Olive Oil: Important Facts, Health Benefits, and Recipes

Olive oil is the oil produced from olives that is used for cooking, baking, frying, or drizzling over food. It has many health benefits, including being high in monounsaturated fats. This article highlights many of the health benefits and important facts about olive oil and includes interesting recipes that use it.

What is Olive Oil?

Olive oil is the oil (liquid) produced from olives that is used for cooking, baking, frying, or drizzling over food. The oil is either mechanically pressed from the olives (extra-virgin olive oil or virgin olive oil) or olives can be exposed to heat or chemicals to release the oil (refined olive oil or pure olive oil).

Is Olive Oil Good For You?

Yes! Olive oil is a great source of monounsaturated fats and can be included with almost every lifestyle.

Health Benefits Of Olive Oil

1. Olive Oil Boosts Heart Health

  • Studies have shown that heart disease is less common in Mediterranean countries, leading to more people world-wide eating a Mediterranean-inspired diet that has now been shown to significantly reduce heart disease risk


2. Olive Oil Fights Inflammation


3. Olive Oil Is Rich in Heart-Healthy Monounsaturated Fats


4. Olive oil is High in Antioxidants 

  • Polyphenols, powerful plant compounds, are found in olive oil and provide a great source of antioxidants


5. Olive Oil May Lower Risk of Stroke


6. Olive Oil May Reduce Type 2 Diabetes Risk


7. Olive Oil May Prevent Cancer

  • A Mediterranean diet is rich in olive oil and plant-based foods. Researchers have found that people who include olive oil have a much lower risk of certain cancers

8. Olive Oil May Improve Brain Health and Memory

History, Background, and General Facts about Olive Oil

  • Olive oil has been an integral part of the Mediterranean diet (countries that surround the Mediterranean Sea) and people who live in these countries have been found to have lower risk of heart disease
  • The top producers of olive oil are Spain, Italy, Tunisia, Greece, and Turkey. The most consumed olive oil is in Greece, then Italy and Spain.

What Are The Cuisines That Regularly Include Olive Oil?

  • Italian - pasta, salads, pesto, olive oil cake, focaccia, and dipping bread
  • Greek - salads, fish, dipping bread, olive oil cookies
  • Turkey - artichokes and green beans cooked in olive oil
  • Tunisia - mashed zucchini dip, Ful medames (fava beans in olive oil), couscous
  • Middle Eastern - hummus, lamb dishes, artichoke dishes
  • American - roasted vegetables, hummus, pesto, sauteed vegetables
  • Spanish - gazpacho, tortilla, sofrito, dipping bread
  • Moroccan - couscous, chickpea salad

What Is The Best Way To Store Olive Oil?

The best way to store olive oil is in a cool, dry place away from heat and sunlight, such as a pantry or in the refrigerator if you don’t plan to use it quickly.

What Are The Different Types Of Olive Oil?

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

  • Extra-virgin olive oil is an unrefined oil and the highest-quality, purest olive oil and companies must abide by strict production standards to make it

  • It is extracted by cold-pressing (mechanically extracted instead of chemically treated) to preserve the natural oils from the olive and to provide maximum health benefit and flavor

  • It typically has a golden-green color, with a distinct peppery flavor


Virgin Olive Oil

  • Virgin olive oil is made using a similar cold-pressing process as extra-virgin olive oil and is also an unrefined oil (mechanically extracted instead of chemically treated)

  • Virgin olive oil also maintains the purity and taste of the olive, though production standards are not as rigid as extra-virgin olive oil


Refined Olive Oil (Pure Olive Oil or Olive Oil)

  • Refined olive oil (or pure olive oil) is a blend of virgin olive oil and refined olive oil (heat or chemically treated to extract the oil) 

  • Refined olive oil has gone through heat and/or chemical processing to extract the oil, rather than mechanically pressed

  • Refined olive oil is a lower-quality oil than virgin olive oil or extra-virgin olive oil because it has been processed. It is lighter in color and has a milder flavor


Extra Light Olive Oil

  • Extra light olive oil is lighter in color and flavor, and not lighter in calories or fat

  • This oil has been refined (gone through heat and chemical processing to extract the oil)


Olive Pomace Oil 

  • Olive pomace oil is the lowest quality olive oil. It is extracted from the residue of oil and water that remains after the fruit is pressed

  • The residue still contains a small amount of oil that can be extracted

  • Virgin olive oil is sometimes mixed with the oil from the residue to improve the quality

  • It can be used for cooking and is also used in beauty products like soaps

Toxicity and Side Effects Of Olive Oil

Consuming olive oil is considered safe unless you have an allergy to olives.

Nutrition information is for 1 tablespoon olive oil.