Supposedly gifted to the people of Athens by Athena, the olive and olive oil has held an almost revered position in the homes and kitchens of Greece and neighboring countries for millennia. And it’s not hard to see why. The use of this golden liquid extends from cooking to cosmetics. It’s traditionally been considered as an elixir, and recent FDA regulations have even christened it as modern medicine. The health benefits of olive oil are pretty widespread. From heart health to supple skin, olive oil can help pretty much all areas of the body. But did you know that you can even use olive oil for weight loss?
You read that right, an oil for weight loss! It sounds pretty incredible but studies suggest that regular consumption of olive oil benefits your waist as well as your well-being. But just how does it work? And how can you make olive oil for weight loss work for you?
Thankfully, this time divine intervention isn’t necessary. Instead, we’ve prepared this quick article covering everything you’ll need to know. So what even is olive oil anyway…?
What is Olive Oil?
Olive oil is an edible vegetable oil that originated in the Mediterranean basin. It’s made by pressing the fruit of ripe, whole olives to extract a fragrant, green, or yellowish oil – the creation that has taken over the culinary world as olive oil.
This potent oil has been used since early times, however, the popularity of olive oil has skyrocketed in the last few decades as people have become aware of the dangers of traditional animal fats like butter and lard, and the negative health effects of coconut oil and margarine.
As opposed to the dangerous saturated fats these foods contain, olive oil contains mainly monounsaturated fatty acids – namely oleic acid (55- 80%) and linoleic acid (~10%) which are considered the most unsaturated fats of any natural oils.
This fat composition has resulted in an impressive nutritional profile. Let’s have a quick look:
Nutritional Profile of Olive Oil
While exact numbers can vary, based on the maturity and species of olive used in the pressing, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) states that 1 tablespoon (13.5 grams) of olive oil, contains:
- 119 calories
- 13.5g fat
- 1.86g saturated fat
- Vitamin E – 1.9mg
- Vitamin K – 8.13mcg
It’s also got high amounts of healthy oleic and linoleic fatty acids which can even fight back against heart disease as well as other metabolic concerns.
Types of Olive Oil
If you’ve ever stopped and had a good look at the bottles of olive oil at your grocery store, you might have noticed there are more than a few different types of olive oil on offer. From extra virgin to virgin, fruity to ripe – it’s no wonder you can get ‘extra’ confused when it comes to choosing an oil.
These types of olive oil vary in flavor profile and nutrition… but where does the difference come from?
Well, kind of like winemaking there are a few different variables at play here.
- Type of Olive variety used
- Maturity of the fruit
- Extraction process
While the type and maturity of the fruit alter the flavor notes and aroma of the oil, what makes the real difference is the extraction process. This is where olive oil is broken down into categories like ‘extra virgin’ and ‘pure’. Remember, just like wine, different olive oils work best with different dishes, so let’s also check out what are the best types of olive oil depending on what’s on for dinner.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
This is an extremely refined and minimally treated oil whose quality is maximized by extreme filtration. The main characteristic distinguishing extra virgin olive oil from other types is its high oleic acid content (>55%). It is pale in color and delicate aroma.
Extra virgin olive oil works best as a dressing on salads and should not be used for cooking.
Virgin Olive Oil
This is an oil that contains less than 2% free monounsaturated fatty acids and with a color ranging from light green to yellowish. It has notes of fruit, and sometimes nutty or earthy undertones present in other oils.
The benefits of extra virgin olive oil come from the production process. It’s made using the cold-pressed method and without treatment by heat, to preserve the delicate balance of heat-sensitive compounds in the oil.
For this reason, virgin olive oil works best for dishes that don’t require heat. Try using it in hummus or other dips, or as a replacement for butter or margarine on bread or to balance soups.
Pure Olive Oil
Pure or regular olive oil simply means that heat or chemicals have been used in the extraction process. For this reason, some of the virgin olive oil benefits are lost, and its oleic acid content is somewhere between 3-4%. On the other hand, it is a better olive oil for cooking as it’s already been treated with heat.
Try regular olive oil for cooking. If you are looking to cook with olive oil for weight loss we recommend trying adding a small amount while sauteing or grilling.
Refined Olive Oil
This is olive oil that has been treated using various processes to remove the taste, smell, and even color from the oil. This is great if you want a completely neutral oil that still has all of the advantages of pure olive oil. On the other hand, the delicious characteristics that give olive oil its personality are lost in this process.
Refined olive oil is usually used in the commercial industry for packing tuna and vegetables. It makes a great olive oil for cooking or for those who aren’t a fan of its characteristic taste.
Olive Pomace Oil
This is the lowest quality grade of olive oil. It’s made using the leftovers after the first pressing of the olives, which are chemically treated to remove the remaining amount of oil.
It isn’t healthy and unless further treated it isn’t recommended to use pomace olive oil for cooking or human consumption.
Olive Oil vs Butter
Let’s take a moment to compare the nutritional information of olive oil to a traditional fat like butter. 1 tablespoon (14 grams) of butter contains:
- 102 calories
- 12g fat
- 7.3g saturated fat
- Vitamin E – 0.3mg
- Vitamin K – 1mcg
Found the big difference? While olive oil does have slightly more calories, it only contains about 1/4 of the amount of saturated fat of butter!
Saturated fat has been linked to a bunch of different health concerns – including obesity, high blood pressure, and heart disease. This altogether means that olive oil not only prevents your risk of a bunch of different health problems – it can actively help fight against them, in more ways than one. So what are they?
Olive Oil Benefits
- Keep the Cardiovascular System Healthy
Linoleic acid contained in olive oil can reduce the risk of heart disease. Studies show that olive oil and other diets high in linoleic and oleic acids were associated with a reduced incidence of cardiovascular disease, particularly among overweight people over the age of 50.
- Prevents Metabolic syndrome
‘Metabolic syndrome’ is a group of interlinked conditions that all increase the likelihood of obesity, heart disease, and stroke. Preliminary studies have linked the adoption of a Mediterranean diet including olive oil to reduced risk of metabolic syndrome. This means that adopting olive oil in the kitchen can fight against obesity!
- Reduces the Risk of Cancer
Highly processed oils, including corn, canola, and margarine, have been associated with an increased risk of several types of cancer. Right now human studies suggest that replacing these products with olive oil may reduce the risk for all kinds of cancers.
- Balances Blood Sugar and Prevents Diabetes
The consumption of olive oil may reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes by lowering glycemic indexes and blood sugar levels.
- Manage Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
Olive oil is naturally rich in polyphenols, which have numerous health benefits including the ability to prevent oxidative stress and inflammation, as well as control blood sugar levels. It is also gentle and may help prevent IBD symptoms.
Using Olive Oil for Weight Loss
Using olive oil regularly can help keep your heart healthy, blood sugar in check and keep a host of health issues at bay. Okay so olive oil is good for you… but can you use olive oil for weight loss too?
Olive oil still contains high amounts of fat and calories, and we are not recommending you go out and drink a cup if you are looking to lose weight. However, as we all know by now there’s more than one type of fat. As it is plant-based and minimally processed, in particular, extra virgin olive oil benefits do extend to weight loss. Switching to olive oil and a Mediterranean diet will help keep you slim as well as healthy!
Most health specialists and nutritionists these days support the use of Mediterranean and other plant-based diets and fats for their weight loss properties while recommending you avoid animal fats in particular.
So in short, yes – switching to olive oil can help you in the fight against fat!
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you consume olive oil throughout the year?
Yes of course! Most types of olive oil are harvested in the autumn-winter months, but this golden oil can be enjoyed all year long.
How should I store my olive oil?
Once opened, olive oil can lose its flavor and aroma. It’ll also go rancid after about a year, so don’t plan on storing those bottles for too long! For freshness, keep your olive oil in a dark cupboard or out of direct sunlight.
What are the health benefits of olive oil?
There are many olive oil benefits, including reduced risk of heart disease, cancer, regulating blood sugar as well as other anti-inflammatory properties. Topically, olive oil can even fight against the signs of aging and is used the world over to keep skin, hair, and nails healthy and strong.
Can olive oil be reused?
Olive oil used can be reused, however, it will take on some of the flavors of whatever was cooked in it.
Can I cook with Extra Virgin Olive Oil?
Cooking with extra virgin oil isn’t recommended as the virgin olive oil benefits are lost if heated.
How many calories are there in olive oil?
There are 119 calories in a tablespoon of olive oil.
Supposedly gifted to the man from the ancient gods, the health benefits of olive oil have been renowned since ancient times and are now supported by modern research. From heart disease to inflammation, incorporating olive oil into your daily diet can help you in more ways than one. You can even use olive oil for weight loss; Ditch the butter and make the switch to this heaven-sent elixir!
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Rosily Ryan is an experienced health and fitness writer, editor, and health activist in Sydney, Australia. She’s written for several publications like Pure Green Magazine.