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The Health Benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

The health benefits of extra virgin olive oil. EVOO, naturopath, Kirily Thomas, naturally balanced healthcare

I can tend to wax lyrical about the health benefits of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) when talking to my patients, but this is because it is really great stuff and so beneficial for your health and your gut health!

The positive impacts that EVOO can have on your health have been studied extensively and are well documented in the scientific literature. If you choose a good quality EVOO it will be high in those all-important active compounds called polyphenols such as oleuropein, ligstroside, oleocanthal, hydroxytyrosol and tyrosol. The presence of polyphenols is key if you are wishing to experience some of the health benefits of EVOO.

I’m pretty sure most of you will know that olive oil forms an important part of the Mediterranean diet, which has a huge amount of data to back up just how wonderful this type of eating is for your overall health, to reduce risk of various diseases, and for healthy ageing and longevity.(1-3)) However, more recent research has been postulating that perhaps one of the main reasons the Mediterranean diet has such a positive relationship with improved health outcomes is due to the regular consumption of extra virgin olive oil (4), making EVOO even more important to include in our daily diet.

Some of the health benefits of following a Mediterranean diet and regularly consuming EVOO include:

  • Brain health – improves cognitive deficits and reduces the risk of progression to Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia. (1-6)
  • Cardiovascular health – reduces arterial inflammation, increases HDL with reductions in the levels of LDL and systolic blood pressure. (2, 8, 9)
  • Metabolic disease – promising benefits shown for the management of NAFLD, blood glucose management and diabetes. (2, 3)
  • Reduces oxidative stress – EVOO is highly antioxidant due its high polyphenol content. (2, 9, 10)

Millman JF, et al. 2021

The positive impacts of olive oil on gut health

Of course, I can’t really write a blog without mentioning the positive impacts of EVOO on gut health and your gut microbiota, given it is one of my favourite subjects to discuss!

The beauty of EVOO also includes the very important trait that it doesn’t feed inflammatory bacteria that produce those sometimes problematic, inflammatory endotoxins like LPS (you can read more about LPS here) which enjoy eating saturated fat – yes, that does include coconut oil and ghee I’m afraid, not just animal fats. Instead, EVOO feeds our beneficial flora due to its high polyphenol content (2). This is why I generally recommend all my gut patients to use EVOO as their primary dietary fat, but most especially those patients with high populations of inflammatory and endotoxin producing bacteria (found via microbiome analysis), and even more so if they have high levels of inflammatory bacteria/endotoxins alongside brain fog, possible cognitive deficits, or cardiac risk factors.

A few tips to get more olive oil into your diet

  • Despite the incorrect advice you may commonly see online, yes, you can cook with EVOO! It is my oil of choice for cooking and also drizzling over salads, veggies and I often use it on bread instead of butter. I do have a lovely a high polyphenol extra virgin olive oil from the wonderful Cobram Estate (for those that live in Australia, you can sometime pick this up at your local supermarket) which I don’t cook with, but reserve for salads and drizzling over veggies after cooking in addition to using it on bread etc. given it is a little more special.
  • Apart from using EVOO daily in your meals, you can eat olives too! Olives are one of my favourite little snacks – they are a great source of polyphenols, especially the darker varieties, and are a delicious addition to grazing boards and salads. 
  • Dark olive paste is also a great salty alternative to something like vegemite in the morning spread on a good quality sourdough or a decent gluten-free alternative if you’re coeliac or following a low-FODMAP diet
  • Note: the “Spanish” black olives you can often get in the supermarket in jars, aren’t naturally black, but instead darkened from green using an iron additive. This isn’t the worst additive in the world, but you won’t be getting the higher polyphenol content that you are more likely to get with naturally darker coloured olives.
  • Pssst! – Eating extra polyphenols at the same time as treat or celebration food can help reduce some of the negative impacts on the gut microbiota (see my blog here for more tips for festive times of the year), but it doesn’t mean we can eat celebration food all the time – balance is still important!

I hope the health benefits of extra virgin olive oil has encouraged you to use it more often! What is your favourite way to consume olive oil?


  1. Dinu M, Pagliai G, Casini A, Sofi F. Mediterranean diet and multiple health outcomes: an umbrella review of meta-analyses of observational studies and randomised trials. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2018 Jan;72(1):30-43. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2017.58. Epub 2017 May 10. PMID: 28488692.
  2. Millman JF, Okamoto S, Teruya T, Uema T, Ikematsu S, Shimabukuro M, Masuzaki H. Extra-virgin olive oil and the gut-brain axis: influence on gut microbiota, mucosal immunity, and cardiometabolic and cognitive health. Nutr Rev. 2021 Nov 10;79(12):1362-1374. doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nuaa148. 
  3. Seidita A, Soresi M, Giannitrapani L, Di Stefano V, Citarrella R, Mirarchi L, Cusimano A, Augello G, Carroccio A, Iovanna JL, Cervello M. The clinical impact of an extra virgin olive oil enriched mediterranean diet on metabolic syndrome: Lights and shadows of a nutraceutical approach. Front Nutr. 2022 Aug 4;9:980429. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2022.980429.
  4. Flynn MM, Tierney A, Itsiopoulos C. Is Extra Virgin Olive Oil the Critical Ingredient Driving the Health Benefits of a Mediterranean Diet? A Narrative Review. Nutrients. 2023 Jun 27;15(13):2916. doi: 10.3390/nu15132916. 
  5. Tzekaki EE, Tsolaki M, Pantazaki AA, Geromichalos G, Lazarou E, Kozori M, Sinakos Z. Administration of the extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) in mild cognitive impairment (MCI) patients as a therapy for preventing the progress to AD. Hell J Nucl Med. 2019 Sep-Dec;22 Suppl 2:181. PMID: 31802059.
  6. Fazlollahi A, Motlagh Asghari K, Aslan C, Noori M, Nejadghaderi SA, Araj-Khodaei M, Sullman MJM, Karamzad N, Kolahi AA, Safiri S. The effects of olive oil consumption on cognitive performance: a systematic review. Front Nutr. 2023 Oct 11;10:1218538. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2023.1218538. 
  7. Zoubdane N, Abdo RA, Nguyen M, Bentourkia M, Turcotte EE, Berrougui H, Fulop T, Khalil A. High Tyrosol and Hydroxytyrosol Intake Reduces Arterial Inflammation and Atherosclerotic Lesion Microcalcification in Healthy Older Populations. Antioxidants (Basel). 2024 Jan 22;13(1):130. doi: 10.3390/antiox13010130.
  8. Liang F, Young J, Koutsidis G, Lara Gallegos J. The effects of extra virgin olive oil or butter on cardiovascular biomarkers in European and Chinese males in the UK: A pilot randomised crossover trial. Nutr Health. 2023 Jul 18:2601060231187516. doi: 10.1177/02601060231187516. Epub ahead of print. 
  9. Tzekaki EE, Tsolaki M, Geromichalos GD, Pantazaki ΑA. Extra Virgin Olive Oil consumption from Mild Cognitive Impairment patients attenuates oxidative and nitrative stress reflecting on the reduction of the PARP levels and DNA damage. Exp Gerontol. 2021 Dec;156:111621. doi: 10.1016/j.exger.2021.111621. Epub 2021 Nov 5. PMID: 34748951.
  10. Esmaili T, Powell KL, Folasire OS, Lohning AE, Garg M, Thomas CJ, Itsiopoulos C, Moschonis G. Extra virgin olive oil high in polyphenols improves antioxidant status in adults: a double-blind, randomized, controlled, cross-over study (OLIVAUS). Eur J Nutr. 2022 Mar;61(2):1073-1086. doi: 10.1007/s00394-021-02712-y. Epub 2021 Oct 30. 
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