Many people have the assumption that olive oil is health promoting.
We often hear butter is bad for us; it contributes to a high-fat diet and promotes obesity and clogged arteries. So to cut back on the saturated fat, many of us have switched to olive oil. We sauté, grill, and bake with it. We use it as salad dressing. At Italian restaurants, we dip complimentary bread into the spiced olive oil alongside it. After all, it is part of the Mediterranean diet, which is known to be healthy.
But here’s the truth: while foods rich in monounsaturated fats like olive oil may be better for you than foods consisting of saturated and trans fats, that doesn’t mean they’re healthy for you.
When we think of the Mediterranean diet, some of us may regard olive oil as a staple food contributing to the slimness and overall health associated with the diet. Unfortunately, this is far from the truth.
A study in Crete discovered that, of the individuals tested, those who ate a diet with “significantly higher daily intakes” of monounsaturated fats (like olive oil) had higher rates of Ischemic heart disease. The study also mentions “a Mediterranean diet rich in fruits and vegetables substantially reduced the recurrence of IHD events for up to 4 years.” From this, it is evident that while the overall Mediterranean diet—abundant in unrefined vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, and grains—is health promoting, olive oil is not part of the equation.
When you get right down to it, olive oil is a processed food that has been stripped of all its potential benefits. It has almost no micronutrients, no fiber, and is 100% fat that is almost immediately absorbed by the body and turned to fat. It is a concentrated source of calories that increases the calorie density of a meal without adding nutritional benefits. According to this article, olive oil has over 4,000 calories per pound and is “far more calorie dense than even pure refined sugar, which has 1,725 calories per pound.”
That doesn’t sound like something I want to pour over my salad.
Instead, it’s better to top a salad with some nuts or seeds. By ingesting fats through these whole foods, the absorption is much slower and will mostly be burned for energy needs instead of stored as body fat. Adding nuts and seeds to your diet will promote weight loss and maintenance instead of the health deficits associated with olive oil.
Don’t choose foods that are simply better for you. Your body deserves the best.