What's the deal with olive oil?

Hello everyone! Newbie here. Please be gentle as I’m not too sure what I’m doing yet.

Before I ask my question, I need to explain why I’m asking it. Earlier this year I joined Weight Watchers. So far I’ve lost 51 lbs. (and I say that strictly to brag. :D) Anyway, when I started the program I heard a lot of people and read a lot of articles singing the praises of olive oil, mostly that it tastes wonderful and is better for you than regular cooking oils. While I’m not denying the taste (yum!), the nutritional information on the labels don’t scream healthy to me. (14g of fat per tablespoon?!?) So if there are any chefs out there who can help me with this, what exactly is the big screaming deal about olive oil? Is it healthy or not?

Any answers will receive many thanks.

I don’t think the main thing about olive oil is its calories, it has around the same as other oils. It’s just that the type of fat it has is better for you than heavier fats such as animal fats and tropical oils, while tasting better than the lighter vegetable oils. I’m not sure if the types of oil it has is better for you than lighter vegetable oil, though.

Then there’s the whole thing with omega acids and antioxidants but who knows what the deal is with that. But you’re right, it won’t save you on calories unless you use less oil because of its tastiness.

It is healthy… or better if you say it is healthier than the alternative of using animal fats or even many other vegetal oils.

And, as the poster above mentions, it has nothing to do with the amount of calories or the amount of fat, but with the type of the fat. Olive oil is very rich in monoinsaturated fats, which tend to reduce the risk of coronary problems. At the same time there are other claimed benefits and properties:

-Cholesterol regulation
-Antihypertensive effects
-Anti cholesterol oxidation

It looks, also, that the best type of Olive Oil is the so called Extra Virgin one, where the oil is extracted just by pressing the olives with mechanical means ONCE. That oil is the richest in polyphenol antioxidants, so supposedly it is the best one in health terms… in my case, I like it because of the stronger flavor, to be honest.

Olive oil is one of the main components of what is called “Mediterranean Diet”, and one basic foodstuff in countries like Spain. For us, Spaniards in “exile” on godforsaken places it is akin to liquid gold… but let me tell you that no amount of olive oil is going to make those KFC hot wings go away… I know that on experience…

Like any other oil, it’s 100% fat, and your weight will be about the same eating olive oil or the same amount of any other kind of oil. But the olive oil will probably leave you with less cholesterol, risk of heart disease, etc.

Another thing, not so much about “olive oil” as about “switching to olive oil,” is something I’ve experienced as well with other trends. Many of the people making the switch aren’t moving from “using just enough sunflower oil to keep things from sticking to the pan” to “using just enough olive oil to keep things from sticking to the pan,” they’re moving from “deep frying in butter” to “frying in olive oil” and from “a godly glob of storebought dressings” to “a dash of homemade vinaigrette.”

Part of the health benefits come from the different composition of the oil and part from using it differently (less of it).

According to my doctor: “Cut down on the fat in your diet. But if you must have fat, switch to olive oil.”

One thing to be aware of, though, is that extra virgin olive oil is not really for cooking. It’s smoke point is fairly low, and so food fried in it won’t get as hot. For frying, higher heat actually keeps foods from absorbing much of the oil, so what you eat is lower-cal.

So use light olive oil for frying. It can cook at the same temperature as other cooking oils. Actually, I’m not sure that light olive oil is much better for you than canola oil, but the two of them are better than most any other cooking fat.

But for salads and other uncooked oil uses, EVOO all the way.

Is your doctor The World’s Most Interesting Man? Because I totally heard that in his voice. “I don’t always drink fat. But when I do, I drink extra virgin olive oil.”

Stay thirsty my friends.

Wow. Thanks for all the info. I feel a lot better now.

It’s essential to have SOME fat in the diet. Usually, though, the problem isn’t getting enough fat (in a First World country) but getting the right kind of fat. Animal fats are supposed to be avoided, while non-tropical vegetable fats and oils are substituted for the forbidden fat.

To me, olive oil tastes somewhat better than regular vegetable oil, but not nearly as good as butter. However, I use olive oil in most cases because it’s a combination of the best for me, and the best tasting.

As other posters said, there are different kinds of fats. The first distinctions must be made between saturated fatty acids, monounsaturated fats (olive oil, for one), and polyunsaturated fats (canola oil, for one). Bother poly- and mono- have their benefits, and in many respects, poly- is better than mono-. I’ve always used olive oil because the literature at the time indicated this is the most healthful; however, recently I’ve read that poly- (canola) may be even healthier in that it not only raises HDL cholesterol but reduces LDL cholesterol.

Then, after you’ve become acquainted with those differences, you must distinguish betwen the different kinds of polyunsaturated oils: omega-3 or omega-6.

Dietary sources of omega-3 fatty acids include fish oil and certain plant/nut oils. Fish oil contains both docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), while some nuts (e.g., English walnuts) and vegetable oils (e.g., canola, soybean, flaxseed/linseed, and olive oil) contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omega-3_fatty_acid

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/fish-oil/NS_patient-fishoil

The omega-3’s should be twice the amount of the omega 6’s in a healty diet.

No, don’t use light olive oil for anything. “Light” olive oil doesn’t mean “not extra-virgin”, it means “Olive oil with all the good stuff filtered out so it’s as indistinguishable as possible from regular vegetable oil, but at many times the price”. If, for some reason, you genuinely don’t like the flavor of olive oil, save yourself some money and get canola. If, on the other hand, you’re just looking for non-extra-virgin olive oil, just get a bottle that doesn’t say “extra virgin” on it. Extra virgin is more expensive than regular, so nobody would sell extra virgin without saying so on the label.

Why not? Extra light olive oil has a rather exceptional smoke point (240 °C, better even than peanut oil) which makes it a good frying oil. The further you go on the scale towards “extra virgin”, the lower the smoke point goes, and the less suitable the oil is for frying.

No, how “light” the olive oil is is a completely different scale than how virgin it is.