There has been much research over the years into the health benefits of extra virgin olive oil. It can help prevent heart disease, lower your blood pressure and help prevent some cancers and tumours. The EU now actually allow producers to put a health claim on their bottles – Extra Virgin Olive Oil can prevent heart disease. They now recommend everyone should have at least 2-3 tablespoons a day!

It’s all down to chemistry and what Extra Virgin olive oil is made up of – monounsaturated fats, polyphenols and vitamins. And cooking with extra virgin olive oil is encouraged. In the 60s, 70s and 80s we were all told that saturated fats were bad for you (butter) so we all turned to polyunsaturated fats (does anyone remember the Vitalite advert?). Since becoming an adult I have since gone back to butter but there is a whole generation that is still convinced that butter is the enemy (research is now showing that saturated fats are actually not as bad as we once thought).

But why did we not turn to extra virgin olive oil instead of chemically charged polyunsaturated products, when our friends on the continent have been using it for centuries? It’s all because of false claims to do with smoke points, that many people still believe. We were told that if an oil was heated above its smoke point then the chemical make-up of the oil changed so much that it became very dangerous to your health. There were claims that the smoke point of olive oil was a lot lower than alternative oils such as seed oil. What I find incredible is that the research that led to this claim was paid for by a giant US seed oil company that was of course to benefit from the demise of EVOO. The truth is that the smoke point of EVOO is 210-220 degrees, a temperature that is very rarely exceeded in a domestic kitchen.

And here are some funky facts about EVOO and food:

  • Add EVOO to dark green leaves and you can help lower your cholesterol
  • Add EVOO to carbohydrates and it reduces the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream – great news for Diabetes sufferers
  • Marinating meat in EVOO can reduce the harmful components in the meat upon cooking
  • Cooking fish in EVOO protects the Omega 3 from the heat that is usually very easily deteriorates.

I’m going to follow in Judy’s footsteps and have a tablespoon of EVOO before breakfast every day, cook with EVOO every time instead of my usual rapeseed oil and enjoy copious amounts slathered over all vegetables and meats. It’s healthy!