WebMD Weight Loss Clinic: All About Olive Oil


This oil’s got history going for it, that’s for sure. One of the oldest known cultivated trees in the world, the olive tree is native to Asia Minor. It is thought to have spread to the Mediterranean region — now well-known for its use of olive oil — about 6,000 years ago.

You can buy domestic olive oil (using mostly Californian grown olives) or imported oils from France, Greece, Spain, and Italy.

This uniquely green and flavorful oil can be less green and less flavorful, depending on the type you buy. If you want to use it at high temperatures or in baking, try one of the “light” olive oils. This type goes through a fine filtration process, producing lighter-colored oil that lacks the classic olive flavor.

What if you want a fragrant and flavorful oil, for salad dressings or for adding to a dish after cooking? Olive oil that’s extra-virgin and cold-pressed (a chemical-free process that involves only pressure, producing an oil with low acidity) is considered the fruitiest and finest type, according to The Food Network’s online encyclopedia.

More and more people are cooking with olive oil, perhaps because Mediterranean cuisine is in vogue, or because of the oil’s distinctive flavor, or its potential health benefits. How about all of the above?

A Smart Fat

Nutrition experts consider omega-3 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fat found in fish and some plant foods, to be a “smart fat.” The other “smart fat” is monounsaturated fat — the type olive oil is rich in.

Environmental Saturated fat — found mostly in animal products and in palm and coconut oils — is the main dietary cause of high makeup of some different types of vegetable oils:

Type of oil % Monounsaturated fat % Polyunsaturated fat % heart disease risks — with a few strings attached. The claim says that “limited and not conclusive scientific evidence” suggests that eating about 2 tablespoons of olive oil daily may reduce the risk of antioxidants in olive oil fell sharply after 12 months in storage — even under the best of storage conditions.

Here are four ways to keep the antioxidant levels in your olive oil high:

  • Buy olive oil in amounts you will use within 6 months.
  • Buy it from busy stores that are likely to sell a lot of olive oil (to ensure that it hasn’t been sitting on the shelf for very long).
  • Store it in opaque, airtight bottles or metal tins, away from light and heat.
  • If you keep it in the refrigerator, it is less likely to go rancid). Refrigerated oil will become cloudy and thick — but don’t worry. It will still have the same quality and taste, and will become liquid and clear again when brought back to room temperature.

Olive Oil Recipes

Perhaps the best reason for using olive oil is its distinctive flavor. It adds zip to everything from pesto sauce to meats to roasted veggies (you can even use milder varieties for baking). Here are recipes for a couple of savory dishes to get you started.

Basil Bread

Journal as: 1 slice bread + 1 teaspoon oil
OR 1 slice bread + 1 tablespoon nuts

1 cup fresh basil leaves, slightly packed
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (toast by heating in nonstick skillet on medium heat, stirring often, until golden brown)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Pinch salt (optional)
10 inch-thick slices of French or sourdough bread, preferably made with part whole-wheat flour

  • Put all of the ingredients except the bread in a small food processor. Pulse briefly to blend well.
  • Spread about 1/2 tablespoon spread on each bread slice and place on foil-lined cookie sheet. Broil about 6 inches from heat, watching carefully, until spread is bubbly and lightly brown (two-three minutes).

Yield: 10 pieces

Per slice of bread with spread (using part whole-wheat French bread): 132 calories, 4 g protein, 12 g carbohydrate, 8 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat, 4.9 g monounsaturated fat, 1.3 g polyunsaturated fat), 2 mg breasts (placing them so they are nice and flat and covering the olive oil in the bottom of the skillet). Brown for two-three minutes, sprinkle the top with pepper, then flip to brown the other side for two to three minutes.

  • Turn heat down to LOW and drizzle the lemon juice and water, chicken broth, or wine over the top. Cover skillet immediately and cook until chicken is cooked throughout (about 15 more minutes).
  • Serve the chicken with or without the lemon broth in the bottom of the skillet.
  • Yield: 4 servings

    Per serving (with broth from pan): 188 calories, 27 g protein, 2 g carbohydrate, 7.5 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat, 4.4 g monounsaturated fat, 1 g polyunsaturated fat), 73 mg cholesterol, 0.1 g fiber, 64 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 37%.