Olive oil is an ingredient we include in some of our baby food recipes – although we’ve occasionally received e-mails asking why we would suggest using oils in any food intended for babies.
The fact is that a good olive oil is a source of nutrition in itself, revered in some parts of the world for its health-promoting benefits.
You’ll probably find lots of different products labelled as olive oil in the grocery store – but what YOU are looking for is extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO). This is olive oil taken from the first, ‘cold’ press of the olives to extract the oil – no heat is used and no chemical processing takes place.
Unsurprisingly, this makes extra-virgin olive oil the healthiest type of oil to use, with all its nutrients intact!
Other grades of olive oil – such as ‘refined’ or ‘pure’ olive oil – will have undergone some degree of processing, depleting their nutritional value. So-called ‘light’ olive oils may even contain other vegetable oils too – we recommend giving them a miss!
Today, we’ve compiled a list of some of the well known – and less well known – benefits of consuming extra-virgin olive oil.
If you weren’t already adding a little to your baby’s food, then this may just tempt you to give it a try…
- Olive oil contains monounsaturated fats – beneficial fats that, in the long term, help lower ‘bad’ cholesterol and raise ‘good’ cholesterol.
- It contains linoleic and linolenic acids, fatty acids which are also contained in breast milk and contribute to the development and growth of baby’s bones. Olive oil can also help women retain bone mass in later life.
- It contains vitamins A, C, D, E, K – plus B vitamins. It is a rich source of anti-oxidants, which help prevent serious illnesses like heart disease and cancer. As we mentioned above, these anti-oxidants are infinitely more abundant in extra-virgin olive oil than in any other grade – and researchers now feel that it is the anti-oxidant components of olive oil that make it such a source of good health and long life to those who follow a Mediterranean diet.
- The oleic acid in olive oil (also present in breast milk) helps support the growth and development of your baby’s brain.
- Olive oil has anti-inflammatory properties, which can help prevent – or limit the severity of – asthma.
- It is gentle on the tummy and some people even find it has a mildly laxative effect, making it useful for avoiding constipation and keeping baby ‘regular’. Don’t overdo it, though – too much in a young baby may contribute to diarrhea.
- Olive oil is high in calories and it is sometimes recommended by doctors and dietitians for premature or low birth weight babies or for other babies with feeding difficulties, who require a large amount of calories in a small amount of food.
When may I start adding olive oil to my homemade baby food recipes?
You may – with your doctor’s consent – use a little olive oil in your baby food recipes from 6 months of age. As per guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics, UNICEF and the World Health Organization, babies under 6 months of age receive all the nutrition they need from breast milk or formula.
Olive oil rarely causes allergic reactions – but we recommend serving it to your baby for the first time with a food to which he has already been safely introduced. That way – if any reaction does occur, then you will be able to identify olive oil as the culprit and discuss the situation with your doctor.
Using olive oil in your homemade baby food recipes
Even good fats should be eaten in moderation – so don’t add too much to your little one’s food. For a 2 oz serving of food, no more than 1/4 to 1/2 tsp olive oil should be added.
- Use olive oil in place of less healthy cooking oils, like margarine and shortening. If you find the rich flavour of extra-virgin olive oil a little overpowering for cooking, then use a lower grade olive oil with a lighter taste and add the extra-virgin oil after the food has cooked.
- Instead of buttering whole wheat bread, try drizzling on a little EVOO instead! For older babies, offer the oil as a dip.
- Drizzle it on to cooked veggies you’ll be serving as finger foods, or add to the food processor when blending your baby’s veggie purees.
- Stir into mashed potato – delicious!
Please tell us how YOU use olive oil in your homemade baby food recipes!