Health benefits of olive oil

Raise your hand if you love including a drizzle of olive oil anytime you whip up a stir-fry or grill some fish. As much taste as it’s adding to your dish, it’s adding an equal amount of goodness to your overall health. One of our online interns, Diana Faria, has the latest on the health benefits of olive oil.

By Diana Faria

If you haven’t yet opted for extra-virgin olive oil instead of butter when frying your favourite foods, now’s the time! Naturopathic doctors Sue Love and Sapna Patel Flower from Restore Integrative Health wrapped up heart health month at Toronto’s Olive & Olives, a retail store specializing in olive oils, by highlighting the important health benefits of extra-virgin olive oil.

Olive oil is a great source of healthy monounsaturated fat.

What’s so great about extra-virgin olive oil?
Extra-virgin olive oil is a great source of omega-9, which is a monounsaturated fatty acid. Flower stressed how omega-9 acids help our cardiovascular system, aid in controlling inflammation and protect us from certain types of cancers – and that’s just to name a few.

Need more proof? A new study about extra-virgin olive oil was published in February in the New England Journal of Medicine. The test gathered 7,400 subjects who already had type 2 diabetes or other risk factors for the disease (including hypertension, obesity, or a history of smoking) and divided them into two groups. Both groups followed a Mediterranean diet for just under five years. The first group added at least four tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil per day, while the second group added a daily total of 30 grams of nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds).

What is a Mediterranean diet?
In a few words, this diet consists of getting plenty of exercise, eating mostly plant-based foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, etc), replacing butter with healthy alternatives (canola and, oh yes, olive oil!), using herbs and spices rather than salt and switching red meat for fish and poultry for most of your meals.

The amazing results of adding olive oil to your daily diet
Both groups’ risk of death due to heart attack, stroke or cardiovascular disease dropped by 30 per cent! Plot twist: most people from both groups were already on a Mediterranean diet before this study began and just added those four tablespoons of olive oil. “The likelihood is if you did this study on people who were eating a North American diet, the [results] would have been that much greater,” Love said.

Case in point: get that extra-virgin olive oil anywhere you can! Use it in your salad, fry your fish with it or try it when you bake – you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how good healthy fats can taste!

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