Healthy Foods List: Olive Oil

Extra virgin olive oil is a great source of antioxidants.

Olive oil is a Mediterranean staple and is traditionally the primary cooking oil in many cultures and continents. Many studies have confirmed the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet, which cuts the risk of heart disease and stroke. The diet's nutritional benefits probably come from various sources, but the generous use of olive oil seems to be a key factor. It’s a healthy, anti-inflammatory source of fat as well as various vitamins and minerals.

Health Benefits of Olive Oil

Olive oil is very rich in antioxidants. The main fat in olive oil is monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), a very healthy type of fat. The antioxidants in olive oil are thought to help protect the body from cellular damage that can lead to a range of health conditions and diseases.

Olive oil contains about 75% MUFAs by volume. Monounsaturated fats help lower your "bad" LDL cholesterol when substituted for saturated fat. The health benefits of olive oil have been attributed to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Observational studies have shown a link between lower risks of cardiovascular disease, some cancers, and even dementia in people who consume higher amounts of olive oil than those who use little or none.

What is extra-virgin olive oil?

Extra-virgin olive oil is pressed mechanically from ripe olives without the use of high heat or chemical solvents. In this process, the phenols in the oil are protected from damage. In contrast, regular, highly processed olive oils lose these chemicals. Small studies have suggested that higher phenol concentrations may increase the antioxidant effects of olive oil. 

Is Olive Oil a Good Oil to Cook With?

Nutrition and cooking experts agree that one of the most versatile and healthy oils to cook with and eat is olive oil, as long as it's extra virgin.

Nutrient Content of Olive Oil

Here is a general nutrient breakdown of olive oil per 100 milliliters (ml):
  • Energy: 822 calories (kcal)
  • Fat: 91 grams
  • Saturated Fat: 13 grams
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 72 grams (predominantly oleic acid)
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 10 grams
  • Vitamin E (Alpha-Tocopherol): 14 milligrams (94% of the Daily Value, DV)
  • Vitamin K: 60.2 micrograms (75% DV)
  • Phytosterols: Approximately 221 milligrams
  • No carbohydrates, sugar, or protein in significant amounts

Please note that the nutrient content may vary slightly depending on the type and quality of the olive oil.

Nutritionist tips

Olive oil is primarily composed of monounsaturated fats, particularly oleic acid, which is considered heart-healthy. It also contains antioxidants like vitamin E and vitamin K, as well as phytosterols, which may have health benefits. However, it's important to use olive oil in moderation due to its high calorie and fat content.

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