Healthy Eating

Which Type of Olive Oil is Actually Best?

Plus delicious ways to drizzle some into your healthy eating plan.

By: Lauren Manaker MS, RDN, LD, CLEC

If you are following a healthy lifestyle, you surely have heard that olive oil can be a healthy addition to your diet for a slew of reasons. From including it in recipes like salad dressings, marinades, and even baked goods, there is no shortage of uses for this amazingly versatile and delicious liquid. But while you may know that olive oil is good for you, you may not know which olive oil is the best type of olive oil. And knowing what the best type is can help you make the best choice for yourself. 

Yes, all olive oils come from the liquid of the olive fruit when pressed, but there are some unique differences among different varieties. 

In this article, we will dig into all things olive oils — from why olive oil is so good for you to the different types of olive oils to how to cook with this amazing condiment in the best way. After reading this article, you will be on your way to being an olive oil expert!

RELATED: 3 Secrets For Healthy Fat Portion Control 

The Benefits of Olive Oil 

Including olive oil in popular eating plans like the Mediterranean and the keto diet is all over the internet these days — and for good reason! Olive oil is one food that comes with amazing health benefits that many other items can’t hold a candle to. 

Olive Oil Supports Heart Health

Swapping out fat sources like butter or lard with olive oil is one way to show your heart some love. In one study, results show that a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil lowered cardiovascular events in those who were at high cardiovascular risk. 

The FDA also states that eating 1 ½ tablespoons of oils rich in oleic oil (like olive oil) may reduce the risk of developing coronary heart disease when used in place of fats and oils high in saturated fat. 

Olive Oil Helps Manage Inflammation in The Body

Inflammation in the body can occur as a result of many things, including eating too many refined carbohydrates or sugars, experiencing stress, and smoking. Chronic inflammation in the body is something many people want to combat, as too much is linked to some unwanted health outcomes. 

The fats found in olive oils have been shown to reduce inflammatory markers, making these oils great choices when trying to reduce inflammation. Plus, certain olive oils have been shown to also have anti-inflammatory properties because they contain a compound called polyphenol oleocanthal

Including olive oil in your diet can be one of the best things you can do if inflammation reduction is your ultimate goal. 

Olive Oil Supports a Healthy Immune System

Many people think of nutrients like vitamin C and zinc when they think about immune health. But healthy fats, like those found in olive oil, can help support a healthy immune system too. 

Olive Oil May Help Maintain a Healthy Weight 

Including olive oil in a diet can help manage a healthy weight in certain cases. In fact, according to one study, including 25 milliliters (or roughly 1.7 tablespoons) of olive oil to a morning meal resulted in lower body fat and improved blood pressure. 

Even though olive oil contains fat, swapping it out for other unhealthier fats may help support a healthy weight in a delicious way! 

The Different Types of Olive Oil 

One walk down the olive oil section of the grocery store, and you will be faced with many different varieties of olive oil. And while they all offer health benefits, there are some slight differences among each choice.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil 

Extra virgin olive oil, or EVOO, does not include any chemical treatment or heat when processed. As such, some people feel that EVOO has a better taste than the other olive oil varieties. EVOO also contains the lowest acidity of any olive oil. 

Since extra virgin olive oil can be on the pricier side, it is more popular in recipes like salad dressings, dips, and other dishes that do not require heat when preparing. 

Virgin Olive Oil 

Virgin olive oil is almost as high quality as extra virgin olive oil. Like EVOO, it is made via a chemical-free and heat-free process and has a unique taste. But, virgin olive oil has a higher level of acid than the extra virgin counterpart. Plus, the taste is not as intense. 

Refined Olive Oils

As the name implies, refined olive oil uses refining methods during the processing path, including the addition of chemicals or heat. 

Refined olive oils may be lower in antioxidants vs. the extra virgin and virgin options. 

Pure Olive Oil

Although the word pure may make this type of olive oil sound like a good choice, oftentimes, it is a blend of extra virgin and refined varieties, making it inferior to the beloved EVOO.  

Finding The Highest Quality Oil 

When shopping for olive oil, it is tempting to choose the option that has the prettiest bottle or the most health claims, but there are some key things to keep in mind when olive oil shopping. 

Here are some tips for selecting the highest quality olive oil to keep stocked in your kitchen. 

#1 Go For Extra Virgin Olive Oil When Possible: This will help ensure a high-quality product that is not refined or modified.

#2 Check The Use By Date: Olive oils can go bad after an extended period of time on the shelf, so always check the expiration date. 

#3 Choose an Oil in an Opaque Container: This will help limit the oil’s exposure to the sun, which can cause damage to the product.

#4 Proper Storage: Store your olive oil in a cool and dark place.

Cooking With Olive Oil 

Using olive oil in dishes is something that can enhance both the flavor and the nutrition of your dishes. 

However, while many people can agree that drizzling olive oil on vegetables is absolutely delish, some people hesitate to cook with it due to concerns with the smoke point. 

The reality is that as long as the oil that is being used is not mixed with other oils, extra virgin olive oil can be heated to the smoke point of around 350-410 degrees Fahrenheit. So, choosing extra virgin olive oil continues to be your best bet when including this food in your diet. 

And data shows that when cooking vegetables in virgin olive oil, the dish contains higher levels of antioxidants thanks to the nutritional components found in the oil. 

Delicious Ways to Enjoy Olive Oil in a Healthy Eating Plan 

Olive oil can be used in a slew of dishes. While it is a popular fat that is used when sauteing foods in a pan or when creating a salad dressing, there are many other surprising ways to include olive oil in your diet, including:

Used in Baking: Use as your oil of choice in muffins and healthier sweet treats. 

Enjoyed as a Dip: Mixed with your favorite herbs or as a dip for bread instead of butter. 

Used as a Drizzle: On top of hummus and cheese or drizzled into your soup. 

Enjoyed with a Main Course Dish: Like pasta or mixed into sauces. 

Choosing The Right Olive Oil For Your Health

Including olive oil, particularly extra virgin olive oil, is a simple way to support your overall health with very little effort. No matter whether you are drizzling it onto your cheese plate or you are using it in a pasta dish, consuming olive oil can give your dishes a healthy boost and elevate the taste to boot. So, grab that bottle and start finding ways to replace some unhealthy fats for a drizzle of olive oil — your body will thank you for it.