In the world of nutrition, fats often get a bad rap. But not all fats are created equal, especially when it comes to gut health. Essential fatty acids, particularly those found in foods like oily fish, nuts, seeds, avocados and extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), play a crucial role in maintaining a healthy gut microbiome.
🍔 Saturated Fat vs. Unsaturated Fat:
Saturated fats, commonly found in processed foods and red meat, can negatively impact your gut bacteria. They’ve been linked to the growth of a potentially inflmmatory bacterium called ‘Bilophila wadsworthia.’ In contrast, unsaturated fats, like those in EVOO, have beneficial effects on gut health.
🌿 The Power of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO):
EVOO is a gem that’s often overlooked due to misconceptions about fats being fattening. However, research shows that people who include more EVOO in their diets, even in weight loss studies, tend to lose more weight compared to those on low-fat diets.
🔬 Plant-Based Fats and Gut Microbiota:
Fats from plant sources, like nuts and EVOO, have shown positive effects on gut microbiota diversity in both in vivo and in vitro studies. Diets rich in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, such as the Mediterranean diet, enhance bacterial diversity and increase the presence of beneficial butyrate-producing bacteria.
✨ It’s Not Just Fat; It’s the Phytochemicals Too:
The benefits of EVOO extend beyond its fat content. Its high polyphenol content, including phytates, plays a significant role. The better the quality of the oil, the higher the concentration of these beneficial compounds.
🍃 EVOO: A Unique Player in Chronic Disease Prevention:
EVOO stands out in its ability to decrease the risk of multiple chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and various forms of cancer. And yes, although we want to look after our gut we want to reduce chronic disease risk too! And it’s not just the fatty acid composition but the phenol (plant chemical) content of EVOO that provides these health benefits. The phenol content is highest when the oil is fresh and decreases over time.
🥄 How Much EVOO Should You Use?
Incorporating about two, but up to FOUR tablespoons of EVOO daily can improve various health risk factors in just a few weeks. I’m not convinced most people get even close to this – and yes we can blame diet culture! When it comes to cooking vegetables, using EVOO can enhance the absorption of fat-soluble nutrients like carotenoids and make the vegetables more palatable.
In summary, essential fatty acids, especially from sources like EVOO, play a vital role in gut health and overall well-being. They’re not just important for maintaining a balanced diet but also for preventing a range of chronic diseases. So next time you’re preparing a meal, don’t shy away from adding a healthy drizzle of extra virgin olive oil!