How Well Do You Know Olive… Oil?

Last week, while having lunch with a friend, I used my normal drizzle of olive oil and splash of apple cider vinegar on my salad. Dressing my veggies reminded me that I wanted to ask Sheila about her views on olive oil.

Sheila is a PA at a cardiologist’s office, so she is more familiar with heart health than most. I have read many studies linking olive oil and heart health, but I also know of a few cardiologists who recommend avoiding the stuff altogether.

Interestingly enough, Sheila and I share a similar opinion on the matter. Olive oil can be healthy in moderation, but it’s sometimes over-hyped.

Here’s what you should know about olive oil:

Healthy – Olive oil is well-known for its relatively high content of omega-3 fatty acids. A 2005 Atherosclerosis study found that consuming virgin olive oil could have beneficial effects in patients with coronary artery disease. A 2006 Annals of Internal Medicine article notes that olive oil’s value may not even be limited to its monounsaturated fats. Researchers noted that olive oil’s phenolic content can provide benefits for plasma lipid levels and prevent oxidative damage.

But hold on – One of the things we love about olive oil (the fat) is also the reason it should be consumed in moderation. Even with healthy fats, you can overdo it. According to the American Heart Association, total fat intake should be less than 25-35 percent of total daily calorie intake.

There’s one more thing you really need to know about olive oil before you make another meal.

You should also know – Olive oil has a relatively low smoke point, which is the temperature at which the oil begins to degenerate and release volatile compounds. A 2010 Food Chemistry study notes that olive oil begins degenerating at about 380 degrees Fahrenheit. Since most foods are cooked at 350 degrees or higher, olive oil may not always be the best cooking oil.

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