If you were to ask members of the Oldways staﬀ which ingredients we use every day….do you know what most of us would say?
Olive oil is the ultimate pantry staple. It has been cultivated in the Mediterranean region for thousands of years, which is why you’ll ﬁnd it in many classic Mediterranean dishes ranging from hummus to pasta to grilled ﬁsh and vegetables. But there’s no need to limit your use of olive oil. It pairs beautifully with global ﬂavors, from Asian to African to Latin American.
Extra virgin olive oil is prized for its taste—which can range from delicate to full-bodied, peppery to fruity—as well as its health beneﬁts. Olive oil is a heart-healthy ingredient full of good-for-you monounsaturated fats and antioxidants. While some people may choose to cook with other plant-based oils, we recommend olive oil for its longstanding place in the Mediterranean Diet and the unparalleled amount of research pointing to its health beneﬁts.
Have a question about olive oil? Check out our answers below.
What are the health beneﬁts of olive oil?
Olive oil is also an example of a heart-healthy fat source, because it consists primarily of monounsaturated fatty acids. Replacing saturated fats (such as those found in butter, lard, and coconut oil) with monounsaturated fats (such as those in olive oil) is linked with a signiﬁcantly lower risk of heart disease.
Olive oil also contains polyphenols, antioxidants linked to many health beneﬁts, including decreasing inﬂammation, regulating blood sugar, and potentially reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer.
Plus, research on more than 90,000 adults presented by Dr. Frank Hu of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that those who ate at least a half tablespoon of olive oil per day had a 19% lower risk of mortality during the 28-year study than those who rarely ate olive oil.
Is it better to cook with olive oil, or extra virgin olive oil?
Extra virgin olive oil is olive oil that has been created without heat or chemicals. It is created through mechanically crushing olives to separate liquid from solid, and then extracting the oil from the water in the liquid.
Extra virgin olive oil retains more of its delicate ﬂavors, and antioxidant properties, than “light” or other varieties of olive oil.
Is olive oil good for LDL cholesterol?
Yes, eating olive oil (a monounsaturated fat) in place of butter, lard, or red meat (saturated fats) is linked with improved LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.
Can you use olive oil in place of vegetable oil? Even when baking?
Yes! You can bake with olive oil and get delicious results. In some desserts around the world—including Sultana Yogurt Cake from Turkey and Sicilian Orange Almond Cake from Italy—olive oil is customary.
You can even replace butter with olive oil when you bake. Check out (or print out) our conversion guide.
Does olive oil have Omega 3?
Olive oil is a source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. However, it does not contain Omega 3’s. Instead, look to foods including fatty ﬁsh and salmon, walnuts, and ﬂaxseeds.
Can I fry or cook at high temperatures with olive oil?
Yes! You can safely cook with extra virgin olive oil—baking, roasting, frying, sauteing, grilling. You can heat olive oil in all forms, and it will retain health beneﬁts.
How do I choose the right olive oil to buy?
We wrote a whole guide to choosing an olive oil! To recap, keep these tips in mind:
- Look for an extra virgin olive oil at your price point
- Look for a recent harvest date, if listed–unlike wine, olive oil does not improve with age!
- Try many diﬀerent olive oils to ﬁnd what YOU like. You’ll discover so much nuance and diﬀerence in ﬂavor from one bottle to another. Perhaps you’ll start with an olive oil from Spain, and next, an olive oil from Turkey.
Ready to keep learning? Don’t miss our Olive Oil 101 guide, a printable document ﬁlled with helpful information for buying, using, and storing your olive oil. Plus, it includes instructions to host your very own “olive oil tasting” for your friends and family.
Now it’s time to get yourself a bottle of extra virgin olive oil! As Fausto Lucchetti, former director of the International Olive Oil Council, says: “Buying olive oil is investing in your health.”
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