in fact make hair and skin much healthier. It has also been shown to protect the body from diabetes, neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s, and lung cancer.
5. Vitamin K
Vitamin K is another fat-soluble vitamin that has its greatest affect on the blood. It is necessary for healthy coagulation and the levels of calcium in the blood. 1 tablespoon of olive oil a day will fill 10% of the daily recommended intake of Vitamin K, and can help protect against insulin resistanceand several types of cancer.
How to add more extra virgin olive oil to your diet
So, now what? How do you reap the highest benefits from extra virgin olive oil? Generally, the experts recommend that most of us would be best consuming about 2 tablespoons per day. While many of us have no problem finding ways to eat more extra virgin olive oil, here are some easy ideas to add it to your daily meals and snacks:
- add an extra drizzle to a salad, sandwich, or soup
- use extra virgin olive oil on popcorn
- fry your eggs in it
- dress us store-bought hummus with an extra pour of extra virgin olive oil
- replace butter with extra virgin olive oil in baking recipes
- get inspired by our many recipes!