Olive oil, this staple of the Mediterranean diet, is booming. Olive oil is a popular salad dressing, but today some opt for a more generous and direct drizzle in a glass. In fact, they use it for its supposed health benefits from drinking it neat. But despite the rumor, the origins of olive oil consumption are difficult to trace. Some testimonies suggest that it is an ancient practice in the Mediterranean regions. It is said that a glass of olive oil served as breakfast for the long-lived Greeks on the island of Crete. Are the benefits worth it (literally) or is it a fad?
What are the potential health benefits of consuming olive oil?
Olive oil is a powerful ingredient: It has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, according to an article published in Cells in 2020. But the scientific data doesn’t suggest you should drink olive oil like a shooter. There is no solid research to suggest that any of the potential benefits could be achieved by incorporating olive oil into recipes, rather than drinking it directly.
Hundreds of studies have looked at the potential benefits of olive oil used in food preparation. Yet few of them have studied the effects of consuming this “liquid gold,” the nickname the Greek poet Homer would have given this pantry staple. The only nod to this practice is a brief reference in an article published in Scientific Reports in 2021 that notes that drinking extra virgin olive oil “is rare among consumers,” perhaps due to its pungent and bitter aftertaste.
If you already have a balanced diet, it is unlikely that you will need to add more oil for health benefits. If you already use high quality olive oil in your cooking and use it in the right preparations, you are reaping its benefits.
Benefits with far-reaching consequences, to be exact. Including olive oil in the diet has been linked to improving heart health and reducing the risk of certain types of cancer, as well as promoting satiety and overall digestive health. In a 2018 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, participants suffered fewer cardiovascular events when they ate a Mediterranean diet rich in vegetables, fruits, lean meats, whole grains, and, yes, lots of olive oil.
Moderate consumption of olive oil as part of a Mediterranean diet may also help reduce the risk of breast cancer, according to a review published in January 2022 in Molecules.
Ultimately, this oil benefits the intestine, where it helps the body absorb fat-soluble vitamins (such as vitamins A, D, E, and K) found in other foods. When you add olive oil to your salad, for example, you help your body absorb these fat-soluble vitamins more efficiently. It can also contribute to a healthy gut microbiome. According to an article published in Nutrition Reviews in 2021, consuming 3 to 4 tablespoons of olive oil daily can stimulate beneficial microorganisms in the gut microbiome.
A word of warning: while olive oil has benefits for gut health, claims that it can help reduce bloating are anecdotal. It may work for some people, but not for everyone. That’s because not all of us have the same eating habits, nor the same factors that also influence digestion, such as stress, hormonal fluctuations, medications, food intolerances and physical activity habits.
What are the possible side effects of consuming olive oil?
Drinking small amounts of olive oil should not cause harm or cause negative side effects for most people. Some may experience gastrointestinal upset, as eating too much of any unfamiliar food can cause an upset stomach. If you have a medical condition or are taking a medication that alters the absorption of dietary fats (such as a lipase inhibitor), talk to your doctor before changing your diet.
Caloric density is another potential problem. Fat sources like olive oil contain about 40 calories in a teaspoon. So if you’re concerned about total calorie intake, then high-fat foods may be a higher source of calories.
Although dietitians generally do not recommend drinking pure olive oil, there are some cases where it might be appropriate. Olive oil injections can be helpful for those who struggle to get enough calories every day. In this case, a drink could serve as a concentrated source of calories and healthy fats, even when appetite is low.
How to add olive oil to your diet
The recommended daily consumption of olive oil is one and a half tablespoons.
To increase your olive oil intake, try replacing saturated fats (such as butter) with olive oil. Making this swap is a heart-healthy choice, according to a 2020 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. The study suggests that replacing 5 grams of saturated fat (such as margarine, butter, mayonnaise, or dairy fat) with the same amount of olive oil (about a teaspoon) each day was associated with a lower risk of coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease.
From there, the cooking possibilities are endless. Salads, stir-fries, roasted vegetables, chicken skewers, and fish dishes are some of the easy ways to enjoy olive oil. It is ideal for raw preparations as well as pan-frying and sautéing, but would not be ideal for frying or cooking at very high temperatures. »
Yes, olive oil is excellent for health. No, you don’t have to drink it straight. Although there is anecdotal evidence of the benefits of olive oil injections, no formal study has shown whether drinking olive oil is more beneficial than eating it with meals or using it in cooking. In general, health experts recommend using olive oil instead of sources of saturated fat, but remember that it is high in calories. Consult a doctor or dietitian to find out how much olive oil is right for you, so you don’t accidentally derail your efforts to lose or maintain weight. The suggested intake for each person will be different, depending on their goals.
The protein suppresses both the bitterness and the pungency caused by the oleocanthal of extra virgin olive oil.
Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Diseases with a Mediterranean Diet Supplemented with Extra Virgin Olive Oil or Nuts
Extra virgin olive oil and the gut-brain axis: influence on the gut microbiota, mucosal immunity, and cardiometabolic and cognitive health
Olive oil consumption and cardiovascular risk in American adults.
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