Olive oil is a staple in the Mediterranean diet, which has been linked to better heart health.iStock
Olive oil and its trendy moniker EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil) is known as one of the healthiest foods you can eat, thanks to its ties to the Mediterranean diet. Here’s what you need to know about its place in your everyday routine.
What Is Olive Oil and What Is Its History?
Olive oil is oil pressed from olives. Its use dates back 6,000 years, originating in Iran, Syria, and Palestine, before making its way to the Mediterranean, where its olive groves are most well known. (1) Historically, olive oil has been used in religious ceremonies and medicine, and it’s become an important source of food for many cultures.
Today in the United States, you can buy three types of olive oil: extra-virgin olive oil, olive oil, and light-tasting olive oil. Regular olive oil can be used in a variety of cooking styles, while extra-virgin (which makes up 60 percent of all the olive oil sold in North America) can be used for both cold or finishing preparations as well as in cooking. Light-tasting olive oil has a neutral flavor, so you can use it in cooking and baking when you don’t want the characteristic peppery taste of olive oil. (2)
How Olive Oil Is Made
Olive oil is made from olives that grow on olive trees, most often those in the Mediterranean region. (3) After harvest, olives are crushed into a paste and then decanted and put through a centrifugation process to separate the oil. (4) The final product is then stored in stainless steel tanks that are protected from oxygen. When bottled, the oil should go into a dark glass bottle to keep it fresh.
You can also buy extra-virgin olive oil (dubbed EVOO), which is cold-pressed from ripe olives mechanically without using high heat or chemicals, per standards set forth by the International Olive Council. This is said to preserve chemicals in the olives called phenols, which are one reason olive oil is thought to have such powerful health properties. (5) On the other hand, refined olive oil uses heat or solvents, resulting in a tasteless oil that can then be blended with other oils. (6)
MOST RECENT IN DIET AND NUTRITION
Olive Oil Nutrition Facts: What Do You Get out of 1 Tablespoon?
Here’s what’s in olive oil: ((7))
Protein: 0 grams (g)
Saturated fat: 1.9g
Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA): 9.9g
Polyunsaturated fat: 1.4g
Olive oil is a pure fat, but according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's MyPlate guidelines, a healthy fat, meaning it contains no protein or carbohydrates (including fiber or sugar). Most of its fat is made up of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, with a small amount of polyunsaturated fat and saturated fat. One plus of using fat in your cooking — particularly with vegetables — is that the fat helps your body absorb fat-soluble vitamins, like A, D, E, and K, from the meal.