Ask the Dietitian: Olive Oil

Jessica Jones-Hughes
August 2, 2011

Equal Exchange's Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil is from Palestinian small farmers in the West Bank. We are excited to offer you a product with a powerful story, delicious taste and nutritious contents.

Here are some nutrition FAQs about our olive oil.

Is olive oil good for me?
Olive oil is actually one of the healthiest oils! And, extra virgin olive oil is the healthiest of the olive oils.

Olive oil is 100 percent oil, meaning that all of the calories in it come from fat. There are fats that provide health benefits and there are fats that have been shown to be detrimental to your health, especially when consumed in excess. The good news is that olive oil is rich in the healthy fats!

The main fat found in olive oil is monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs). MUFAs and PUFAs (Poly unsaturated fatty acids) can actually lower your risk of heart disease by lowering your LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol levels. MUFAs also have been shown to normalize blood clotting. New research is showing that MUFAs may actually help insulin levels and blood sugar, issues that affect diabetics. In addition, fats play a really important role in your body and are therefore an essential part of your diet.

Does olive oil have more calories than other cooking oils?
Nope! Olive oil has 120 calories per tablespoon (9 calories per gram of oil), no more than any other common cooking or salad oil. But because of its greater flavor and aroma, you'll probably use less olive oil in cooking than other oils, thus helping you cut fat calories.

Does olive oil contain cholesterol?
Olive oil contains absolutely no cholesterol. Cholesterol is only found in animal products, and olive oil comes from "¦ you guessed it, olives! Our oil is made with Nabali olives grown in the West Bank.

What is the difference between different types of fats?
As we talked about above, there are healthy fats and unhealthy fats. Fats that are less healthy are saturated fats and cholesterol. They are typically solid at room temperature and are found in animal products (think butter, lard, meat, eggs). Saturated fats are known to increase LDL and HDL cholesterol whereas PUFAs and MUFAs actually can decrease cholesterol. Fats that are healthy for you are unsaturated fats, Polyunsaturated (PUFA) and Monounsaturated (MUFA) fats. They are typically found in plant products. PUFAs include Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids are found in salmon, tuna, avocados, walnuts, almonds, flaxseeds, kidney beans, and soybeans. Omega 6 fatty acids are found in canola oil, whole grains, and eggs. MUFAs are found in olive oil, hazelnuts, almonds, and canola oil.

How much fat should I eat every day? How much olive oil?
The 2010 Dietary guidelines recommend keeping total fat intake between 20 to 35% of total calories, and saturated fats to less that 10% of daily calories. This means that most fat in your diet should come from sources of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids, such as fish, nuts, and vegetable oils such as olive oil. Read more about the dietary guidelines here.

When using olive oil, remember that it packs a lot of calories and fat into a small quantity (1 Tbsp = 120 calories and 14g fat). Even though olive oil is one of the best oils out there for your health, use it in moderation.

Does olive oil have healthful benefits other oils don't have?
Studies indicate that a diet low in saturated fats such as butter, lard, and other animal fats, but rich in MUFAs such as olive oil, in addition to grains, fruits and vegetables, helps keep the artery-clogging LDL ("bad cholesterol") low while maintaining healthful levels of HDL ("good cholesterol"). The HDL has a preventative effect on cardiovascular illness because it may help to eliminate LDL from the blood by carrying it to the liver. In addition, many medical researchers and nutritionists agree that olive oil is a good source of vitamin E and other antioxidants that may protect against cancer and heart disease.