Nutritional Benefits of Olive Oil
The Mediterranean Diet is more of a lifestyle than a quick-fix diet. There are many nutritional benefits to eating more Mediterranean, like reducing sugar, upping fruits and vegetables, lowering the consumption of red meat. One of the most notable benefits includes cooking with more healthy fats, like olive oil.
“The Mediterranean way of eating is very well studied, and olive oil is a big part of that,” says registered dietician Joy Dubost, Ph.D., RD, who holds a doctorate in food science. “Even if you don’t adopt all the features of that diet, adding more olive oil into your diet is a great idea because you get the healthy fat you need, which is important for feeling satiated by your meals and improving heart health at the same time.”
Let’s take a look at why olive oil is such a big deal.
Olive Oil Nutrition Facts
Olive oil is all about the right kind of fat. Olive oil contains monounsaturated fat. Unlike the artery-clogging type of fat known as saturated fat and trans fat, monounsaturated fat is believed to have beneficial effects on your blood lipid profile.
Olive Oil Benefits
You’ll often hear olive oil touted for its heart-healthy advantages, and that’s for a good reason.
Numerous studies suggest that Olive Oil has beneficial effects on your cardiovascular system, which is believed to be closely tied to your risk of heart attacks and strokes. The wealth of mono fats in Olive Oil is said to fight against inflammation within your body.
Lowering inflammation throughout the body doesn’t just benefit your heart. Inflammation is believed to contribute to a host of conditions that include heart health, diabetes, and potentially some cancers. Several studies have supported the link between olive oil consumption and inflammation throughout your body.
Vitamin K, an important fat-soluble vitamin, is another reason to consume olive oil. Vitamin K is essential for many purposes. Many believe that Vitamin K supports healthy bones. Research suggests that Vitamin K may benefit the way in which your blood clots (i.e. when you scrape your knee, you require healthy blood clotting) and normal blood clotting is believed to benefit heart health and your cardio vascular system.
Olive Oil Calories
The USDA notes that a tablespoon of olive oil contains 119 calories.
All of olive oil’s calories come from fat. Olive oil contains nine calories per gram, while its macronutrient partners (carbohydrates and protein) only contain four calories per gram.
Given the high-calorie density found in fats, be mindful of the number of fats you’re consuming, even very healthy fats like in olive oil, nuts, and avocado.
“Olive oil is a healthy addition to your meals, but just like adding other good fats, you want to keep calories in mind, so you’re not taking in much more than you want,” says registered dietician and nutritionist Maya Feller, RD, CDN. “That said, I’m not a proponent of restrictive eating patterns and meticulously counting calories, I’m more interested in what nutrients food can provide. And olive oil is a standout for that.”
Using Olive Oil
Here are some tips when it comes to buying/cooking with olive oil:
- Shopping: when shopping for olive oil, you’ll notice there are multiple options. There is regular olive oil, Virgin, Extra Virgin, and light. Because you press the olives rather than heat then, Extra Virgin olive oil leaves much of the fatty acids intact (making it the highest quality olive oil). Choose Virgin as your second choice, then choose light. If you come across a bottle that isn’t classified with the above terms, it may be a blend of Virgin and other refined oils.
- Cooking: Whether you’re using regular or Extra Virgin, keep in mind that olive oil has a lower “smoke point” than other healthy oils like coconut. Meaning it burns at a lower temperature—and yes, starts smoking in the pan.
Whatever you choose, and however you use it, consider making some room in your diet for a Mediterranean touch. Your heart and your tastebuds may thank you.