Health Pros and Cons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

You’ve no doubt heard it said before, the Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest you can adopt. Generous servings of vegetables, the lack of red meat, fish as a source of protein and beans, and healthy volumes of oil. Oil? I thought oil was bad? It all seems to depend on what kind.

There’s been a significant push to remove oils from our diet. After all, many forms of oils (and fats) contribute to obesity. But it’s the kind of oil that matters. When we think of oils most would think of deep fried foods saturated in oil. It’s true that deep fried foods have a higher concentration of saturated fats which aren’t healthy. But is there something to say about healthy and packs of good oils? (By the way I’m not suggesting that fats and oils are the same thing. Fats are usually derived from animals, while oils are derived from seeds, nuts, fruits, vegetables, or even synthetically produced.)

It’s been well research that olive oil, particularly extra virgin olive oil, has anti-inflammatory compounds, antioxidants, and other macronutrients that are healthy to our bodies. Compared to other oils, olive oil has a saturated fat content of about 14%, and the rest is monounsaturated fat which makes up about 75% of the total oil content.

Additional claims include lowering blood pressure, reducing your risk for diabetes, boosting heart health, and reducing the risk of cancer, or additional benefits. However, these benefits are likely less than what the olive oil industry would like us to believe. Nonetheless, there’s something to be said about the benefits of olive oil–they outweigh the cons.

Although there are benefits to olive oil, it should still be used in relative moderation. Olive oil is packed with calories, and too much of it will ruin your calorie count. One tablespoon contains around 120 calories, and 14 grams of fat. Although there is zero sugar and carbs, a healthy dose of olive oil on your salad may negate your attempt at lower calories with healthier choices. I’ll be at, of all the oils, olive oil is among the best you can consume.

Also buyer beware, it’s often difficult to determine what volume is indeed extra virgin olive oil. Despite what the label has to say many grocery stores carry olive oils that contain other oils and are not pure. Some reports suggest that over 70% of extra virgin olive oil is watered down or contains enhancers.