Olive oil provides antioxidants and healthy fats.
Olive oil has the potential to provide health benefits, even in small amounts. It contains antioxidants in the form of vitamin E and beneficial plant-based substances. It’s also one of the top sources of monounsaturated fats that help lower cholesterol and help prevent inflammation. Your body depends on getting some fat from your diet, and consuming 1 or 2 tablespoons of olive oil each day is a healthy way to meet that need.
As an antioxidant, vitamin E neutralizes free radicals before they damage or kill fat cells. These fats need to stay healthy because they fill essential jobs, such as keeping nerves working and combining with proteins to safely carry cholesterol through your bloodstream. Just 1 tablespoon of olive oil supplies 1.9 milligrams of vitamin E, which is 13 percent of your recommended daily allowance. The same serving also contains 8 micrograms of vitamin K, or about 8 percent of your daily intake. Vitamin K is best known as the vitamin that makes blood clot, but you also need vitamin K to maintain bone strength.
Olive oil is obviously high in fat, with 1 tablespoon containing 13.5 grams of total fat. It’s one of the good fats, though, because 84 percent of the total fat consists of healthy unsaturated fats, primarily monounsaturated fats, such as oleic acid. Monounsaturated fats help keep your heart healthy by fighting inflammation, increasing levels of good cholesterol and lowering bad and total cholesterol. The FDA approved a health claim for olive oil, which states that the monounsaturated fats you’ll get from consuming 2 tablespoons daily may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.
Substances in olive oil called polyphenols are antioxidants that fight inflammation and help lower blood pressure, according to the December 2012 issue of the “American Journal of Hypertension.” Like vitamin E, polyphenols protect lipoproteins that carry cholesterol through your bloodstream. If the lipoproteins break down, they release the cholesterol and then it can stick to artery walls and form plaques that block blood flow. Getting 5 milligrams of polyphenols from olive oil daily may protect lipoproteins, according to the European Food Safety Authority. You may get about 5 milligrams from three-fourths tablespoon, but the amount varies depending on the variety of olive and how it’s processed.
The FDA emphasizes that you must replace saturated fats, such as butter, with olive oil and not increase your daily calories to gain any benefits from olive oil. It’s also important to stay within daily guidelines for fat intake. One tablespoon of olive oil has 119 calories, which come entirely from fat. Guidelines from the American Heart Association recommend limiting your daily fat consumption to less than 25 to 35 percent of your total calories. One downside to olive oil is that it contains significantly less omega-3 fatty acids than other vegetable oils, especially canola, flaxseed, walnut and soybean oils.