Benefits of extra virgin olive oil for kids

Surely you remember some moments in your childhood in which you have tried to avoid certain foods at all costs, foods that have become part of your favourite ones in your adulthood. In many cases, extra virgin olive oil can be one of these food products, and many parents doubt whether it is the most appropriate source of fat for their children. Should they go for another oil? And if not, when and how to administer it and in what quantity?

Why is extra virgin olive oil essential in the childhood stage?

  1. Which are the benefits of olive oil in the child’s diet?
  2. From what age should children take olive oil?
  3. What daily amount of olive oil is suitable for children?
  4. What is the most suitable extra virgin olive oil for them?
  5. How can we add olive oil to the children’s diet?

 

1. Which are the benefits of olive oil in the child’s diet?

You may already know children need a fat intake to ensure good energy. However, not all sources of fat are so suitable for infants. Actually, not all of them are as healthy as extra virgin olive oil, which, thanks to its nutritional composition, is positioned as the ideal fat source in the growth stage of boys and girls.

On the one hand, the fat that makes up this oil is more similar to that found in breast milk, which is why it’s easier to digest. In addition, the monounsaturated fatty acid is the primary type of fat found in extra virgin olive oil, which can help protect against cardiovascular diseases and promote cholesterol regulation from an early age.

On the other hand, extra virgin olive oil is also rich in oleic acid, vitamin E, provitamin A and polyphenols and more. These compounds are beneficial for the development of children and particularly can help with the arteries health, but also improving the absorption of calcium and reduce constipation.

In addition to the previously mentioned, consuming extra virgin olive oil at an early age also helps children avoid allergies and asthma. In general, for infants, this olive juice supposes the intake of fats necessary for the correct formation of tissues and cell membranes that form the body system and other body structures.

So we can say extra virgin olive oil, the star product of the Mediterranean diet, is a key cooking ingredient for children and adults. It also contributes to the control of diabetes or aids in preventing certain types of cancer due to its antioxidants and anti-inflammatories effects.

Growing children need healthy fat sources like olive oil.
Growing children need healthy fat sources like olive oil.

2. From what age should children take olive oil?

Thus, thanks to all the benefits of extra virgin olive oil, we can say that it has become a transcendental food for the growth and development of the little ones and that it’s essential to have an intake of this fat source, but since when? The truth is that it’s possible to incorporate this product from the first purees that the baby begins to take.

On the other hand, many specialists indicate this olive juice can be consumed even before birth, that is, through the mother’s diet. In fact, some studies say that, during pregnancy, its fatty acids and vitamins are directly involved with the proper development of the foetus, favouring the healthy growth of the baby.

Therefore, it’s recommended that mothers, during pregnancy, but also during breastfeeding, opt for the consumption of 3 to 6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. In addition, nuts and bluefish should complement this oil as the main sources of healthy fat, as we can frequently see in the Mediterranean diet.

3. What daily amount of olive oil is suitable for children?

As recommended by many paediatricians, six-month-old babies can take (along breast milk, cereals and fruit puree) the equivalent of a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil in vegetable purees, thus improving their organoleptic qualities and providing the infant with oleic acid and other antioxidant compounds.

Later, from the age of two, when fat intake already begins to represent 30% of the total calories in the daily diet, the portion of this olive oil can rise to 3 tablespoons per day (around 30 g). Obviously, the contribution of this fat must be included in a balanced diet, rich in real foods and in which ultra-processed products and unsaturated trans fats are avoided.

4. What is the most suitable extra virgin olive oil for infants?

As you probably already know, not all consumption oils are the same. On the one hand, we have already introduced the benefits of ‘extra virgin’ as the best type of olive oil, since it preserves most of the organoleptic and healthy properties from the olive.

However, on the other hand, there is a large number of varieties within this ‘extra virgin’ category depending on the olive with which it’s produced. And the truth is that as long as it’s an ‘extra virgin’ oil, that is, pure olive juice, the variety chosen could be a matter of preference, but whose?

Think that children’s taste buds are not mature enough to assimilate some flavours. For this reason, when it comes to extra virgin olive oil, the Arbequina variety is the one that can offer greater versatility when preparing children’s menus.

The Arbequina variety, due to its more moderate taste in bitterness and itching, is the most ideal option since it manages to blend in with the flavours of the main ingredients, without adding that characteristic flavour of more intense olive oil varieties. For this reason, it’s a useful variety both in hot and cold dishes and, even, to replace other types of fats in homemade pastries.

5. How can we add olive oil to the children’s diet?

Since extra virgin olive oil must be an essential part of the preschool stage for the development of the infants, as long as the paediatrician does not indicate otherwise, it can be incorporated into baby food and purees as we have mentioned. And, later, in salads, soups, as well as meat and fish dishes.

In addition, there are many more advantages to frying with this oil that benefits both children and adults. But, on the other hand, it’s also recommended as a substitute for butter and margarine in breakfasts and homemade desserts, which can always be healthier than industrial ones.

Now, what do you do if your child has a taste problem? You can always try mixing it with foods that grab his attention. It is known that the presentation of the dishes motivates many children when it comes to eating. And in general, the idea is that the experience becomes something pleasant, educating from a young age on what a good diet entails, to offer them the best possible life quality.

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