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Olive Oil in Coffee: Is This a Combination Worth Trying?

01 May 2023

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Guess what? Coffee with olive oil in it is a trend right now. Italian Starbucks locations now offer an ‘Oleato,’ which it calls ‘the alchemy of Starbucks arabica coffee and premium Partanna extra virgin olive oil,’ which it describes as ‘velvety smooth’ and ‘deliciously lush.’ 

While it may sound unusual, the olive oil coffee craze is essentially a riff on the still-trending ‘bulletproof coffee’ beverage we first told you about in 2019. Bulletproof coffee, coffee blended with butter and sometimes other supplements, is a favorite among people who follow a low-carb, high-fat diet, such as the paleo diet and the ketogenic diet, swear by its ability to keep them energized, fueled and focused all morning long while burning fat at an elevated rate.

Why combine coffee and olive oil? Because they’re two very healthy foods. When consumed in moderation, that is.

Olive oil is long known to be a ‘healthy fat.’ For thousands of years its been a key dietary component of Mediterranean cultures. Its polyphenols and other compounds make it a contributor to everything from better mood to improved cholesterol. 

Here are more health benefits associated with olive oil consumption:

Polyphenols. These compounds are health-benefit superstars. They are jam-packed with antioxidant properties which means they neutralize healthy-cell-damaging molecules called free radicals. Polyphenols also fight against something called ‘oxidative stress,’ a kind of stress within our bodies that can damage DNA, proteins and lipids, contributing to cancer, diabetes, dementia and heart disease. 

Better mood. The Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reports that extra virgin olive oil showed antidepressant effect in severely depressed patients; in those with mild to moderate depression symptoms, symptoms did not change.

Heart health. Studies have shown that people who consume four or more tablespoons per day of extra virgin olive oil have a combined risk for heart attack or death from heart disease 30 percent lower than people who eat a low-fat diet. Four tablespoons seem like a lot? The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tells us that replacing even 1.5 tablespoons of other fats with olive oil each day (provided those ‘other’ fats are higher in saturated fats and that calorie intake isn’t increased) can reduce the risk of heart disease.

Better brain and memory function. Extra virgin olive oil contains polyphenols (a class of compounds found in many plant foods). One in particular, oleocanthal, is a powerful antioxidant which can help reduce neuro-inflammation and restore healthy blood-brain barrier functionality in ways that may impede the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. 

Less pain and inflammation. People with chronic inflammatory conditions like arthritis may particularly benefit from the addition of olive oil to their diets. Our polyphenol friend oleocanthal has anti-inflammatory properties that function similarly to ibuprofen. Also, extra virgin olive oil’s monosaturated fats are known in some cases to reduce levels of a protein that tend to be elevated in people with conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.

Lower cancer risk. Cancer tends to be lower in Mediterranean countries. One contributing factor is thought to be olive oil consumption. A study conducted in 2020 found that extra virgin olive oil seems to create changes in types of gut bacteria associated with prevention of colorectal cancer. Also, according to another study, women who consume the most olive oil tend to have lower risks of breast and colon cancers.  

Healthy gut microbiome. The gut microbiome is the population of microorganisms, bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and fungi and their collective genetic material present in the gastrointestinal tract. Its health affects the health of much of the rest of our bodies, from mood to skin condition to digestion. The microbiome is a balance of healthy and less-healthy bacteria. Polyphenols have been found, in a study, to increase populations of healthy bacteria. Consume about one and a half tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil per day for best results.

Weight loss. A study from 2018 found that overweight women who added a tablespoon of olive oil to their morning meal (ahem, coffee) lost body fat at a higher rate than those who consumed other fats. Olive oil can help stabilize blood sugar levels, which helps reduce food cravings. Use extra virgin olive oil to replace less-healthy fats in your diet.  

Now what about the health benefits of moderate coffee consumption?

Studies consistently indicate that there are plenty of health benefits in a cup or two of regular caffeinated coffee. While a nice, wake-me-up jolt of caffeine is probably the first benefit we think of, there are many others, according to Johns Hopkins School of Medicine:

Stronger DNA strands. The breakdown of DNA strands happens naturally, but if your body doesn’t repair them, the breakdown can lead to tumors or cancer. Dark roast coffee helps decrease DNA strand breakage.

Lower stroke likelihood. Especially for women, consuming a cup of coffee per day is associated with decreased risk of stroke. This is especially good news, because stroke is the fourth leading cause of death among women.

Reduced inflammation. Coffee is full of antioxidants and other substances which may protect against disease and reduce internal inflammation.

Live longer. A 2017 analysis of some 200+ studies on coffee revealed that, during the study period, people who drank coffee were less likely to die. Specifically, 18 percent less likely to develop cancer, 19 percent less likely to die of heart disease and 17 percent less likely to die early from any cause than non-coffee drinkers.

Reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes. A study conducted by Harvard tracked more than 123,000 people for 16 to 20 years. It found that people who increase their daily coffee intake by a cup or more had an 11 percent lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes; people who decreased their daily coffee intake by a cup or more, conversely, increased their risk by 17 percent.

Also: Coffee consumption is linked to a reduced risk for melanoma, better heart health, healthier liver enzyme levels, reduced risk of developing Parkinson’s and help controlling associated involuntary movements and slower progression of dementia.

Two healthful foods, coffee and olive oil. Combine them and see what you think. Here’s how:

  • Brew an 8-ounce cup of coffee the way you normally would.
  • Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
  • Put the mixture in a blender for 30 seconds or shake the coffee and olive oil vigorously in a sealed jar.
  • Enjoy!

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