Olive oil… You’ve heard that it is really good for you, but how? And does it make that much of a health difference? Does it need to be a certain type? Isn’t olive oil just a fancy type of fat and to be avoided? These are just some of the questions I’ve received regarding olive oil. This article is written to bring clarity on the confusion. And, you need to know why olive oil must be a foundational ingredient of your daily, long-term Optimum Health plan!
First, let’s review the “Deadly 4” killers in America that are driven by poor nutrition and weight gain:
- Heart disease
- Brain diseases: stroke and dementia
- Diabetes type 2
These 4 diseases are responsible for most of the pain and suffering (and medical care expenses) in America each year! Anything that’s a part of the solution (like olive oil) and not a part of the problem should be embraced. I hate the Deadly 4. They took my father, both grandfathers, and my sister. Anything that helps prevent these killers ranks high on my list of strategies. Olive oil, a core component of the very healthy Mediterranean Diet, is one of those core recommendations.
Extra-virgin olive oil is actually a very complex blend of some of nature’s best health-promoting compounds. And intake of about an ounce per day has been shown to lower risks of many diseases. Unlike any other oil on the planet, all 4 of the following research-based benefits are associated with olive oil:
1. Heart attack and stroke risks plummet!
You’ve likely heard that fats and oil cause heart attacks and strokes. It is not true (and not that simple), and certainly not true of olive oil! Olive oil use has a major impact on cardiovascular risks including:
- Heart attack risks are lower by an astounding 44%!
- Stroke risk drops by keeping carotid arteries in the neck more “open”.
- Blood vessels become more flexible and healthier (Oleic Acid in olive oil protects blood vessels)
- HDL (good) cholesterol increases from monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA’s) in olive oil
- “Hardening of the arteries” (atherosclerosis) is reduced from vitamin E, MUFA’s, squalene and other compounds
- Platelet function improves, making them less sticky and less likely to cause heart attacks and strokes
- Extremely dangerous “oxidized” LDL cholesterol levels drop. The immune system is triggered to make antibodies that destroy these deadly, artery-damaging particles through autoantibodies (OLAB).
- Inflammation is reduced in the body, including lowering of C-Reactive Protein
- Blood pressure is reduced
2. Cancer risks improve.
- Lower cancer risk (breast, colon, upper airways, and upper GI cancers) found with olive oil use
3. Diabetes risks drop.
- Blood sugars are typically more controlled in those using olive oil regularly
- Insulin resistance improves (metabolic syndrome and diabetes type 2) from MUFA’s in olive oil
- Anti-diabetic effect of oleuropein and cafeic acid
4. Death risk is dramatically reduced!
- Lower overall risk of death by 26% associated with intake of 1 oz olive oil per day!!! Convinced yet?
So now you know why Olive Oil is one of my recommended “super foods”. Here are 5 keys to success with olive oil:
Key #1. Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) is preferred for maximum health benefits.
(Note: This means it is mechanically “expeller” pressed, never heated, unadulterated, and has < 0.8% acidity.)
Key #2. An ounce a day keeps the doctor away! Try to consume 1 oz (30 ml or 2 TBSP) every day, perhaps on a salad with balsamic vinegar or drizzled on vegetables or fish. May use on whole grain bread (to replace butter) if your diet allows bread consumption. Most of the research benefits are optimal with around 1 oz per day.
Key #3. Try to keep EVOO in a cool storage area, out of direct sunlight, and use it right from the bottle. If using it to cook, cook at lower temperatures when using olive oil.
Key #4. Olive oil still contains calories. Olive oil does support long-term weight maintenance, but is not recommended for rapid, initial weight loss due to calorie content (130 calories per TBSP).
Key #5. Consider olives as an appetizer, added to salads, or as a snack. They contain olive oil and have health benefits.
I hope this resolves some of the confusion on olive oil. May EVOO be one of the useful tools in your arsenal to pursue, achieve, and maintain Optimum Health! Enjoy!!!
For Optimum Health,
Rick Tague, M.D., M.P.H.
6 thoughts on “Olive Oil: Lubricant for Life!”
Dear Dr. Tague,
How about the benefits of organic coconut oil? Would this be as beneficial as the olive oil? Please let me know your thoughts on the effects of this oil. I have read that it even helps you to lose weight.
Thanks so much,
Now I am really confused !!! I just changed to coconut Oil….OH heck, maybe I will just use both….Thank you Dr. Tague…
I second the question on Coconut Oil. I have friends taking it who swear by it but I’ve always heard to avoid it as it’s a saturated fat. Besides, what the heck is there to do with it?
Thanks for the excellent question. I will likely write further on the metabolic benefits of coconut oil, with their medium chain triglycerides (MCT’s), in a future article. Here is the brief answer. MCT’s, found in coconut oil, increase the metabolism rate more than typical types of cooking oil. If you are going to cook meat or vegetables at high temperature, coconut oil is a great choice. It will tend to cause weight loss of about 1 pound per month compared to cooking with butter or typical vegetable oils. It will not cause weight loss if you simply add it to your diet. It still contains calories. It will only help you lose weight if it replaces some other, less desirable source of fat. Hope this helps. Keep coconut oil on hand and use it in place of vegetable oils for high heat cooking to receive the benefits to your metabolism. Coconut oil does not have the health benefits of olive oil, which is preferred for low temperature cooking and salad dressings. Having both on hand is my recommendation, they have different uses.