The Natural the Better; Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Breastfeeding

I believe that the most widely spoken of and recognized oil in the world is olive oil, specifically the extra virgin olive oil. The inclusion of extra virgin olive oil in the Mediterranean diet has been the main factor that makes the Mediterranean diet to be known as one of the healthiest diets. People from countries like Greece, Italy, Tunisia, and Cyprus have a low rate of chronic diseases like hypertension and heart disease.

There are many kinds of research and articles written proving the goodness of this oil. Even though olive oil is known to have a lot of health benefits, yet not many people around the world use olive oil in their diet. According to a study by the North American Olive Oil Association, only 4 out of 10 American consumers use olive oil in their diet and only 25% of olive oil users in America have some knowledge about olive oil [2].

The benefit and importance of olive oil usage have been mentioned in al Quran and As-Sunnah since 1400 years ago. Its fruit has been mentioned in the Quran in several ayahs. In Soorat al-Mu’minoon. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): “And a tree (olive) that springs forth from Mount Sinai, that grows oil, and (it is a) relish for the eaters.”[3] According to Qatadah with regards to the tafsir of the word ‘relish’ in this ayah means that olive contains a beneficial oil and condiment. [4]

Since 1400 years ago, Prophet Muhammad (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) has advised us to have oil in our diet and to oil ourselves with it. One of the sahabah, ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab said: The Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “Eat olive oil and oil yourselves with it, for it comes from a blessed tree.” [1]

Here in this short guide, we will not discuss the whole list of the health benefit of extra virgin olive oil. We will only mention a few that are specifically related to breastfeeding mums and babies.

Why should breastfeeding mum consume extra virgin olive oil?

  • It contains healthy fat (monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids)
  • It is rich with vitamin E and all other nutrients.
  • Studies have proven that mothers who consume extra virgin olive oil during pregnancy and breastfeeding have babies with a lower risk of wheezing in the 1st year of life.
  • It is also proven that it reduces the risk of postpartum depressive symptoms.
  • It has analgesic and anti-inflammatory effect.

How much extra virgin olive oil should we consume in a day?

Based on research on the topic ‘Olive Oil: Maternal and Pediatric Health’ which was published in Feb 2017 in the Journal of Pediatric and Neonatal Individualized Medicine, the daily recommended intake is 20mg/day to have an effect on body metabolism.

These are some of the nutrients that are available in extra virgin olive oil that have a health benefit for breastfeeding mums and babies:

  1. Vitamin E

Vitamin E is an anti-oxidant. The newborn baby needs vitamin E to overcome the oxidative stress when she/ he enters the atmosphere that contains oxygen. It also encourages the intake of minerals and regulates calcium and phosphorus for the ossification of bones. Vitamin E can be obtained by newborns and breastfeeding babies from mothers through breast milk. The vitamin E is concentrated in the breast gland during breastfeeding. Therefore it is important for breastfeeding mothers to get enough supply of vitamin E that can be obtained naturally from extra virgin olive oil consumption.

2. Monounsaturated fatty acids

55 to 83% of the content in extra virgin olive oil is monounsaturated fatty acid. Omega 9 fatty acids are one of this type of fatty acids that is available in it.

-Omega 9 fatty acid (oleic acid)

Breastfeeding mothers are required to consume more fat than normal people. This can be achieved by consuming monounsaturated fat. The monounsaturated fatty acids that are available in extra virgin olive oil helps to regulate the mother’s body weight, reducing the risk of overweight and obesity among breastfeeding mothers. It also helps in the development of neurons in the brain and increases the brain function among the breastfeeding babies.

3. Polyunsaturated fatty acids

These fatty acids that are present in breastmilk help to increase the immune system in breastfeeding babies before the allergic reaction starts.

-Omega 3 (linolenic acid)

The content of this fatty acid in extra virgin olive oil is similar to breastmilk which is up to 1.5%. It is important for nerve and brain development and visual function.

-Omega 6 (linoleic acids)

The content of this fatty acid in extra virgin olive oil is 3.5 to 21%. Its content in extra virgin olive oil is similar to breastmilk too. It is also important for nerve and brain development.

4. Oleochantal is also an anti-oxidant. It is a natural anti-inflammatory substance that is importance in wound healing and to fight inflammation.

I hope this simple guide will help us to understand more the relationship between extra virgin olive oil and breastfeeding and motivate us to gain more knowledge about this special oil that came from a special fruit that Allah has made an oath with it in Surah At-Tin. Let’s start putting the oil from a blessed fruit, olive in our diet today. Happy breastfeeding!

Written by Dr. Fadzidah Ariffin (M.D)

Bibliography:

[1] http://www.prnewswire.com

[2] al-Mu’minoon 23:20

[3] Tafsir Ibn Kathir surah Al Mu’minoon 23:20

[4] Narrated by At-Tirmidhi (1851), classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh at-Tirmidhi.

Referencees:

  1. http://www.internationaloliveoil.org/web/aa-ingles/oliveWorld/salud10.html
  2. https://www.oliveoiltimes.com/olive-oil-health-news/olive-oil-for-baby/45502
  3. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/314116810_Olive_oil_Maternal_and_pediatric_health
  4. https://islamqa.info/en/answers/196796/teachings-of-the-prophet-blessings-and-peace-of-allah-be-upon-him-on-maintaining-good-health
  5. https://islamqa.info/en/answers/1920/trees-mentioned-in-the-quraan-and-sunnah
  6. http://www.prnewswire.com
  7. Tafsir Ibn Kathir

photo of olives on cup of olive oil

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