Is olive oil safe for babies to eat? (Health effects)
In this brief article, we are going to answer the question “Is olive oil safe for babies to eat?” We also will look into the health benefits of olive oil and how to introduce it into the baby’s diet.
Is olive oil safe for babies to eat?
Yes, olive oil is safe for babies to eat. The use of vegetable oils in the infant diet is based on availability, nutritional properties and relative costs.
A mix of vegetable oils (corn, soy, safflower, olive or sunflower) is added to most infant formulas. It is important to note that human milk is the preferred mode of infant feeding. Nutrition recommendations suggest that term infants be exclusively breast-fed for the first 6 months of life. (1)
What is the nutritional composition of olive oil?
Olive oil is primarily composed of monounsaturated fatty acids. Among these, oleic acid takes the lead as the most abundant.
Additionally, it contains beneficial antioxidants like hydroxytyrosol. When it comes to extra virgin olive oil specifically, its main lipid components consist of 55-83% oleic acid, along with 4-20% linoleic and α-linolenic acids. Trace amounts of stearic and palmitic acids can also be found. (2)
What is the role of vegetable oil in the diet?
Vegetable oils, like olive oil, contain essential edible fatty acids (FAs). These FAs consist of saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats, which play a crucial role in cellular metabolism. They serve as an energy reserve and provide fuel when needed.
Moreover, fatty acids are vital for cell division, and growth, and act as fundamental components of cell membranes, hormones, and neurotransmitters. Different fatty acids directly impact human health. Oleic acid converts into linolenic acid, which then transforms into alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3) through enzymatic processes.
However, these essential fatty acids cannot be synthesized by the human body from basic molecules like sugars or amino acids. Therefore, regular dietary supplementation becomes necessary to fulfill the body’s requirements. (3)
How to introduce olive oil to a baby’s diet?
Introducing olive oil into the diet of infants aged 6-24 months is possible as part of their complementary feeding. It can be used for cooking or as dipping sauce along with other foods. For an ideal infant diet, it is important to include a diverse range of foods that meet their specific nutritional requirements.
Carbohydrates from sources like rice, potatoes, corn, and cassava, protein from options such as fish and meat, and fats from olive oil, margarine, soy, and milk should all be incorporated. In addition to these food groups, it is crucial to introduce fruits and vegetables gradually at this stage.
Striving for a balanced proportion of nutrients in the infant’s diet is recommended: approximately 35-55% of calories should come from carbohydrates, with animal protein (prioritized) comprising 15-20%, while fats contribute 35-60% of calorie intake. Fruits or vegetables serve as important introductory components. (4)
What are the health effects of olive oil?
Olive oil offers numerous health benefits. It is rich in monounsaturated fats, which support heart health and possess anti-inflammatory properties. Olive oil undergoes minimal processing, allowing it to retain a rich array of antioxidants. These include tocopherols, carotenoids, as well as anti-inflammatory compounds like polyphenols, phytosterols, and coenzyme Q.
Additionally, olive oil maintains significant levels of vitamin E and vitamin K. Extra Virgin Olive Oil has been proven to improve glucose levels after meals and reduce LDL cholesterol. Moreover, consuming more olive oil has been associated with a slight decrease in the likelihood of developing type-2 diabetes. (5)
When is too soon for babies to eat olive oil?
Introducing foods or liquids other than breast milk to babies before they reach 6 months of age increases the risk of illnesses such as diarrhea, which can result in weight loss and weakness and may even pose a life-threatening danger. Additionally, starting solid foods early may lead to less frequent nursing potentially diminishing the mother’s milk supply.
Since 2002 the World Health Organization has strongly advocated for exclusive breastfeeding during the first 6 months of life. This recommendation seeks to promote optimal growth, development and overall health.
Consistently supporting this approach, The American Academy of Pediatricians and the American Academy of Family Physicians encourage introducing solid foods around six months of age. (6)
In this brief article, we answered the question “Is olive oil safe for babies to eat?” We also looked into the health benefits of olive oil and how to introduce it into the baby’s diet.
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