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Are You Getting the Full Health Benefits of Olive Oil?

Flip through a few healthy cookbooks, fitness magazines or weight loss guides and olive oil is touted as a healthy and beneficial fat. For the past few years, I have just taken that and run with it. I get quite a lot of my dietary fat from olive oil, and I use it quite liberally in salad dressings, in baking, when sautéing or roasting anything and even in my "butter"--which is really a spreadable olive oil. Here is quick recap of the proven health benefits of olive oil (taken from Mayo Clinic)

-Olive oil is a monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA) which can help control insulin and blood sugar levels

-It can help lower your blood cholesterol, specifically your LDL cholesterol

-Olive oil can fill you up and satisfy you after eating a meal

Obviously, the stuff is good for you. I get that. But without understanding how to use olive oil properly, I wasn't taking advantage of all the various benefits. I usually buy ONE bottle of extra virgin olive oil at a time, and use for everything until it runs out. So when I got these bottles in the mail a month ago, I laughed to myself a little. Three bottles? Overkill, right?

Well, maybe not so much. The three bottles consisted of an extra virgin olive oil, a pure olive oil, and a light olive oil. For the record, they all have the same nutritional information. Here's what I learned after researching the uses of all three types:

Extra Virgin Olive Oil: the type I commonly use. As it turns out, I should NOT be heating this up to a high point when I make stir fries or saute veggies. In fact, after 400 degrees it starts to smoke, and will lose many of its benefits. This type is best used for salad dressings, dipping in crusty bread, and drizzling on foods.

Pure Olive Oil: This is slightly more refined, so it is much better for heating up. In many cases, a "pure" olive oil will have a smoke point of 410 degrees, so it can retain health benefits longer. I now saute veggies, meat and roast things with this type.

Light Olive Oil: For the record, this is light tasting - NOT- light in calories. If you have ever tried baking sweet things with extra virgin olive oil, you might have noticed a strange taste that can be overpowering in sweets. A lighter tasting olive oil lets you have all the health benefits without the strong taste, and I've used it in many recipes where butter is called for, and it works great. You can even fry in this oil, although I haven't tried that yet.

Do you use olive oil regularly at home? What types? Any other oils you use?
I've used olive oil almost exclusively for years. The only time I really use any other fat is when I buy something special for a particular meal, whether that is coconut oil for a stir fry or butter for a cookie recipe. 

Have you ever tried baking with olive oil? Any tips for substitutions?
When I use extra virgin olive oil, it usually works out and I just use slightly less than is called for, but there is a slight aftertaste. With this light tasting olive oil, it honestly just tastes like I've used butter or vegetable oil. 

I got these bottle of olive oil for free thanks to Crisco and the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program, but all opinions and research are my own.


  1. I prefer grape seed oil. Has better health benefits than olive oil :) I do have Olive Oil in the house...just in case though.

  2. Olive oil has been our oil of choice for years, too. I just recently read about extra virgin not being right for high temps, though! I didn't even think to use light for baking, though- I'll be trying that out soon!

  3. This is so interesting - I definitely did not know what the different types were better for. I always use olive oil, and ALWAYS extra virgin. Thanks for the tips though, I may be branching out!

  4. I RARELY use oil at home.

    But if I need oil for heating something up on the skillet, like potatoes, I'll put a small splash of olive oil on the pan.

    Thanks for sharing the temp limits on the different olive oils, I'll make sure that I'm making the pure when sautéing stuff!

  5. Very good info to know! I was just going to pick up some olive oil this afternoon when I go to the store - now I know what I am looking for! Otherwise I would have been super confused in the grocery aisle!

  6. this is a great post! i learned a lot and appreciate you sharing what you learned. i use extra virgin olive oil but after reading your info it definitely seems i have been using it wrong. I actually dont use olive oil too much any more and have switched over to coconut oil. I really like cooking with it and love the flavor it adds!

  7. I almost always use EVOO, but when cooking I use canola. Usually I just stir in the EVOO after my meal is cooked.

  8. I use EVOO and also a blend of EVOO/canola oils.

    I have recently discovered coconut oil which I loooooove!

  9. super interesting! I honestly always assumed EVOO was the best kind and that the others were lower quality or stripped down...I use EVOO on everything, but canola or veggie oil in baking :)

  10. I always purchased extra virgin too, but since I typically only use oil when sauteing veggies, etc., I've apparently been using the wrong one! Thanks for the tip!

  11. i generally only use olive oil for dressings / pastas or light sauteeing. Coconut oil and grapeseed oil have a higher heat threshold and have more benefits than olive oil, so I have a tendency to stick to those!

  12. Never knew this...thanks for sharing!

  13. Good information! I actually ran a small artisan olive oil business for a couple of years. We imported olive oil from small family farms all over the world -- it is amazing the range of tastes you can find in olive oils depending on where the olives are grown (much like wine).

  14. Great info!!

    I use olive oil all the time... EVOO for me! Just because that's what Rachel Ray always uses LOL

    Thanks for explaining the differences to your readers! I never would have known that you shouldn't be heating EVOO.

    I've never tried baking with it b/c I was afraid of an aftertaste... but now I'll look for the "light" tasting version.

  15. Wow! I can't even begin to tell you how helpful this post was for me! Extra Virgin Olive Oil is the ONLY oil I use in the kitchen, thus I have clearly been wasting awesome quality oil & losing out on it's nutritional value in most of my recipes. Oops. I wonder if costco has all three -- ooh, that's an awesome package idea.

  16. i use olive oil for all my cooking....but i never know what to buy evoo or just oo....i am sure i should not be using it for heating but i do.

    i also just used it as a hair lice treatment. FUN

  17. i love using olive oil for cooking. I have like my generic cheaper version for stir frys and cooking, then i splurge on more expensive tastier versions for salad dressings and bread dipping. There is nothing better than some good olive oil!

  18. Very informative! I knew about not heating up EVOO, but never knew the differences between the 3 types of Olive oil - cool and informative post. Thanks!

  19. SUCH an informative post!! I love this :) I ADORE olive oil! I use EVOO almost all the time but based on this post -- I'd like to delve into some other types!

  20. what a timely post! my boyfriend and I were just talking about this topic last night while cooking dinner! I love EVOO, and now will have to try out pure for cooking (we usually use vegetable oil or canola!)

  21. I love olive oil! Personally, I have my doubts about it being "filling" but I agree with the rest. I'd heard that stuff about it losing health benefits when you cook with it before, so I am a big drizzler. I have this fancy lime flavored stuff that is so good. I didn't know the difference between the kinds though - thanks for the enlightening post!:)

    I bake with pumpkin or apple sauce if I'm not going all out - can't tell the difference in my opinion!

  22. My Mom works part time at a specialty food store so she's made it her mission to educate me about this stuff too. I have baked with olive oil before, but only in breads/loaves... I've yet to be disappointed with the results! Try it!!

  23. very informative! I use coconut oil when I have to heat oil, like for sauteing, but I didn't know that you could heat the pure olive oil without negative effects!

  24. I used to live in Spain, so I use olive oil in a lot of my cooking. I actually prefer it to butter on bread and toast, as well. Just a little drizzle will do.

  25. I'm obsessed with the food network channel so I learned this a few years back! When I did find out, I was blown away that I'd never known before! I'm glad you know now too!! (;

  26. Thanks for the olive oil education. I'm going to have to check our bottles and make sure we are using the right one for cooking.

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