How much olive oil should we consume?
Well, this is really a very interesting question.
The most common answer (if not a myth) is the following: Olive oil is great but it is still mainly a fat and moderate quantities of fat should be consumed. Eating too much fat makes people fat and consequently, obesity is a major risk of cardiovascular diseases.
The most common answer is just half of the truth and as Benjamin Franklin once said:” Half of the truth is often a great lie”.
The correct answer: eat olive oil and do not worry.
And now let’s see why
First of all, according to calories daily income, fat should represent 30%, which on average means 60-100 gr fat per day. But, not only fats can make us fat but also too much protein or carbohydrates. Finally, too many calories make people fat and not fat itself. What we are recently taught to do is to calculate how many calories must be consumed daily (according to gender, age and activity) or to consult a doctor in case of obesity or health problems.
The categories are:
- - Less active women and older adults: 1600 calories
- - Children, teenage girls and active women and less active men: 2200 calories
- - Teenage boys, active men and very active women: 2800 calories
From these calories, fats should be 20-35%, proteins 10-35% and carbohydrates 45-65%. 1gram fat has 9 calories, 1 gram carbs has 4 calories and for proteins 0.8-1.5 grams of protein to be consumed per pound of body weight (1 kg=2.2 pounds).
Some guides for a good diet advise us to read all food labels and make a counter. But honestly, how many of us would stay to calculate this? How many individuals have the time and nerves to do this? And what about buying our food products from markets when they do not have a label (fruits and vegetables, bread, wheat, meat from the butcher shop etc.)? Should we also change the food recipes because they require too much protein or fat or carbs? The Cretans were taking their energy most of all from fat from olives and olive oil and carbohydrates from plant foods and they were just fine. Yes, ideally they tell us, 30% of our calories must come from fats. But what if these fats are bad for us? Carbohydrates are extremely useful but some of them can also increase the risk of diabetes and heart disease (carbohydrates with high glycaemic index like sugary or highly processed snack foods, corn flakes, white rice etc.).
What if we stopped worrying about number of calories, quantity of fats and proteins and just choose and consume the best ones? If we replaced the bad fats with the good ones (fish, nuts, olives and olive oil, avocados), consumed more good carbs (fruits and vegetables, beans, brown rice, white sweet potatoes, various whole grain foods) and also some proteins (fish, chicken, turkey, beef, whole eggs, beans, nuts, milk, cheese, and all this animal origin food preferably with less fat content), we would notice that:
- The same products have good carbs, good fats and good proteins
- These good content food reminds us of the Mediterranean diet and low heart disease rates, if used in proper amounts and proportions
- These good foods are not processed, genetically modified or full of additives, they are just the products in their natural condition
- Once again, quality comes first!
If we want to be healthy, first of all we must be concerned of what we eat, and not how much we eat!
And now let’s see some aspects related to obesity:
It is believed that obesity is a major risk of heart disease, diabetes and high blood cholesterol. Ok, but this is another half of the truth. Of course if you consume more food (“calories”) than you need (“burn”) you get more weight. But it is very important the source of these calories or the quality of this food: if you eat too much of the good fats and good carbs you will get fat but it will not kill you. Your chances to have a heart disease would be much lower than if you ate too much of bad fats, carbs and proteins. Actually, these bad sources of your energy can cause heart disease no matter if you are overweight or not. Bad fats can kill you even if you are slim.
And if you don’t believe it, here are some statistics:
In Europe, Romania and Hungary have the lowest rates of obesity but they have 169 and respectively 192 deaths per 100000 people because of heart disease, while countries with highest obesity rates like U.S.A., U.K. and ironically, Greece have lower rates of heart diseases (compared to Romania and Hungary). And again, if U.K. has 23% obesity and 26% daily smokers, has 122.5 deaths from 100000 people because of cardiovascular diseases while Greece, with similar obesity rate 21,9% and more smokers 35%, has only 68.8 deaths of heart disease.
The Greek case is of course a special case. In 1950’s they were passing a very difficult period as of course many other countries in Europe and still they were perfectly healthy. Olive oil was their main source of fat. But they loved extra virgin olive oil and they worshiped the olive tree. And they continue doing this today. Prosperity in the 1970’s and after brought them the desired amounts of meat, cheese, fish etc. But they also consumed more olive oil. If in 1960’s they were consuming 17 l olive oil per year per person, in 1970’s and later they increased this amount to 25 l. They reduced their physical activity and followed more and more the Western diet. In the last years the consumption of olive oil in Greece was 23 l per year Per Capita which means 63 gr of fat from which 50 gr monounsaturated. This is still not a lot according to the amount of so called calories from fat if all the rest of the sources are reduced. It is up to each of us how much extra virgin olive oil to consume, according to the rest of the food we eat and our physical activity. And if many Greeks are overweight today, this is the result of a lot of things and not because of too much olive oil.
Eat healthy, be active and do not have stress! These are the three golden rules. Here our purpose was to discuss the health effects of the food we eat and hopefully we convinced you that olive oil is good for you, combined with other natural products, physical activity and less worrying it will give you great health condition and will not make you fat.
How much olive oil should we consume? Let’s start consuming it first and ban the unhealthy food and “Ola Kala” (everything will be ok as the Greeks say).