The Quick Answer:
Yes, olive oil is paleo.
Why Is Olive Oil Paleo?
Olive oil is a completely natural oil that is made up of mostly monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs). It’s a far better choice than a lot of refined polyunsaturated plant-oils, like soybean, canola or safflower oil – plus it contains considerable amounts of polyphenol antioxidants and vitamin E and K.
All oils have the same fat content and calories (120 per tablespoon and about) so it’s not that olive oil has a superior nutrition profile that makes it better than many others oils, it has more to do with how olive oils is created and how it reacts to heat when you cook with it.
Olive oil has a lot of health benefits to offer; in fact the high amount of olive oil in the “Mediterranean diet” has a lot to do with why health experts love to promote this way of eating so much. Many studies show it’s linked with improvements in heart health and lowering inflammation. For example MUFAs like olive oil are useful in lowering LDL “bad” cholesterol levels and preventing blood clots, heart attacks or strokes. MUFAs can also help balance insulin levels so that blood sugar remains stable and diabetes or metabolic syndrome is better prevented. Additionally olive oil has over 30 different polyphenol antioxidants that fight oxidative stress (aka free-radical damage), which is essentially the natural process that is responsible for aging the body.
Like all healthy fats, olive oil is made up of fatty acids that benefit the body by helping with nutrient absorption, hormone production, brain function and energy expenditure. Olive oil can also help to make you feel full and satisfied after eating, which is important for curbing snacking, food cravings and experiencing weight-gain due to overeating.
Plant-based polyunsaturated oils (PUFAs) on the other hand are usually more refined oils that are made using a complicated and high-tech process that turns their chemical properties “toxic” in most instances. They are also usually combined with chemical solvents, preservatives and artificial additives that help improve their taste, smell, appearance and shelf-life. Olive oils on the other hand, especially extra-virgin olive oils, are much more naturally produced. They skip high-heat refining processes that candestroys the oil’s health-promoting properties.
Another important factor to consider is how olive oil reacts to cooking. Refined oils, especially polyunsaturated oils, easily become toxic when they are cooked with because high temperatures change the oil’s chemical structure. This turns PUFAs “rancid” and causes them to increase inflammation in the body, instead of doing the opposite.
While MUFAs like olive oil aren’t the most shelf-stable oils for cooking (saturated fats are like coconut oil or ghee), they are better at withstanding heat then PUFAs are. One thing to note is that olive oil is not 100% monounsaturated fat (most oils are a blend of different fatty acids); it also contains small amount of polyunsaturated fatty acids, however these are outweighed by the benefits of MUFAs which protect the oil from oxidation.
If you’re roasting/grilling/using another method of very high-heat cooking, use a saturated fat like coconut oil which has the highest smoking point. If you’re using medium heat, like sautéing on the stove top briefly, a monounsaturated fat like olive oil is a good choice. Extra virgin olive oil is even more delicate than regular olive oil, so it’s best for drizzling on food, such as using it in salad dressing.
Is There Any Confusion When It Comes to Olive OilBeing Paleo?
No, most people today agree that olive oil is definitely paleo. The bottom line on olive oil is this: olive oil is a natural, unrefined and beneficial oil – similarly to coconut, sesame, flaxseed or hemp oil. The best kinds of olive oils are those labeled “extra virgin,” ”cold pressed”, or “unrefined. These go through the least processing and are as close to nature as possible.
So Is Olive Oil Paleo?
Yes, olive oil is paleo. Just be sure to use olive oil during low-medium temperature cooking so that you preserve its beneficial compounds.
How to Know What Is and Isn’t Paleo
Check out Paleo.io, the mobile app that answers the question, “is __ paleo?” Paleo.io comes with the most comprehensive paleo diet food list out there, so no matter which food you’re confused about, you’ll always be able to find out whether or not it’s paleo.
photo credit: Green Olives of Tel Aviv
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