Nutrition in olive oil

Calories in Olive Oil & Nutrition Facts

Extra virgin olive oil is one of the best edible oils with its pleasant flavor, antioxidant properties and health benefits. Of all the edible oils, extra virgin olive oil has one of the highest levels of monounsaturated fatty acids. Studies have shown that consumption of monounsaturated fatty acids reduces the body’s total cholesterol levels, which may help lower your risk of heart disease. Extra virgin olive oil is also rich in fat-soluble vitamin K and vitamin E, and is often noted for its antioxidant properties, one of the primary health benefits of olive oil.

Olive Oil Nutrition Facts

One tablespoon of olive oil (14g) contains the following nutritional information according to the USDA:

Calories 120
Total Fat 14 g
Saturated Fat 2.2 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1.8 g
Monounsaturated Fat 10 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Total Carbohydrates 0 g
Dietary Fiber 0 g
Sugar 0 g
Cholesterol 0 g
Sodium 0 g
Potassium 0 g
Protein 0 g

Fats are an integral part of a healthy diet, and EVOO is the healthiest fat.

According to the American Heart Association, dietary fats are an essential part of a healthy diet, as fats provide energy, improve cell growth and absorption of nutrients, and create important hormones. Not only does olive oil consist mainly of healthy monounsaturated fats, but it is also the only fat that contains high levels of antioxidants known as polyphenols. This makes extra virgin olive oil without question the healthiest of all fats.

Calories in Olive Oil

Olive oil is 100% fat and contains 120 calories in 1 Tbsp (0.5 oz). Olive oil contains exactly the same number of calories as vegetable fats like canola oil and animal fats like butter.

Not All Calories are Created Equal

While many people want to know how many calories are in olive oil, research finds that not all calories are necessarily equal.

In a famous study at Middlesex Hospital in London in the 1950s, two British researchers, Professor Alan Kekwick and Dr. Gaston L.S. Pawan, tested a series of diets on overweight patients. The patients on a high-carbohydrate diet consistently gained or sustained weight, even when given limited calories. Conversely, subjects on the high-fat diet lost considerably more weight than any of the other diets, even when provided with excess calories.

A more recent study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association also challenges the notion that a “calorie is just a calorie.” Led by Cara Ebbeling, PhD, associate director and David Ludwig, MD, director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children’s Hospital, the purpose of the study was to learn what kind of diet helped people maintain their new weight after successfully losing weight. The results indicated that a low-fat diet predicts weight regain, while diets featuring a moderate to high percentage of calories from fat both increased subjects’ energy expenditure and reduced the surge in their blood sugar after eating, making these diets preferable to a low-fat diet for those trying to achieve lasting weight loss.

How to Avoid Excess Weight Gain

Eating excess calories is only one reason for becoming overweight. Incorporating extra virgin olive oil into your diet can help counteract other factors responsible for fat buildup.

  • Adding EVOO to your diet provides your body with important nutrients and all the healthy fats it needs, thus reducing the cravings that lead to nutrient-empty foods like soft drinks, cookies and breads.

  • By emphasizing nutrient-rich extra virgin olive oil alongside vegetables and protein in your diet, you can avoid excess consumption of weight-inducing sugars and grains.

  • Consumption of man-made trans fats found in hydrogenated and refined vegetable oils interferes with numerous biochemical processes in the body and can cause serious health problems and contribute to weight gain. Using EVOO instead can begin reversing the negative effects of trans fats.

Many people consume EVOO strictly for its antioxidant power, but beyond that, the nutritional value of olive oil makes you full and satisfied. By feeding your body the healthy fats it needs and increasing your intake of olive oil, research shows you will feel more full for a longer period of time and be less tempted to overeat, making extra virgin olive oil an important aid in weight loss and improved health for adults and kids alike.

The olive oil calories are contributed in the form of different fatty acids.

The fatty acids that make up olive oil are: Oleic acid, palmitic, linoleic and stearic.

Most olive oil (≈ 98%) contains triacylglycerols (combinations of three chains of the same or different fatty acids).

In the case of olive oil, triacylglycerols are made up of at least one oleic acid molecule. The most abundant triglyceride is triolein (OOO), which is formed by 3 chains of oleic acid.

The percentage of fatty acids in olive oil varies depending on the olive variety used to obtain it. For example, Picual, Cornicabra, Manzanilla Cacereña or Verdial are olives high in oleic acid (more than 70%). Instead, Arbequina and Blanqueta produce low oleic oils.

Oleic acid stands out for its heart-healthy properties and high resistance to oxidation.

Although the price of olive oil varies, thanks to its calories, 8,800 Kcal/Kg, olive oil is a cheap food. This is, energetically speaking, on the other hand, the EVOO gives us properties more beneficial than energy.

If we transform the calories of 1 kg of olive oil into liters, we have that olive oil has 8,100 calories/ L.

How many calories does a tablespoon of olive oil have?

The olive oil calories per tablespoon or teaspoon depend on their size. Most frequent measures example:

Calories in 1 tbsp olive oil: A tablespoon may contain 15 ml, equivalent to approximately 120 calories.

2 teaspoon , contain 10 ml of olive oil and has 80 Kcal.

A teaspoon (tsp) can hold about 5 ml of oil, corresponding to approximately 40 calories.

Calories difference between Olive Oil & Sunflower Oil

The calories of sunflower oil, palm oil, coconut… are practically equal to the olive oil calories, between 8,800 and 9,000 calories per kg.

Therefore, there are no important differences in calories per kg. However, it is shown that olive oil is more beneficial and raw olive oil is able to quench your appetite and can help reduce your intake of calories.

There are also no differences in energy value between the different types of olive oils. Although, it is convenient to know the differences between extra virgin olive oil and other olive oils.

How many calories does raw and fried olive oil have?

Surely you’ve heard that fried olive oil makes you fatter.
However, the calories in the oil are the same regardless of whether raw or fried is consumed, approximately 8 calories for ml.

Recommended reading

Did you like our publication on the olive oil calories?

Arbequina or Picual olive oil?

How many calories does an olive have?

Picual or Hojiblanca?

How many kilos of olives does an olive produce?


We have translated the information on our website from Spanish to English. Note that some words may have seen their meaning altered during their translation.

Nutritional Information: Oils and Vinegars

100% Extra Virgin Olive Oil and
Flavored Olive Oil

Serving Size: 1 Tablespoon (15 ml.)
Calories: 120
Calories from Fat: 120

Total Fat: 14g

  • Saturated Fat: 2g
  • Trans Fat: 0g
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 1.5g
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 10.5g

Cholesterol: 0mg
Sodium: 0mg
Total Carbohydrate: 0g
Protein: 0g

Avocado Oil

Serving Size: 1 Tablespoon (15 ml.)
Calories: 120
Calories from Fat: 120

Total Fat: 14g

  • Saturated Fat: 2g
  • Trans Fat: 0g
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 10g

Cholesterol: 0mg
Sodium: 0mg
Total Carbohydrate: 0g
Protein: 0g

Sesame Oil

Serving Size: 1 Tablespoon (15 ml.)
Calories: 120
Calories from Fat: 120

Total Fat: 14g

  • Saturated Fat: 2g
  • Trans Fat: 0g
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 6g
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 6g

Cholesterol: 0mg
Sodium: 0mg
Total Carbohydrate: 0g
Protein: 0g

Walnut Oil

Serving Size: 1 Tablespoon (15 ml.)
Calories: 120
Calories from Fat: 120

Total Fat: 13.5g

  • Saturated Fat: 1.5g
  • Trans Fat: 0g
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 8.5g
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 3.5g

Cholesterol: 0mg
Sodium: 0mg
Total Carbohydrate: 0g
Protein: 0g

Balsamic Vinegars of Modena

Serving Size: 1 Tablespoon (15 ml.)
Calories: 20
Calories from Fat: 0

Total Fat: 0g
Cholesterol: 0mg
Sodium: 0mg
Total Carbohydrates: 4g

  • Natural Sugars: 4g
  • Dietary Fiber: 0g

Protein: 0g

Note: Contains naturally occurring sulfites (except Honey and Serrano Pepper Honey). All of our Balsamic Vinegars of Modena are Gluten-Free!

Balsamic Vinegars of Modena, RISERVA

Serving Size: 1 Tablespoon (15 ml.)
Calories: 36
Calories from Fat: 0

Total Fat: 0g
Cholesterol: 0mg
Sodium: 2mg
Total Carbohydrates: 8g

  • Natural Sugars: 7g
  • Dietary Fiber: 0g

Protein: 0g

Note: Contains naturally occurring sulfites. All of our Balsamic Vinegars of Modena are Gluten-Free!

Lambrusco Wine Vinegar

Serving Size: 1 Tablespoon (15 ml.)
Calories: 26
Calories from Fat: 0

Total Fat: 0g
Cholesterol: 0mg
Sodium: 2mg
Total Carbohydrate: 6g

  • Natural Sugars: 6g
  • Dietary Fiber: 0g

Protein: 0g

Note: Contains naturally occurring sulfites.


Serving Size: 1 Tablespoon
Calories: 30
Calories from Fat: 0

Total Fat: 0g
Cholesterol: 0mg
Sodium: 0mg
Carbohydrates: 8g

  • Natural Sugars: 8g
  • Dietary Fiber: 0g

Protein: 0g

Agretti Fruit Wine Vinegars

Serving Size: 1 Tablespoon
Calories: 45
Calories from Fat: 0

Total Fat: 0g
Cholesterol: 0mg
Sodium: 0mg
Carbohydrates: 11g

  • Natural Sugars: 9g
  • Dietary Fiber: 2g

Protein: 0g

Apple Cider Vinegar

Serving Size: 1 Tablespoon
Calories: 33
Calories from Fat: 0

Total Fat: 0g
Cholesterol: 0mg
Sodium: 0mg
Carbohydrates: 8g

  • Natural Sugars: 8g
  • Dietary Fiber: 0g

Protein: 0g

Does Drinking Olive Oil Have Any Benefits?

Studies suggest that drinking olive oil may offer several health benefits.

May help meet the recommended intake of healthy fats

Most people eat enough total fat, but many fall short of getting enough polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) and monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA), which are found in certain oils, nuts, seeds, and other plant sources (2, 3).

Dietary guidelines recommend that you get 20–35% of your calories from fat, primarily from PUFAs and MUFAs (2).

Olive oil is one of the richest plant sources of MUFAs, and consuming it can help you meet your needs of this type of fat. MUFAs are especially beneficial for heart health and may help reduce your risk of heart disease (4).

MUFAs are found in some animal products, but studies suggest their greatest health benefits are achieved by eating plant-based sources of this fat (4).

Drinking a couple of tablespoons of olive oil daily could help you meet the recommended amount of this fat if you get insufficient amounts from your diet.

May relieve constipation

Drinking olive oil may relieve constipation, which affects approximately 34% of adults over the age of 60 (5).

In a 4-week study, giving about 1 teaspoon (4 ml) of olive oil daily to 50 constipated hemodialysis patients resulted in significantly softened stools (6).

Furthermore, consuming olive oil was found to be as effective as mineral oil — a commonly used stool softener — at relieving constipation (6, 7).

Another study in 414 people over the age of 50 found that 97.7% of those with more than 3 bowel movements per week had high intakes of olive oil (8).

Although these findings are promising, more studies are needed to better understand how drinking olive oil may help relieve constipation.

May benefit heart health

Olive oil has long been acknowledged as a heart-healthy fat.

One compound thought to play a role in supporting heart health is oleic acid, a type of monounsaturated fat found in high quantities in olive oil. It may reduce the risk of heart disease when used in place of other fat sources (9).

In fact, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) claims that replacing fats and oils higher in saturated fat with 1.5 tablespoons (22 ml) of oils high in oleic acid daily may reduce your risk of heart disease (9).

However, to achieve this benefit, calories from oleic acid should not increase the total number of calories you eat per day.

Also, a study in 7,447 people found that those who consumed at least 4 tablespoons (60 ml) of olive oil daily were 30% less likely to develop heart disease, compared with those following a low-fat diet for 5 years (10).

What’s more, many other studies have shown that those who have a high olive oil intake are at a lower risk of heart disease (11, 12, 13).

While there’s no shortage of studies on olive oil and heart disease, more research is needed to support the notion of drinking olive oil to improve heart health.

Other benefits

In addition to the benefits above, drinking olive oil may have the following effects:

  • Help stabilize blood sugar. A study in 25 healthy individuals showed a 22% reduction in blood sugar 2 hours after eating a meal containing olive oil, compared with the control group (14).
  • Support bone health. A study in 523 women found consuming over 18 grams (20 ml) of olive oil per day resulted in significantly higher bone density, compared with consuming less than that amount per day (15).
  • Reduce inflammation. Several compounds in olive oil may have anti-inflammatory effects, including oleocanthal. It may offer pain relief effects similar to those of over-the-counter pain medications (16, 17).

Summary Olive oil is a healthy fat that contains anti-inflammatory compounds. Drinking it regularly may benefit your heart, bone, and digestive health and help stabilize your blood sugar levels.

The problem, though, is that many journalists do not fully dissect the scientific studies they’re reporting on. Facts get distorted. Qualifiers disappear. Headlines turn sensational. And so does the truth about olive oil.

In this article, Director of Nutrition at the Pritikin Longevity Center, Jeffrey Novick, MS, RD, responds to the hype about olive oil to help you better understand what’s true about this so-called “healthy” fat – and what’s not.

The Hype: Olive oil will protect you from a heart attack.

The Truth: Olive oil is not heart-healthy.

Yes, foods rich in monounsaturated fats like olive oil are healthier than foods full of saturated and trans fats, but just because something is “healthier” does not mean it is good for you.

A “healthier” cigarette (one with less nicotine and toxic chemicals like benzo(a)pyrenes) still leads to lung cancer. “Healthier” monounsaturated fats like olive oil may still lead to diseased arteries. When scientists fed monounsaturated fats to monkeys in isolated controlled studies for five years, the monkeys developed extensive plaque build-up and coronary artery disease.(2)

Monkey Trouble

In fact, “the monkeys fed monounsaturated fat developed equivalent amounts of coronary artery atherosclerosis as those fed saturated fat,” wrote Dr. Lawrence Rudel and colleagues at Bowman Gray School of Medicine at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

In a review, Dr. Rudel warned that the science supporting claims that monounsaturated fats are heart protective is weak, based largely on population studies, not controlled trials. Moreover, these claims “are questioned by the demonstrated detrimental effects on atherosclerosis in animal models.”(3)

Several human studies have also questioned olive oil’s heart-health claims. When researchers from the University of Crete recently compared residents of Crete who had heart disease with residents free of the disease, they found that the residents with heart disease ate a diet with “significantly higher daily intakes” of monounsaturated fats (principally olive oil) as well as all fats.(4)

Marginal Benefits

“And data from the Nurses Health Study, an on-going study from Harvard Medical School analyzing the habits and health of nearly 90,000 female nurses, found that those who consumed olive oil were only marginally healthier than those eating a typical high-in-saturated-fat American diet,” states registered dietitian Jeffrey Novick.

Impaired Dilation

Another study investigated how well peoples’ arteries were dilating (expanding) to accommodate blood flow after they had eaten several meals. Each meal emphasized a different component of the Mediterranean diet. After the meal rich in olive oil, dilation in the arteries was impaired.(5) The meal caused severe constrictions, which can injure the endothelium, the inner lining of arteries, contributing to heart disease. No such problems occurred with the other meals.

“The beneficial components of the Mediterranean diet,” concluded Robert Vogel, MD, and colleagues at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, “appear to be antioxidant-rich foods, including vegetables, fruits, and their derivatives such as vinegar, and omega-3-rich fish…” These foods, he continued, “appear to provide some protection against the direct impairment in endothelial function produced by high-fat foods, including olive oil.”

“So if you’re not eating fruits and veggies, you’re not getting protection,” points out dietitian Jeffrey Novick. “If you’re pouring olive oil on an already bad diet – one devoid of protectors and full of destroyers like cheeseburgers – you’ve only made that diet worse.”

Not protective

Research just published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology also found that “dilation was worse” after 24 people, 12 healthy and 12 with high cholesterol levels, consumed olive oil. Five teaspoons of olive oil swallowed after salami-and-cheese meals did not help the arteries relax and expand.(6)

This research and other data indicate that olive oil is not heart protective, Dr. Robert Vogel told Pritikin Perspective. Vogel, a cardiologist who has studied heart disease for more than 30 years, counsels his patients to “feast on fish” and other rich sources of omega 3 fatty acids instead of olive oil, and to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains every day.

Finally, and most fundamentally, pouring a lot of olive oil means you’re consuming a lot of fat. And eating a lot of any kind of fat, including “healthier” ones, means you’re eating a lot of calories, which leads to excess weight, which leads to increased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, many forms of cancer, and yes, heart disease.

The Hype: Extra virgin olive oil is especially heart-healthy because it’s rich in polyphenols.

The Truth: All plant foods are rich in polyphenols, and many deliver far more polyphenols (and far fewer calories) than olive oil.

Let’s take a look at this new study on extra virgin olive oil. Researchers from Italy and other European countries directed 200 healthy men to use three different olive oils for three weeks apiece. One was an extra virgin olive oil high in antioxidant plant compounds called polyphenols; the other two were more heavily processed “non-virgin” varieties with moderate to low polyphenol levels.

At the end of the study, the scientists found that the virgin olive oil showed better heart-health effects – higher HDL “good” levels as well as greater declines in markers that may indicate oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is a process that inflames the arteries and heightens the risk of plaque rupture and heart attacks. The researchers credited the virgin oil’s high polyphenol content for the better results.

But the problem is: If you’re relying on olive oil for your polyphenols, you’ve got to eat a lot of calories to get a decent amount of polyphenols, and eating lots of calories is just what Americans, with our epidemic rates of obesity, do not need.

A hefty 120 waist-expanding calories of olive oil delivers 30mg of phytosterols, a group of polyphenols. By contrast, a mere 11 calories of green leafy lettuce gets you the same number of polyphenols – 30mg.

And so much more. Look at the chart comparing the nutrients in green leafy lettuce with those in olive oil. Keep in mind, too, what mountains of research over the past several decades have told us. Consistently, the foods linked with healthier, longer, disease-free lives are foods rich in all kinds of nutrients – vitamins, minerals, fiber, polyphenols, beta carotene, and so on. Yes, foods like leafy greens. Olive oil, by comparison, tallies up a whole lot of zeros.

“Shop for food the way you shop for a car,” suggests dietitian Jeffrey Novick. “Why get the stripped-down (nutrient-poor) model if fully-loaded models like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are available? And the price you’ll pay in terms of calories eaten is far, far less.”

Nutrient Leaf Lettuce Olive Oil
Calories 120 120
Protein g 10.8 0
Total Fat g 1.2 13.5
Carb g 22 0
Fiber g 10 0
Calcium mg 285 0
Iron mg 6.8 .08
Magnesium mg 103 0
Phosphorus mg 230 0
Potassium mg 1536 0
Sodium mg 222 0
Zinc mg 1.4 0
Copper mg .230 0
Manganese mg 1.98 0
Selenium mcg 4.8 0
Vitamin C mg 142 0
Thiamin mg .55 0
Riboflavin mg .634 0
Niacin mg 2.97 0
Pantothenic Acid mg 1.06 0
Vitamin B6 mg .713 0
Folate mcg 301 0
Vitamin A IU 58648 0
Vitamin E mg 2.3 1.94
Vitamin K mcg 1375 8.1
Saturated Fat g .158 1.864
% Saturated Fat 1% 14%
MUFA g .048 9.85
PUFA g .649 1.421
Omega 6 g .19 1.318
Omega 3 g .459 .103
6/3 Ratio .42 12.8
Phytosterols/Polyphenols mg 301 30
Beta Carotene mcg 35189 0
Lutein + Zeaxanthin mcg 13702 0

The Hype: Olive oil will lower your “bad” LDL cholesterol.

The Truth: Olive oil, in and of itself, does not lower LDL cholesterol.

In just about every study showing that people lowered their LDL cholesterol levels after starting to use olive oil, including this latest study on extra virgin olive oil, the people used olive oil in place of other dietary fats, often saturated fats like butter, cheese, and fatty meats. “Of course LDL is going to go down. You’ve gotten rid of the LDL-raising fats,” points out Jeff Novick.

The point is: It’s not the addition of olive oil that’s improving LDL cholesterol levels. It’s the subtraction of artery-clogging fats like saturated fats and trans fats.

That’s precisely what the official health claim allowed by the Food and Drug Administration states. Here are the claim’s exact words (key words underlined by Jeff Novick):

“Limited and not conclusive scientific evidence suggests that eating about 2 tablespoons (23 grams) of olive oil daily may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease due to the monounsaturated fat in olive oil. To achieve this possible benefit, olive oil is to replace a similar amount of saturated fat and not increase the total number of calories you eat in a day.”

Unfortunately, what we usually hear in the media and see on olive oil bottles are only the words “heart healthy.” Gone are the FDA’s many qualifiers. Gone, in effect, is the truth.

The Hype: The Mediterranean diet is a heart-healthy diet, and it’s rich in olive oil, so olive oil must be heart-healthy.

The Truth: The people on this planet with the longest life expectancy and the least heart disease do not eat diets rich in olive oil. They do eat a diet rich in whole, natural foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans.

Yes, in the 1950s Ancel Keys and fellow scientists observed that people living in the Mediterranean, especially on the isle of Crete, were lean and heart disease-free. And true, their diet consisted of olive oil, but it also had an abundance of fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices, coarse whole-grain breads, beans, and fish. And they walked about nine miles daily, often behind an ox and plow.

But much has changed on Crete – and throughout the Mediterranean – since then. Today, the people of Crete still eat a lot of olive oil, but their intake of whole, natural foods has gone way down, as has their physical activity. The island’s new staples are meat, cheese, and T.V. Today, more than 60% of Crete’s adult population – and an alarming 50% of its children – are overweight. And has maintaining an olive oil-rich diet saved them from disease? Not at all. In recent years, rates of heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension have skyrocketed.

The point here is that olive oil is not the magic bullet that made populations along the Mediterranean in the 1950s so healthy. “Olive oil was simply a bellweather, or marker, for other features of the Mediterranean diet, like plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and exercise, that were in fact healthful,” argues Jeff Novick.

That’s what new research is finding. In a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine, scientists followed for years the diets and health of 22,043 adults in Greece.(7) Adherence to the traditional Mediterranean diet was assessed by a 10-point scale that incorporated the key facets of the diet, including an abundance of plant food (fruits, vegetables, whole-grain cereals, nuts, and legumes), olive oil as the main source of fat, and low-to-moderate amounts of fish and poultry.

Though higher adherence to a Mediterranean diet was associated with significantly lower death rates, olive oil itself was “associated with only a small and nonsignificant reduction in mortality,” wrote Dr. Frank B. Hu of Harvard Medical School in an editorial accompanying the study.(8)

So don’t reward olive oil with the laurels, agreed Dr. Alice Lichtenstein, one of the nation’s top nutrition scientists, at the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tuft University in Boston.
In interviews about this study of Greek adults, she said, “If the main message that Americans get is to just increase their olive or canola oil consumption, that’s unfortunate because they will increase their caloric intake and they are already getting too many calories.

“What Americans need to do is eat more fruits, vegetables, and legumes and fewer foods rich in saturated fats.”

Indeed, the people most likely to live 100 robust years and beyond, the citizens of Okinawa, Japan, don’t even use olive oil. They do eat a lot of fiber-rich, straight-from-the-earth foods,(9) as do the next four communities with the highest percentages of centenarians: the people of Bama, China; Campodimele, Italy; Hunza, Pakistan; and Symi, Greece.(10)

All five communities eat diets with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans, and low-to-moderate servings of animal protein, usually seafood or lean meat. It is this diet, not olive oil, that is the common denominator of these five longevity “hot spots.”

The Hype: Olive oil raises “good” HDL cholesterol.

The Truth: Many people with high HDLs have diseased arteries, and many with low HDLs have very clean arteries.

One of the “hearty healthy” effects of extra virgin olive oil, wrote the authors of the just published study on olive oil varieties, is that it raised levels of HDL good cholesterol more than the non-virgin oils.

“But HDL is just one number in a risk group of many, and it’s not the most important one. LDL is. Ultimately, we should focus on the big picture – on all the numbers that contribute to heart health,” emphasizes Jeffrey Novick.

And the fact is: the populations who have the lowest incidences of heart disease in the world, the people living in Okinawa and in other rural regions of Japan, have very low levels of HDL – in the 20s.

Conversely, other people, like some Americans, have very high levels of HDL – and high rates of clogged arteries and heart attacks.

What’s critical, then, is not the marker (high HDL), but the endpoint. “We’ve got to ask ourselves, ‘What happens to people after years and years? Who actually ends up with less heart disease?’ In every study, the rural Asians – yes, the people with the low HDL levels – win. Every time, the rural Asians beat out populations, like those of Crete, Greece, and Italy, with higher HDLs,” points out Jeffrey Novick.

“So just raising HDL does not always equate with better health. Remember the study that fed monkeys olive oil for five years? During the study, the monkeys’ HDL levels went way up. But their endpoint, after five years, was plaque-ridden, diseased coronary arteries.”

The Hype: The new study showed that extra virgin olive oil yielded greater declines in markers of oxidative stress.

The Truth: Markers are not endpoints.

“As with HDL cholesterol, let’s not confuse markers with endpoints, that is, what actually happens years down the line to your coronary arteries. The scientists in this study did not measure the health of the artery walls, only the amounts of oxidative chemicals. We don’t know if years of using olive oil produces arteries with less inflammation and less plaque build-up,” points out Jeffrey Novick.

Sure, polyphenols may reduce damaging oxidant chemicals, and that could well be a good thing, but as discussed earlier, you can get polyphenols – and many other vitamins, minerals and other nutrients – with foods, like fruits and vegetables, that have a lot fewer pound-producing calories compared to olive oil.

The Hype: Certainly, monounsaturated fats are better than saturated fats.

The Truth: “Better than” is not “good in and of itself.”

“The human body has no essential need to consume monounsaturated fat,” states Pritikin Director of Nutrition Jeffrey Novick. “The only fat our body has an essential need to consume is omega 6 and omega 3 fat. People worry about getting enough omega 3s. Olive oil is a poor source of omega 3s.”

You’d have to drink seven ounces of olive oil to get sufficient omega 3s. Seven ounces of olive oil is 1,800 calories and 30 grams of saturated fat (yes, a percentage of the fat that makes up olive oil is saturated.)

Interestingly, the American Heart Association recently lowered the recommended intake of saturated fat to no more than 7% of total calories eaten each day. Olive oil is 14% saturated fat. So if you’re using a lot of olive oil on your food, it’d be hard to have a diet that’s less than 14% saturated fat, which means your arteries are being subjected to double the sat-fat-limit that the AHA recommends.

So, is olive oil better than butter? Yes. But is it good in and of itself? No.

Bottom Line:

Oils are the most calorie-dense foods on earth. Ounce for ounce, oil packs even more calories than butter or bacon. A diet with hefty amounts of oil invariably produces hefty amounts of body fat, which leads to all sorts of devastating diseases, including America’s #1 killer: heart disease.

Steer clear of all oils loaded with saturated and trans fatty acids, such as coconut oil, palm oil, and palm kernel oil. And try to limit your consumption of oils rich in polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats to 1 teaspoon per 1,000 calories daily.

1. Annals of Internal Medicine, 2006; 145: 333.

2. Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, 1995; 15: 2101.

3. Current Opinion in Lipidology, 2003; 14 (1): 41.

4. British Journal of Nutrition, 2004; 91 (6); 1013.

5. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 2000; 36: 1455.

7. New England Journal of Medicine, 2003; 348: 2599.

8. New England Journal of Medicine, 2003; 348: 2595.

9. Makoto Suziki, Bradley Wilcox, and Craig Wilcox. The Okinawa Program. Three Rivers Press: 2002.

10. Sally Beare. Secrets of the World’s Longest-Living People. Piatkus Books: 2003.

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Weight management

Meal plan 1800 calorie plant-based, olive oil diet

A plant-based diet means most of the foods in the diet are from plants – fruits, vegetables, and grains – and there is little animal product. Olive oil is the juice of the olive so it is a plant-based food. The basic components of the diet for each day are:

extra virgin olive oil 3-4 tablespoons 120 calories per tablespoon

Use olive oil at least at lunch and dinner. Other acceptable fats are nuts, especially walnuts. 1 Tablespoon of chopped nuts is about 50 calories. Nuts are a healthy fat for breakfast but should not be used for snacking, if you are trying to maintain your weight.

Vegetables 4 or more servings (about 15 calories/serving; 1 serving = ½ cup or 1 cup salad greens)

Try to have a large a variety of vegetables as possible. Please select vegetables with deep color, especially broccoli, spinach, tomatoes; include canned and frozen vegetables. You can cook your vegetables in extra virgin olive oil. Add vegetable salad dressed with extra virgin olive oil at lunch and/or dinner.

Fruit 4 servings (60 calories/serving; 1 serving = ½ cup or ½ piece)

A serving is smaller than most pieces you would buy. Use as large a variety as possible; try to select ones with deep color; best fruits are grapes, apricots, peaches, berries, raisins.

Starch 7-8 servings (80 to 100 calories/ serving; 1 servings = approximately 1 oz. dry weight)

This group includes bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, beans (legumes), and some starchy vegetables. Please check the exchange list for serving sizes. Try to use whole grain as often as possible.

Dairy 8 oz. plain non-fat yogurt can be substituted for 1 starch. You are allowed up to ½ oz. cheese per day to be used on your sandwich or dinner. Using shredded or grated cheese lets you use less cheese so the calories do not go too high. Two tablespoons or ½ ounce of shredded cheese = 40-50 calories

Eggs can be consumed as often as you like. Eggs are a very healthy, economical food and have never been related to heart disease.

I recommend that you limit your meat/ poultry/ seafood intake. You do not need the extra protein and weight maintenance/ loss will likely be easier if you limit them.

Recipes for plant-based meals that include extra virgin olive oil can be found at:

Breakfast on a plant based olive oil diet

  • People who eat breakfast tend to control their body weight better than those who do not.
  • People who eat breakfast are more productive in their morning work. If you do not eat breakfast, your blood glucose will not be optimum.
  • Try to delay eating your breakfast as long as you can. When you wake up in the morning, your insulin is as low as it will be for the day. Low levels of insulin mean that you are releasing fat from your fat stores for energy. This means that exercising in the morning will draw on your fat stores for energy. Do not have any food before you exercise or this will stop the release of fat as the food will cause insulin to be released.

Food items in a healthy breakfast:

1 – 2 servings of starch (whole grain, if possible)

2 tablespoons of nuts /nut butter or 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

1 – 2 serving of fruit (or you can also have all your fruit at breakfast)

Optional: non-fat dairy (milk or yogurt for cereal), egg

A breakfast for an 1800 calorie diet should have about 500 calories.

Quick breakfast:

  1. Whole grain / whole wheat toast + peanut butter. Try to use a natural peanut butter (look at the ingredient label for types of oils; avoid peanut butter that lists partially hydrogenated fat, which is what makes trans fatty acids).
  2. cold cereal with milk, 2 tablespoons of nuts and 1-2 serving of fruit. Look for cold cereals higher in fiber and unsweetened; these should have about 110 calories/oz.

Requires slightly more time:

Egg and vegetable sandwich: heat 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil in a small pan. Add about 1 cup of vegetables and cook 3 to 5 minutes. Move the cooked vegetables to the side of the pan and add an egg. Cook egg as desired (i.e., sunny side up, over easy). Eat between 2 slices of whole wheat toast.

Lunch on a plant based olive oil diet

Making your lunch will help you to manage your body weight. The more meals you eat out, including lunch, the harder it is to control your weight. Making your lunch will require some advance planning, like grocery shopping in advance and having containers to transport your food, but with a little practice it will become an easy habit.


Many lunches are easier to prepare the night before during or after dinner prep as there is seldom time in the morning.

Purchase plastic containers for sandwiches and/or salads. If you are planning to make soup then you should purchase a thermos or glass containers with tight lids that hold about 2 cups.

Cook vegetables in extra virgin olive oil in advance of needing for packed lunches. They can be frozen until you need to use them. Also, soups can be cooked on weekends or a night and left to cool overnight and then portioned into containers.

Food items in a healthy lunch:

2 servings of starch (whole grain, if possible)

2 (or more) servings of vegetables

1-2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil (to cook vegetables, use for salad dressing)

1-2 servings of fruit (deep color)

Optional: legumes (beans), egg, nuts (substitute for olive oil), some of your poultry/ seafood for the day

A lunch for an 1800 calorie diet should have about 600-700 calories.

Basic sandwich:

1 cup of vegetables can be cooked in 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Cook on medium low heat. Cover the pan to minimize loss of the healthy components in extra virgin olive oil. The longer you cook the vegetables, the sweeter they become. I try to cook them at 10-15 minutes. You can also add some shredded cheese (2 tablespoons = 55 calories; 1/4 cup = 110 calories). You can pack the cooked vegetables and the bread separately as the oil might make the bread soggy if left until lunch. Whole wheat wraps, pita or Lavash bread are less likely to get soggy. Check nutrition labels for calories as not all bread products are the same size so calories can differ.

Dinner on a plant based olive oil diet

The dinner recipes on the plant-based, olive oil diet require less time than ordering out food. Just make sure that you keep the groceries from the food list in your home and you can easily make a dinner is less than 15-20 minutes. And most of that time is not food preparation – it is waiting for the starch to cook. You can also cook up vegetables in extra virgin olive oil in advance and freeze them for later use.

Food items in a healthy dinner:

3-4 servings of starch or what is left from daily total (whole grain, if possible)

2 (or more servings of vegetables)

1-2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil (to cook vegetables, use for salad dressing)

Optional: grated cheese, legumes

A dinner on an 1800 calorie diet should have about 600-700 calories (depending on your lunch)

Dinner recipes for a plant-based, olive oil diet can be found at

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