As a nutritionist and chef, I am a huge advocate for quality over quantity and focusing on eating a wide variety of functional foods. If you aren’t familiar with the term “functional food” it means a food containing natural compounds that aids specific bodily functions in addition to being nutritious. A great example of this is extra virgin olive oil (EVOO). Consuming functional foods is a way to boost the overall nutritional density of your diet and in turn support your health.
Why is EVOO a functional food?
EVOO is made of various components, including antioxidant compounds, which exert beneficial effects on the body such as:
• Monounsaturated fats (mostly oleic acid): healthy fats protective against heart disease and overall mortality.1-2
• Tocopherols (also known as vitamin E): play a major role in protecting against lipid peroxidation making it an efficient scavenger of lipid peroxyl radicals.3 In turn, protects cell membranes from oxidative damage.
• Phytosterols: Bioactive compounds that have a structure similar to cholesterol, which possess an array of biological actions due to their ability to inhibit absorption of cholesterol and increase antioxidant activity in the body.4
• Squalene: plays a role in the biosynthesis of cholesterol, may provide chemoprotective effects against exposure to high levels of ultraviolet radiation.5
• Phenolic compounds – hydroxytyrosol, oleuropein, ligstroside aglycone, oleacein, oleocanthal, tyrosol, caffeic acid, ligstroside, vanillic acid: exert potent antioxidant action in the body which offers protection against free radicals and oxidative stress. Both of which are linked to the development of diseases such as cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative pathologies and cancer.6-7
All of these combined, make EVOO a functional food.
How to add EVOO to everyday cooking and eating?
Knowing which foods are healthy and have functional properties is just the first step. Accordingly, being able to easily add healthy foods into your diet, such as EVOO, is as important.
Here are some easy ways to add EVOO to everyday cooking:
• Add 1 tbsp. EVOO to fresh vegetable and fruit juices, this will also help you to absorb more fat-soluble vitamins and antioxidants contained in the vegetables and fruit.
• Add 1 tbsp. EVOO to smoothies, this will create a nice richness and the healthy fats will help to promote satiety.
• Drizzle cooked porridge with EVOO and top with fruit and optional honey/maple syrup.
• Stir EVOO into yoghurt before topping on fruit salad, a pinch cinnamon works well too.
• Drizzle toast with EVOO in replace of butter.
• Choose EVOO when sautéing veggies.
• Gently whisk EVOO into eggs in replace of milk when making scrambled eggs, this creates a silky texture and the flavour of EVOO really shines through.
• Make salsa verde or pesto from EVOO and use as a salad dressing or sandwich spread.
• Blend EVOO with diced avocado, garlic, lime juice and herbs and use as a fresh pasta sauce or salad dressing.
• Drizzle wraps or bread with EVOO before toasting and then serve alongside a salad.
• Poach fish or chicken in EVOO and serve as a protein source.
• Drizzle soup with EVOO instead of sour cream or cream.
• Make a pasta sauce using EVOO, garlic, chilli and herbs.
• Use EVOO in purees and mashes (potato, pumpkin, cauliflower) in replace of butter.
• When making mayonnaise or aioli, use EVOO in replace of canola or vegetable oil.
• Roast fruit such as apples, strawberries, pears and nectarines in EVOO and cinnamon. Serve with yoghurt, nuts and seeds as a snack or dessert.
• Roast chickpeas in EVOO, paprika, garlic powder, cumin and chilli flakes until crispy.
• Use EVOO in replace of butter, copha or refined vegetable oils when baking.
• If making popcorn, use EVOO instead of butter.
As you can see, EVOO not only offers an array of beneficial compounds, but it is also very versatile and can easily be added to everyday cooking and as a substitute for less healthy ingredients.
Looking for a new recipe to try featuring Extra Virgin Olive Oil? Try Zoe’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil Poached Salmon Recipe with Roasted Nut, Citrus and Micro-Herb Salad.
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