How Extra Virgin Olive Oil Fits A Healthy Lifestyle
Updated November 12th 2020
It is generally accepted that the folks in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea live longer and suffer less than most Americans from cancer and cardiovascular ailments. The not-so-surprising secret is an active lifestyle, weight control, and a diet low in red meat, sugar and saturated fat and high in produce, nuts and other healthful foods, with extra virgin olive oil at its heart.
The Mediterranean Diet including extra virgin olive oil offers a host of health benefits, particularly including weight loss, heart and brain health, cancer prevention, and diabetes prevention and control. By following the Mediterranean Diet, you could also keep that weight off while avoiding chronic disease.
There is not a single Mediterranean diet. Greeks eat differently from Italians, who eat differently from the French and Spanish. But they share many of the same principles and all include extra virgin olive oil as a key constituent.
U.S. News Best Diet Rankings
A recent review of 35 diets by U.S. News’ with inputs from a panel of health experts ranked the Mediterranean Diet #1 in Best Diets Overall.
- Best Diets Overall
Best Plant-Based Diets
Best Diabetes Diets
Best Diets for Healthy Eating
Easiest Diets to Follow
- Best Heart-Healthy Diets
You can see how all of these diets were ranked here.
Harvard Medical School Food Pyramid
The Harvard Pyramid is based on the Mediterranean diet. Its structure came from the diets of the inhabitants of Crete and Southern Italy in the 1960’s. The study was presented in 1993 by Walter Willett of the Harvard School of Public Health at the International Conference on the Mediterranean Diet held in Cambridge Massachusetts. Note that olive oil is one of the basic components. This pyramid has enjoyed decades of increasing acceptance.
According to the Harvard Medical School Food Pyramid, the total amount of fat you eat, whether high or low, is not really linked with disease. What really matters is the type of fat you eat. The “bad” fats, saturated and trans fats, increase the risk for certain diseases. The “good” fats, mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated fats like those contained in extra virgin olive oil lower disease risk. The key to a healthy diet is to substitute good fats for bad fats, and to avoid trans fats.
Olive Oil And The Mediterranean Diet
Olive oil is an integral part of the Mediterranean diet. The people will eat slower and in a more enjoyable eating. People who eat a Mediterranean diet have a variety of health benefits. The olive oil in the Mediterranean diet can quickly satisfy hunger and lead to fewer total calories ingested at mealtime. It is unclear if any single component of this diet is responsible for these health benefits or if it is a combination of olive oil and a diet high in vegetables, fruit and fish.
Extra virgin olive oil has no chemical processing. (Nearly every other vegetable oil has been detoxified and refined with steam and solvents). Fresh pressed extra virgin olive oil can be eaten immediately and retains the natural flavours, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other healthy products of the ripe olive fruit.
The village of Pioppi, Italy became notorious as the home of the Mediterranean diet. As the villagers have no supermarket, their diet consists largely of vegetables, olive oil and fish. They also eat cheese, but other dairy products aren’t available. Pasta and bread eaten in small quantities. In addition to sugar, their diet is low in meat and refined carbohydrates. Many of its residents live past the age of 100.
Picture what it would be like to enjoy one’s golden years without dementia or type 2 diabetes, maladies that are an integral part of aging in the rest of the world. After hearing about Pioppi, cardiologist Aseem Malhotra became fascinated with discovering what diet kept the residents so healthy and what lessons could be learned from them.
After studying the village, Malhotra developed a formula for optimal health. For starters, the Pioppians have a very low sugar intake, eating it only once per week. It is this dietary practice that the doctor considers essential for their good health. He contends that western society’s fear of fat is to blame for the high consumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates. Malhotra attributes these foods as the cause of the widespread incidence of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity.
Other lifestyle practices aside from a healthful diet play a role. The villagers get seven hours of sleep per night and experience freedom from much stress. Although it isn’t intentional, intermittent fasting is a natural part of their lives. They don’t engage in exercise per se, but they’re very active.
Furthermore, included as a top recommendations for vibrant health and longevity based on the Pioppians Malhotra advised:
Extra virgin olive oil is medicine – take extra virgin olive oil every day