A dynamic duo: Researchers find that an olive oil and veggie combo could explain the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet
01/04/2020 // Darnel Fernandez // Views

The Mediterranean diet is a popular diet revolving around the consumption of traditional Mediterranean foods like fish, olive oil, fruits and vegetables. This particular diet boasts a variety of health benefits that all contribute to improving overall health, including improving heart health, helping in weight loss, adjusting metabolism and supporting gut health. While many of these benefits come from the healthiness of the food involved in the diet, recent research suggests that some health benefits stem from how the meals are cooked.

A study published in the journal Molecules found that vegetables like tomato, garlic and onion release bioactive compounds (namely carotenoids and polyphenols) when cooked in extra-virgin olive oil. The said vegetables were used because they are often used in Mediterranean cuisine as a sofrito or saute — one of the key techniques used in cooking Mediterranean dishes.

A perfect pair

Olive oil is the main fat source in the Mediterranean diet and is one of the most frequently used ingredients in their cuisine. Cooking with said oil has garnered plenty of attention due to its ability to act as a food excipient, meaning it increases the absorption and release of bioactive compounds. In this study, researchers from Spain aimed to understand and assess the effects of cooking olive oil on the bioactive compounds of sofrito sauce ingredients. (Related: Olive oil provides a cure for over sixty diseases.)

According to the researchers, this sauce is jampacked with 40 different phenolic compounds and a high amount of carotenoids. This links its consumption with improved cardiovascular risk parameters and insulin sensitivity.


After cooking the tomato, garlic, and onion in extra-virgin olive oil, the researchers discovered that the certain polyphenols and carotenoids like naringenin, ferulic acid and quercetin transferred into the olive oil, making it significantly easier for the body to absorb these compounds. While the vegetable sample size is small, the study highlights the potential for extra-virgin olive oil to absorb important compounds from the vegetables and how sofrito could be a cooking technique that can improve overall health.

"The main result of the study is that cooking vegetables with extra virgin olive oil favours the bioactive compounds, such as carotenoids and polyphenols that are present in vegetables we find in sofrito (a tomato-based sauce), to move to the olive oil, which enables the absorption and bioactivity of these compounds," said corresponding author Rosa Maria Lamuela, director of the Institute for Research on Nutrition and Food Safety.

The health benefits of olive oil

You don't need to eat a Mediterranean diet to enjoy the many health benefits of olive oil. You can even use it in your general, everyday cooking routine instead of unhealthy oils like canola. Below you can find a list of everything good about including olive oil in your diet.

  1. Rich in monosaturated fats. While olive oil still contains saturated fat, 73 percent of its total fat content is a monosaturated fat called oleic acid. A study published in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology found that certain dietary factors like oleic acid assist in reducing inflammation. In addition, monosaturated fats are very resistant to heat, making it an ideal and healthy choice for cooking.
  2. Can help prevent strokes. According to the World Health Organization, stroke is the second leading cause of death worldwide, only losing to heart disease. According to a review of studies involving 841,000 participants, the monosaturated fat content in olive oil was found to reduce the risk of both stroke and heart disease.

Get yourself a bottle of olive oil and try out the Mediterranean diet to enjoy plenty of health benefits and live a much healthier life. Nutrients.news has everything you need to know about your daily nutrition and what foods you could add to your diet.

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