Nutrition Articles

Choose Olive Oil as a Healthy Alternative

Cook as the Mediterraneans Do

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Would you be surprised to learn that you CAN feel good about fat in your food? Here’s a refresher on one source of fat – olive oil – the healthier oil of all oils and the natural juice of the olive fruit. Its most talked about benefit may be its ability to reduce the risk of heart disease by controlling LDLs (the bad cholesterol) and raising HDLs (the good cholesterol). But the list of benefits continues, and it just may prompt you to replace your use of margarine, butter, and vegetable oils with the favorite flavor of the Mediterranean.

The people of the Mediterranean have enjoyed the benefits of olive oil in their diets for thousands of years. Today, researchers have found evidence to support many of the healing claims assumed since ancient times. In addition to preventing heart disease (due to cholesterol control), olive oil is tolerated well by the stomach and has a positive effect on constipation. Olive oil activates the secretion of bile and pancreatic hormones and lowers the incidence of gallstones. It may be linked to reducing the risk of colon cancer and rheumatoid arthritis, as well as with lowering high blood pressure.

Olive oil is also rich in essential vitamins such as vitamins A, B-1, B-2, C, D, E, and K, as well as iron. Its high content of antioxidant substances not only discourages artery clogging and chronic disease, it also prevents damage to blood vessels and cells by attacking free radicals. This effect may also play a role in slowing down the aging process of cells and tissue. The “beauty oil,” as it’s been called, can also claim to soften and firm skin tissue, giving it more luster.

There are so many types of oils, even among the olive variety. What is the difference? Oil from animal fat contains saturated fatty acids, which increase blood cholesterol levels. Oil from plants, seeds, nuts, and vegetables contains polyunsaturated fatty acids, which lower both LDLs and HDLs in the blood. Olive oil contains monounsaturated fatty acids that control LDL levels while raising HDL (the good cholesterol) levels.

When it comes to the breakdown of olive oils specifically, here is what you should know. Extra virgin is touted as the best of olive oils because it is the least processed. It comes from the first pressing of the olives. Virgin olive oil adds a second pressing of the olives; pure olive oil is more processed through filtering and refining; and extra light olive oil is the most processed with only a mild olive flavor. Anything called light olive oil may contain other vegetable oils.
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About The Author

Laura Bofinger Laura Bofinger
As a freelance writer, Laura uncovers some kind of inspiration every day when she writes about health and fitness.

Member Comments

  • Love olive oil but it get toxic with heat so I use coconut oil for cooking. - 1/20/2014 3:41:40 PM
  • Interesting article!! - 9/14/2013 1:34:30 PM
  • NO oil is healthy. Not ANY oil. Cook without oil. Empty calories, high fat. You don't need it, leave it. - 7/9/2013 1:07:50 AM
  • Since learning about the good benefits, I have been using more olive oil in my food. Thank you for pointing out the difference in the olive oils, I have wondered about it. - 8/12/2012 12:34:30 AM
  • Thank you for the education on the different types of olive oil. - 6/16/2012 3:42:35 AM
  • I buy olive oil but didn't understand the differences. I didn't know that "light" olive oil could contain other types of vegetable oils! Now I'll look more closely at the label. Thanks!! - 1/2/2012 11:37:51 AM
  • We mainly use Olive Oil because it is better for you than any other oil. I love Olive Oil. - 11/24/2011 9:13:12 PM
  • We have been substituting butter for olive oil for years now. The oil makes what we cook more flavorful, and lighter on the stomach. - 4/1/2011 10:38:12 AM
  • I buy my extra virgin olive oil at COSTCO. SOOOOO much cheaper then anywhere else. The only thing I don't use olive oil for is seasoning a stone wear or cast iron pan. I even FRY chicken in it. The smoke point is lower, so I cook at a lower temp. An I can use Olive oil in baking, I just use a lighter variety...like the extra light. Not as healthy as the extra virgin, but still not as bad as veggie oil. It's taken years of cooking to figure these tricks out, but they are so worth it!!! - 3/15/2011 1:08:26 PM
  • Very good information and I also printed out the chart. Keep up the good work guys!!! Jean - 8/23/2010 7:27:00 PM
  • I agree with Regazza_Di_Lupo. Olive oil is horrible for anything in a pan because the smoke point is so low. I use peanut or canola (peanut works especially well for stir-fry since it adds a perfect Asian flavor). The only thing I really use olive oil in is to drizzle for dipping or when I'm barely warming up veggies in a pan.

    I use canola oil for almost everything (even in bread/muffin recipes that call for butter). Its flavor is far more neutral. I couldn't imagine using olive oil in a lot of things...the flavor would ruin the rest of the recipe.

    And extra-virgin is EXPENSIVE! The stuff I buy is about $13! - 8/23/2010 5:34:30 PM
  • This is good info. I just printed off the chart to place on my fridge. I like the idea that a few of you suggested about coconut oil. This has me thinking that I need to do a little research and some experimenting as well. - 8/23/2010 2:40:15 PM
  • Guys, you need to remember that you cannot saute with olive oil. extra virgin, especially, has a very low smoke point, and if your oil is smoking you do not need to use it. It's one of those no-nos for taste AND free radicals. Peanut oil or grapeseed oil are great for high heat saute' though, and grapeseed oil is supposed to be pretty decent for you as well.
    - 8/23/2010 9:36:56 AM
  • I love using olive oil! However, it doesnt transfer well in every recipe. - 5/18/2010 5:52:59 PM
  • DACSAC
    I enjoy olive oil & canola oil. My non stick sprays are also olive & canola oil sprays. - 4/28/2010 3:04:33 PM

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