No dough about it, olive oil has a solid and serious reputation. I feel sort of brave to dare discussing its place since centuries in human nutrition. But I will be courageous and with the help of studies, I will try to bring up information so you can make an opinion for yourself.
Olive oil appeared in human history 24,000 years BC. Very early, aside being used as a food item, it was known for its medicinal purposes and body care, especially the skin. Being also used for religious purposes, this has certainly helped to push its good reputation.
Today’s world production is outstanding: more then 3,269,248 tons olive oil is produce per year, Spain, Italy and Egypt being the largest producer. So, yes, it is a big market. And as any big market means big money, there is ALWAYS a risk of abusive marketing and all the related consequences. Did you know olive oil is now considered a commodity, just like crude oil and corn and so, it responds to a market of offer and demand? Sort of scary…
Price of olive oil can go as low as 5-6$ per liter up to 185$ for the exclusive Greek “Lamba” luxury olive oil; and, just for your interest, you may purchase a personalized signed bottle including casing for the amount of this Lamda stuff for the amount of 14,500 USD…
But there is olive and olive oil. For example, according to the Canadian Government, 75 % of imported olive oil does not respond to international standards. Why? Well here are some tricks producers are using to increase gains: they may “dilute” their olive oil with cheaper vegetable oils such as sunflower or canola oil; or they may add to “ old rancid olive oil’ some fresh olive oil and put it back on the market so they minimize their losses; another profitable way is to add cheaper imported oil from Morocco or Tunisia and market it as “High Quality Extra Virgin ITALIAN Olive Oil”…
One easy trick to see if your olive oil is of good quality is to do the “fridge test”: stick your olive oil in the fridge for one or two days, If it begins to solidify, it means you have a true extra-virgin olive oil because any added polyunsaturated oil will prevent solidification.
But, sincerely, the business side of olive oil is not the main problem because you find good quality and reliable producers, especially if you look for small companies.
So lets looks at the nutritional value of olive oil.
I think the composition of this oil is a big concern as it includes 72% monounsaturated fat, 14% polyunsaturated and 14% saturated. In other words, 86% of fats in olive oil are unsaturated in nature, fats that are very sensible to oxidation by light, temperature or simple exposition to air. So olive oil must be kept in airtight and dark bottles, away from bright light and should NEVER be used for grilling. It should only be added to food as “uncooked oil” once the food is ready to serve. Coating your steak with olive oil before grilling is NOT a good idea. Using coconut oil is a much better choice.
The other big concern is its composition in essential polyunsaturated fats, the omega’s. Olive oil may contain between 0% and 3% (max) omega 3, which makes it a very poor source. On the other side, it contain up to 23% omega 6 which are the bad pro-inflammatory fatty acids. The rest is compose of omega 9, a fatty acid that human can produced so we do not need any of it in our diet.
As you can see, at the end, the “fat profile” is not that impressive. The concern is more considering that these delicate unsaturated fats, once ingested, will be integrated in all your cells membranes and make them poorly resistant to free radical attack (or fat peroxidation), which will weaken your entire body.
On the other side, you may ask yourself why this oil has a so great reputation with all these setbacks? The reason is easy to understand: all the studies done comparing “olive oil rich Mediterranean diet” were compare to the “Western countries high carbs bad fats diet”. That was an easy fight to win.
Except when some studies compared the “Mediterranean diet” to a “low carb diet”, it lost the battle. I went through 3 well-done clinical studies published in reputable medical journals and their conclusions were all the same: a low-carb diet with a serious content of saturated fat is healthier then the “olive oil rich Mediterranean diet”.
You still have some dough? Let me tell you a diet rich in olive oil will only increase your “good” HDL-cholesterol by 1%... while a low carb-high saturated fat diet will skyrocket your HDL.
A fantastic study demonstrated women having had hearth attacks were doing much better afterward on a “saturated fat diet” then an unsaturated fat diet.
But the good thing about olive oil being it is the “less bad oil” you can have on a salad, as it will not solidify like coconut oil when you poor it on fresh lettuce… And as one great low-carb doctor said one day in a conference, it is the salads which are responsible for heart attacks; not because of the lettuce but because of the unsaturated nature of the fats in the dressings…
Still, let’s be fair and give one good point to olive oil: as it contains no carbohydrate at all, it is absolutely Zero Carb!!!