The Surprising Effect of Adding Olive Oil to Your Meal

garlic olive oil

A new Italian study shows that when you eat a meal with added olive oil, your blood sugar does not rise that much after the meal. In addition, LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) also did not rise. This positive effect was not seen when that same meal had corn oil instead of olive oil. I’ve written about the details of the study in Olive Oil Times. This is significant because as we know, it is important to keep blood sugar levels stable. This is more evidence that a Mediterranean style diet and olive oil can also help with diabetes prevention and not only heart disease.

Which brings me to my main point here. Time and time again we see articles but also advertisements about how “better” or just as good, corn oil and canola oil is compared to olive oil. I have even attended educational sessions presenting industry funded studies about the merits of canola and corn oil and how they fit in the Mediterranean diet and wrote about it here.

The fact of the matter is this: they are not better. We hear about smoke point. The reality is unless you are industrial deep frying, you will not surpass the smoke point of olive oil by sautéing or lightly frying. I also want to mention that the smoke points that are often mentioned in various articles are not correct. The smoke point of olive oil depends greatly on the type of olive used, so there is not “one” smoke point for olive oil, it ranges from 365 to 410 degrees Fahrenheit. Read here for more information on using olive oil correctly.

Good fats? Canola oil talks about being a source of the monounsaturated fats and tries to include itself in the Mediterranean diet. Sure, it contains monounsaturated fats, but the issue here are the polyphenols. Polyphenols are antioxidants that are present in extra virgin olive oil, but not in canola oil which in fact, according to research, are responsible for most of the olive oil benefits. So let’s make it clear that canola oil does not contain those antioxidants and therefore will not have the benefits.

Finally, I would like to add that I often read about olive oil being “dangerous” etc. The reality is that Greeks in particular, consumed large amounts of olive oil by using it fresh as well as cooking and baking with it. These people had the highest life expectancy and the lowest rate of heart disease at that time. And while this may seem as an observational comment, I believe it is important to note: if olive oil was so dangerous, how did these Greeks from the 60’s who were consuming such large amounts of olive oil managed to live so long?

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not saying you should use olive oil for everything (although when following a Mediterranean diet, particularly a Greek-Mediterranean Diet-you probably will-if you want all the benefits). There are cases when olive oil may not be the best choice for you, but that is quite different from being led to believe that it is not healthy or that other oils are healthier.

It is important to be aware of the source of information when it comes to comparing oils. Remember, canola oil as well as corn oil have large companies backing them up and that means large budgets. These budgets are used for industry funded studies, promoted articles in the media, advertising, free educational sessions and webinars for health professionals etc. So the next time you see an article extolling the virtues of canola oil over olive oil, be aware that many of those journalists and nutritionists are receiving one-sided information from those industries. The olive oil industry on the other hand, for better or for worse really has not done much to promote its product or compete with the massive marketing of seed and vegetable oils.

*Please note: This is not a sponsored post, I have not received any funding from any organization or company to write this post.

Photo by Riccardo Bruni for flickr

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11 Comments

  • Reply Henk Terol July 30, 2015 at 3:56 pm

    I forwarded these information in our Facebook Mediterranean Treasures environment regularly. It is so important to explain people, and mostly the woman, that there are differences and they need the researches where we can prove these information. I read earlier about these Italian study. I’m happy with it. Thanks a lot for sharing. Regards.

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RD July 31, 2015 at 3:10 pm

      Thanks for sharing Henk

  • Reply lagatta à montréal July 30, 2015 at 6:10 pm

    I use olive oil for most everything, but an exception for me is sautéeing at a high temperature in my wok. Of course this is just a wok on a stove in a domestic kitchen; nothing like the extreme high temperatures of a commercial East or Southeast Asian kitchen. I’d been using a small amount of sunflower oil, or sometimes peanut oil. I hate the thought of buying “light” olive oil. What is the best course of action?

    On an unrelated point, I cooked some barley couscous from Morocco. Very different from the usual wheat couscous, far more “rustic”. Think it is more finely-cracked grain than the tiny pasta wheat couscous is. No stock, just cooked it in water, adding some of my fresh herbs and of coure, a swig of olive oil. It is an interesting grain from a nutritional standpoint.

  • Reply Katina Vaselopulos August 10, 2015 at 3:40 am

    YES!!!!
    I agree! I have also read reports from Spain that place olive oil above all seed oils, on every count. Good post, Helena!

  • Reply Carla August 19, 2015 at 9:57 pm

    Elena, can you direct me to some mail order sources for good Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil or list some brands that I can search for? I live in a small town in Texas and our supermarket only has one that might even be okay, but I am not sure.

    Thanks!
    Carla

    • Reply Sharon August 20, 2015 at 3:30 pm

      hi from Sharon. I am not Greek but I use a lot of extra virgin olive oil. A good brand to try is Olea estates. Illiada olive oil is very good too, you can buy this online at Amazon. Another good site that sells real Greek extra virgin olive oils is oliveoillovers.com.

  • Reply Sharon August 20, 2015 at 3:27 pm

    hi from Sharon : I love using extra virgin olive oil in most of my cooking. I am not Greek, but African-American. I am trying to eat more healthy following the Mediterranean diet plan. I use California Olive Ranch olive oil most of the time. I also like the Greek brands too, but they are very hard to find in the supermarkets in the U.S. To the previous poster from Texas, Greek extra virgin olive oil can be bought online at Amazon.com or at oliveoillovers.com. I heard good things about Olea estates olive oil and Iliada olive oil. You may want to do a Google search and type in these names.

  • Reply The Fasting Diet Plan October 19, 2015 at 12:34 am

    I have been using olive oil for quite some time now. We prefer olive oil more than other kinds of oil because of its benefits. It’s good to know that olive oil is really helpful, especially in maintaining sugar levels.

  • Reply Joseph Kreifels May 5, 2016 at 12:31 pm

    I just open a can and chunk chicken, mix some olive oil in and eat it out of the can.

  • Reply Janey Lee November 2, 2016 at 3:25 pm

    Elena, thanks for this post. It is very difficult to combat bad information that is out there regarding olive oil for cooking. People has been exposed to so much misinformation. In fact, olive oil has a high smoke point, retains its nutrients and polyphenols when heated and is safe to cook with. And let’s not forget, delicious.

    I have written a couple of blog posts on this topic. I hope you and your readers find them to be helpful.
    http://blog.aboutoliveoil.org/why-olive-oil-is-the-best-oil-for-frying
    http://blog.aboutoliveoil.org/understanding-cooking-oil-smoke-points

  • Reply Oil Free November 27, 2017 at 9:47 pm

    All oils cause endothelial dysfunction (impaired nitric oxide production) in the blood vessels, including olive oil, and should not be consumed by anyone concerned about cardiovascular health. Olive oil may be less damaging than butter, but is still damaging, regardless of any improvement in the HDL/LDL ratio. Comparative angiograms show continuing arterial damage in patients consuming either olive oil or butter. And our remote ancestors didn’t have access to puddles of olive oil on the savanna, so there’s nothing natural about consuming oil.

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