Nutritional value of olive oil.

Olive oil is good for you, as it has a unique nutritional value. It’s rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, polyphenols, and vitamin E.

Olive oil is mainly monounsaturated fatty acids

Olive oil has many health benefits. It contains compounds that may prevent, manage, or treat chronic diseases (1).

Olive oil contains about (5):

  • 80% monounsaturated fatty acids
  • 5% polyunsaturated fatty acids
  • 15% saturated fatty acids

These percentages depend on olive varieties and processing technics.

Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, which are good for the health when consumed in moderation.

A 2014 study tried to find out if monounsaturated fatty acids from other foods have the same effect to health as olive oil. Data from over 840K people showed that only olive oil is associated with a reduced risk of all-cause mortality, cardiovascular events, and stroke. Other monounsaturated fatty acids rich foods didn’t have any significant risk reduction (4).

What types of polyphenols are in olive oil?

Olive oil may have so many health benefits, due to its unique polyphenol content. It’s pretty rich in flavonols, lignans, and glycosides.

Moreover, olive polyphenols may have some important properties (1):

  • anti-atherogenic,
  • antihepatotoxic,
  • hypoglycemic,
  • anti-inflammatory,
  • antitumor,
  • antiviral and
  • immunomodulator activities.

So, polyphenols found in the extra virgin olive oil are possibly helpful to (1):

  • neurodegenerative diseases,
  • atherosclerosis,
  • cancer, and
  • type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (T2DM).

Olive polyphenols are mainly responsible for the biter taste of olive oil.

Is olive oil rich in polyphenols?

According to the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, olive oil contains a decent amount of polyphenols. It contains 62 mg polyphenols per 100g.

It’s by far the richest vegetable oil in polyphenols. The second vegetable oil high in polyphenols is the rapeseed oil, with only 17 mg per 100g.

Olive oil is rich in antioxidants

Furthermore, olive oil is a good source of antioxidants. Extra virgin olive oil has only 55 mg of antioxidants per 100g.

Olives are also good sources. Green olives have 161 mg of antioxidants per 100g, while black olives have 117 mg.

Does olive oil have any vitamins?

Olive oil contains only 2 vitamins. It contains 31 mg of vitamin E and 60 mcg of vitamin E per 100g.

How much should we consume?

Certainly, olive oil is good for you, mainly due to its high polyphenol content. But, we should consume it only in moderation. Olive oil is particularly rich in calories. A tablespoon contains about 120 calories.

So, consuming too much can make us gain weight.

As a rule of thumb, most people shouldn’t consume more than 1-2 tbsp of olive oil a day.

Sources:

  1. Nutraceutical Properties of Olive Oil Polyphenols. An Itinerary from Cultured Cells through Animal Models to Humans
  2. A new definition of functional food by FFC: what makes a new definition unique?
  3. Mediterranean diet pyramid today. Science and cultural updates.
  4. Monounsaturated fatty acids, olive oil, and health status: a systematic review and meta-analysis of cohort studies
  5. Influence of harvest date and crop yield on the fatty acid composition of virgin olive oils from cv. Picual (pdf)
  6. USDA-US Department of Agriculture: Olive oil
  7. NCBI: The importance of the omega-6/omega-3 fatty acid ratio in cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases.