Olive oil is known for having a ton of health benefits, as well as being delicious. But there is one question conscious dieters have been asking for a while: are there carbs in olive oil? Let’s learn more about the nutrition in this superfood and find out!
This article will go in-depth into the benefits of olive oil and why it’s a must in any healthy diet. If you just want a quick answer, though: No, there are no carbs in olive oil! Now that we have this cleared out, let’s talk about olive oil and nutrition.
What Is In Olive Oil?
According to the USDA, one tablespoon of olive oil contains the following: Calories: 119 Fat: 13.50gm Carbohydrates: 0 Saturated fats: 2gm Fibres: 0 Protein: 0 Vitamin E: 1.8mg Vitamin K: 8.1 microgram As you can see, olive oil is, not unexpectedly, 100% fat. But the interesting part comes when we ask: What kind of fat?
Olive Oil Is The Good Kind Of Fat
Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and it’s very poor in saturated fats. What does this mean? We all know that saturated fats are bad. Unsaturated fats, on the other hand, can pick up harmful free radicals, they can lower your bad cholesterol levels, and help keep healthy good cholesterol levels. These cholesterol-lowering effects are greatest in extra virgin olive oil. Because by definition extra virgin olive oil is minimally processed, it retains all the benefits and contains none of the chemicals in some lower grade olive oils.
Does Olive Oil Reduce The Risk Of Heart Disease?
The answer seems to be pointing to a yes. The Mediterranean diet is one of the most heart-healthy food regimens on Earth. People in the Mediterranean region live longer and are affected by a chronic disease like heart problems and cancer much more rarely. This is backed by scientific research. Doctors now encourage their patients with heart disease (or the ones that have a high risk of developing it) to eat as the Greeks/Italians/Croatians/Spanish do. I think Croatia and Italy are the best examples here, Spanish cuisine tends to be a little heavier, while Greeks still enjoy their Turkish-influenced sugary treats. Olive oil likely plays a huge part in that. Nobody likes olive oil as much as the people in the Mediterranean do! I have seen my Greek friends buy it in huge containers, the type you would usually use to put gasoline in (except the contents are much more pleasant)!
It Gets Better Than No Carbs In Olive OilNot only is olive oil carb-free, but it can also actually help you eat fewer carbohydrates. We now know that sugars and processed carbs are extremely harmful to our health – starting with our gut all the way up to our brain! Studies show that incorporating natural healthy fats helps keep you satiated. This makes you much less likely to munch on some sugary treat. But it gets even better! Unlike sugar, which harms your gut bacteria and makes you susceptible to chronic inflammation, olive oil actively protects you from oxidative damage. It lowers the inflammation in your body, it helps you digest better, and keeps your heart healthy! In other words:
- Olive oil contains no carbs
- It helps you eat less sugar and crave less processed foods
- Olive oil actively repairs the damage caused by eating too many carbs
Or, even simpler: Olive oil is an anti-carb superhero! But while we are at it, have you ever stopped to think about:
Why Carbs Are Not That Great
Low-carb diets are extremely popular. Keto is now a buzzword. What once used to be a specific diet, prescribed to epileptic patients, is now everybody’s new favourite way of slimming down. But what is the science behind all of that? Why do we suddenly hate carbs? The following answer is pretty complicated in it involves quite a bit of biochemistry. I did take biochem… But I don’t want to torture you so here is the just: Your cells run on glucose. You get glucose by eating carbs and protein. Then, once the food is digested, sugar enters your bloodstream. Your pancreas releases insulin, which “opens up” your cells and they can take the glucose from the blood and convert it into energy. Unfortunately, eating too many carbs, especially “fast” carbs (the kind that enters your circulation almost immediately) comes with a bunch of side effects.
Insulin Resistance Is Making You Sick
Your system starts pumping in insulin when glucose starts to be released into the bloodstream. When you frequently raise your blood sugar levels, your body starts releasing more insulin. But cells start getting used to the excess insulin. It now takes more hormone to trigger the same response. Insulin resistance develops and your blood sugar levels start getting higher and higher… What does this sound like? Yup, it’s type 2 diabetes. This sort of diabetes is not caused by a defect in the pancreas. It happens because your cells gradually become resistant to insulin and you eventually can’t regulate your own blood sugar levels. But it gets even worse. In a normal body, insulin means that there is glucose in the bloodstream. Since there is sugar, you don’t need to be using up your fat resources. Insulin literally blocks your body from using up fatty resources. Once you become insulin resistant, you enter a vicious cycle of obesity, diabetes, and eventually, heart disease.
More Fat, Less Sugar
Funnily enough, fats don’t necessarily make us fat. If you wonder how the whole thing started… It was with a man named Ancel Keys. He analyzed data from seven countries, plotting fat consumption against heart disease incidence. You could draw a straight line – the more fat people ate, the more heart disease in the countries. Simple enough, right? No, because he didn’t look into enough data. There was information about 22 countries available at the time. Whether he didn’t know about it or chose to ignore it… Well, we can’t say. However, if you do consider all of the data, there is no longer a straight line. Sadly, the USDA was quick to adopt Ancel Keys’ hypothesis. They still recommend lowering your fat intake as the primary way of preventing heart disease. Despite mounting evidence – both statistical and biochemical that this isn’t the way to go, the current USDA guidelines don’t yet reflect the science. And what does the science say? Insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and obesity are much more likely the culprits! To quote the Framingham study (which was actually started out to confirm the cholesterol hypothesis): Dietary fat is not the determinant of either high cholesterol or coronary heart disease (…) the diet - heart hypothesis is the greatest scam ever perpetrated on the American public.
Total Cholesterol Doesn’t Matter
Total cholesterol is still one of the most popular labs that doctors ask for. But guess what: it is completely irrelevant! What you need to be focusing on instead is the “bad” LDL cholesterol. Fortunately, olive oil also helps with this. It lowers your LDL cholesterol and it also ups your HDL cholesterol (this is the “good” kind, it keeps your arteries clean)! It is well-known that the Mediterranean diet prevents heart disease. What most people don’t realise is that it doesn’t lower the cholesterol. It simply prevents mortality. And yes, this has been proven in countless studies. In one of them, the patients with high risk of heart disease were put on either the Mediterranean diet or a “healthy” diet of low fat. Mortality dropped significantly in the Mediterranean group but total cholesterol did not move one bit!
Don’t Eat Fewer Fats, Eat Better FatsHopefully, by now I convinced you of two things:
- Eat fewer carbs and you will be healthier.
- Fats are not scary, they are actually very good for you!
One of the best possible explanations for the Mediterranean phenomenon is olive oil. They still enjoy their salads with plenty of dressing and they don’t worry about the fat they put in their food. Mediterranean people eat high-quality healthy fats that come from olive oil and this is what protects them from deadly chronic disease! It makes sense because, remember, olive oil is an anti-carb superhero. It is highly recommended, even to people with advanced heart disease! If anything, it makes them less likely to succumb to their condition.
One Small Catch
There is one small detail that I did not mention, however. All the benefits that we talked about apply mostly to extra virgin olive oil. The more processed your oil is, the less of the goodness it retains. This happens because high-temperature processing and using additional substances chemically alters the contents of olive oil. Lesson learned: use extra virgin olive oil and you are one step closer to a healthy diet. There are no carbs in olive oil, it protects you from heart disease, and it can even reverse the harmful effects of a previously high-carb diet. That’s pretty good news if you ask me! So what are you waiting for, get a bottle of good olive oil and enjoy the delicious goodness!
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