Is Olive Oil Part Of The Mediterranean Diet?

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Why High Quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil Is A Key Pillar of The Mediterranean Diet

Updated 16th August 2021

Olive Oil And The Mediterranean Diet
Olive Oil And The Mediterranean Diet

Olive oil is a vital component of the Mediterranean diet, first adopted by people living around the Mediterranean Sea, and has now become one of the most popular diets in the world.

The health benefits of following the Mediterranean diet, including a focus on fresh fruit, vegetables, grains, oily fish and healthy fats such as olive oil are wide and varied and are linked to reduce disease risk due to the high amounts of monounsaturated fatty acids.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil and The Mediterranean Diet

For a healthy diet, the majority of fats that you eat should be monounsaturated. Extra virgin olive oils, such as Morocco Gold, are one of the richest sources of monounsaturated fatty acids around. From a chemical standpoint, monounsaturated fats are simply fat molecules that have one unsaturated carbon bond in the molecule, this is also called a double bond. Oils that contain monounsaturated fats are typically liquid at room temperature but start to turn solid when chilled.

How Do Monounsaturated Fats Affect A Healthy Diet?

How Olive Oil Prevents Heart Disease
How Olive Oil Prevents Heart Disease

Monounsaturated fats can help reduce level of ldl cholesterol in your blood which can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. They also provide nutrients to help develop and maintain your body’s cells. Olive oil rich in monounsaturated fats also contribute vitamin E to the diet, an antioxidant vitamin most of us need more of.

The results of a 2013 study of over 7,000 people, one of the largest ever done,  found people who followed a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra virgin olive oil for five years had a 30% lower risk of heart attack or stroke.

They also showed a slower rate of cognitive decline and were better able to control their weight.

Why Is Olive Oil So Important For The Mediterranean Diet?

People living around the Mediterranean Sea are well-versed in the daily use of extra virgin olive oil.

Consumption (litres) of olive oil per head of population in countries such as Italy, Spain and Greece vary between 9.4L per head of population to 12.85L (Sources : Global Population 2019 ; International Olive Oil Council).

For residents of the USA and UK, this is much less so. Consumption of olive oil is around 0.92L in the UK and 0.95L in the USA per head of population, less than 1/10th the consumption of the Mediterranean countries. They mostly choose to cook with butter, margarine and soybean or canola oil.

This means that people in these olive oil consuming countries are reaping the extraordinary health benefits of extra virgin olive oil whilst people in the USA and UK are not.

However,  our increasing love affair with the colours, flavours and health benefits of the Mediterranean Diet for centuries – so much so that we now dedicate a whole month to celebrating it.

Created in 2009, National Mediterranean Diet Month highlights the health benefits of this particular way of eating.

Now a new study of Americans shows that replacing a mere five grams of margarine, butter or mayonnaise with the same amount of extra virgin olive oil was associated with up to a 7% lower risk of coronary artery disease.

To put that into context, five grams is about a half pat of butter or margarine and one teaspoon of mayonnaise or fatty dairy products.

Even better, people who used even higher extra virgin olive oil intake, more than seven grams, or 1/2 tablespoon a day, had a 15% lower risk of any kind of cardiovascular disease and a 21% lower risk of coronary artery disease.

The preliminary research was presented Wednesday at the American Heart Association’s Prevention, Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health Scientific Sessions 2020.

High Quality Olive Oil Is a Great Substitute For Your Regular Fat

There are a wealth of studies to support the move from saturated fats to monounsaturated fats within your diet. 

“Don’t just add extra virgin olive oil to your regular diet. Substitution is what’s important here,” said study author Dr. Frank Hu, who chairs the department of nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “The main thing is to replace unhealthy fats with extra virgin olive oil and that can improve cholesterol, reduce inflammatory biomarkers and improve cardiovascular health,” he said.

The health benefits of the Mediterranean diet are renowned: Lots and lots of veggies, fruit, fish and extra virgin olive oil have been shown to strengthen bones, improve brain health and reduce the risk for some cancersdiabeteshigh cholesterol, heart disease and stroke.