Extra virgin olive oil is, par excellence, the main ingredient of the Mediterranean Diet, UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage.
However, there are still a number of myths regarding extra virgin olive oil, such as whether it is good to have it every day, whether it is fattening because it is a fat or how much should be consumed to take advantage of its benefits.
On this matter, the PREDIMED study acquires great relevance, since it determined that the Mediterranean Diet, with extra virgin olive oil as the main fat, is associated with a lower number of cardiovascular problems, even in people with a higher risk of suffering from them, among many other benefits.
Is it good to take olive oil daily if it is a fat?
We will start from the basis that fats are necessary to provide energy to our body. Without them, our body cannot function properly. The crux of the matter comes when we decide what type of fats we contribute to our body.
Monounsaturated fats are called healthy fats and our body processes them and transforms them into energy. On the other hand, polyunsaturated or saturated fats pass directly into the blood without being processed, accumulating in the arterial walls and increasing the risk of certain diseases.
Extra virgin olive oil is a fat and, as such, provides our body with about 9 calories per gram ingested. But let us not be alarmed. The main difference between extra virgin olive oil and other vegetable fats lies in its composition: extra virgin olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, especially oleic acid. In addition, it can also boast of having a rich composition of vitamin E and polyphenols.
Recommended amount of daily intake
According to PREDIMED, and according to the indications of the study doctors, the recommended daily intake of extra virgin olive oil is 40 milliliters, that is, about four or five tablespoons daily.
This intake includes the extra virgin olive oil that we can drink in the morning, the one we use to dress salads or the one we use to fry and cook food. That is, 40 milliliters distributed in all the uses that we give to extra virgin olive oil throughout the day.
However, it is useless to take the recommended daily amount of extra virgin olive oil if we have habits that are harmful to our health. For this reason, it is always recommended to have a healthy and balanced diet and practice physical exercise on a daily basis. In fact, the effect of the oil on breast cancer and its key role in cardiovascular diseases are being studied.
Benefits of taking olive oil every day
Taking the daily amount of extra virgin olive oil, you can take advantage of all its beneficial effects. In addition to having a lower chance of cardiovascular disease, it includes lower blood pressure, improved cognitive function and a lower risk of diabetes and depression. Even, and despite being a fat, extra virgin olive oil is also indicated for weight loss.
A special feature of extra virgin olive oil is found in the polyphenols, natural antioxidants by nature. Above all, there is a particular polyphenol that is mainly responsible for the antioxidant character of extra virgin olive oil: Hydroxytyrosol.
Thanks to Hydroxytyrosol, and other polyphenols such as Oleuropein, Oleocanthal and Oleacein, the antiatherogenic (blood fat), cardioprotective, anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective and anticancer properties of extra virgin olive oil stand out.
The EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) emphasizes the importance of polyphenols in extra virgin olive oil, since they contribute to the protection of cells and blood against oxidative damage.
Minimum and maximum quantity
Regulation 432/2012 of the European Commission, on 'healthy properties of food', establishes that the beneficial effect of olive oils is obtained with a minimum daily intake of 20 grams of extra virgin olive oil. With this amount, we obtain a minimum of 5 milligrams of Hydroxytyrosol and its derivatives, an amount from which we benefit from its properties.
So, if extra virgin olive oil is so healthy, why do you have to put a maximum amount? The moderate consumption of extra virgin olive oil, with its four or five daily tablespoons, does not have any negative effect. However, extra virgin olive oil has a high caloric value, which can cause an extra supply of calories in our diet if eaten in large quantities.