Extra-virgin olive oil has long been promoted as a “healthy” fat. However, there are both positive and negative factors associated with its inclusion in the diet. So depending on your individual health situation and goals it may or may not be appropriate for you.
Olive Oil Can Promote Weight Gain
Olive oil contains 75% oleic acid, 13% saturated fat, 10% omega-6 and 2% omega-3. An excessive intake of olive oil can potentially cause weight gain because the longer chain fatty acids of oleic acid are more likely to be stored as fat in comparison to the short chain fats that are found in coconut, flax and hempseed oils, which are more readily burned for energy.
In moderation, the use of a small amount of olive oil – like a tablespoon on a salad – is probably not a concern for most people.
Enhancement of Omega-3 Fat Absorption
Although the predominant fat in olive oil, oleic acid, is not an essential fat, it can still have a beneficial role in the diet and in optimizing fatty acid balance. According to Nicholas Perricone, in Dr. Perricone’s 7 Secrets of Beauty, Health and Longevity, oleic acid enables the omega-3 fats to penetrate the cell membrane more easily. As such olive oil may play a supportive role in promoting the optimal balance of fats in the cell membranes and improving cellular function.
Due to this effect olive oil may be a valuable addition to a raw food diet during transition as it can help to facilitate the substitution of damaged and trans-fats in the cell membrane for the healthy omega-3 fats.
Additionally olive oil has a neutral effect on the balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fats. As such it is more beneficial to favor the use of olive oil rather than other oils that are high in omega-6 fats such as sesame and sunflower oils. Other raw foods that are high in oleic acid and will exert a similar effect include avocado, macadamia nuts, pecans and almonds.
Read More >>> Essential Fats and the Raw Vegan Diet
Olive Oil for Liver and Gallbladder Health
Interestingly, some research has suggested the possibility that olive oil may protect against liver damage that is induced by chemical toxicity. Therefore olive oil may be an appropriate source of fat for a raw detox diet and in fact has a traditional history of use for liver and gallbladder cleansing programs.
Is Olive Oil Really Good For Your Heart?
Olive oil has been widely promoted as being a “heart healthy” oil due to research that shows a reduced risk of coronary heart disease in populations where its consumption is high. While olive oil does contain a variety of nutrients including flavonoids, squalene, beta-carotene and vitamin E, which may possibly have protective effects against cardiovascular disease, there is also contrary evidence to suggest that a high intake of olive oil can actually promote these conditions.
Research shows that substituting olive oil for sources of saturated fats in the diet can slow the rate of progression of cardiovascular disease. However, the inclusion of oils in the diet does not stop the advancement of these diseases completely and does not allow for these conditions to be reversed. As a result it is advisable for anyone who is concerned about heart disease to eliminate or strictly limit their intake of olive oil, or for that matter, any refined oils.
Whole Food Fats Are Best
In order to reap the greatest nutritional benefits from any food containing fat, ideally it should be consumed in its whole food form. When fats are obtained from whole foods, there is generally no negative effect on cardiovascular health and in the majority of cases a positive association has been observed.
So in the case of olive oil, it is much better to consume raw olives. If these are unavailable to you then find the best quality olive oil possible and use it sparingly.
If you are concerned about cardiovascular disease, avoid oils completely, perhaps with the exception of those rich in omega-3 like flax and hemp seed oils.
Are Your Olives Really Raw?
Commercially available olives are pasteurized during processing so cannot be regarded as being a raw food. Additionally most olives are picked long before they are truly ripe and are often softened with chemicals such as lye to make them palatable. They may also be artificially darkened with an iron compound called ferrous gluconate.
For this reason I recommend you seek out a source of truly raw olives like these Black Botija Olives. The difference in flavor is remarkable and they are soft and moist. I think they are well worth the extra expense to add some interest and variety to your salads.
These organic olives are picked only when ripe and cured using traditional and natural methods and are brined with sea salt. They are naturally high in minerals including calcium and also are a good source of vitamin E.
Should You Include Olive Oil In Your Raw Food Diet?
For the majority of people a small amount of quality extra-virgin olive oil is not a health concern. It can improve the flavor and enjoyment of eating a salad, making it more likely that you will eat raw vegetables on a regular basis.
Olive oil also has a potential beneficial role for those who are transitioning to a raw vegan diet by enhancing the concentration of omega-3 fats in the cell membrane. Essentially it escorts the damaged and trans-fats out of the cell in favor of the essential omega-3 fats.
However, if you are dealing with cardiovascular disease or have concerns about heart health it is best to avoid refined oils of any kind, including extra-virgin olive oil. Whole food sources of fats offer much greater health benefits. They come the way nature intended with a wide range of nutrients to help you absorb and metabolize their healthy fats.