Olive Oil Is Junk Food!

Lately, many people have been touting olive oil as some sort of “health food.” Sadly, olive oil is junk food, one of the worst junk foods there is. It’s empty calories that provide practically no essential nutrients.

At roughly 9 calories per gram, olive oil is packed with calories, all of them from fat. Most of the fatty acids in olive oil are a monounsaturated fatty acid called oleic acid. You don’t need to get any monounsaturated fat whatsoever from your diet, and monounsaturated fats have no known role in preventing chronic disease. About 14% of the fatty acids in olive oil are saturated. You don’t need to get any saturated fat whatsoever from your diet, and a high intake of saturated fat has long been known to contribute to coronary artery disease.

There are only two kinds of fatty acid that are essential in human nutrition, which means that you have to get them from the diet. One is an omega-6 fatty acid called linoleic acid, which accounts for somewhere between 3.5% and 21% of the fatty acids in olive oil. Since linoleic acid is commonly found in nuts, seeds, and grains, most people get far more of it than they need. Olive oil contains vanishingly small amounts of alpha-linoleic acid, the essential omega-3 fatty acid that is in relatively short supply in most people’s diets.

Too much fat of any kind will make you fat. Excess fats of all kinds also tend to build up in your arteries, thus leading to heart attack and stroke. Fats of all kinds also tend to promote insulin resistance, thus leading to type 2 diabetes in some people. 

Olive oil has been getting good press because it is considered to be part of the “Mediterranean diet.” Population studies had shown that rates of heart disease were much lower in some of the countries that bordered the Mediterranean Sea than they were in Scandinavia and the United States. However, most people ignore the fact that the people in the Mediterranean countries were eating a more heavily plant-based diet than the people in the United States and Scandinavia. Plants have no cholesterol, and the fiber they contain helps to carry cholesterol out of your system. Instead, people have been focusing on the fact that people in the Mediterranean countries eat some olive oil.

Fat people in Mediterranean countries tend to eat a low-carb, high-fat diet, with olive oil being the predominant fat.  One study found that fat people in Spain had been getting 35% of their calories from carbohydrate and 43% from fats, 55% of which were from monounsaturated fatty acids. So much for the theory that eating fats instead of carbs makes people lose weight, or that olive oil has some sort of belly flattening magic!

5 thoughts on “Olive Oil Is Junk Food!”

  1. Thanks, Steve! Jordan, ground flaxseed is an excellent source of the essential omega 3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid. Leafy green vegetables are also a good source of omega 3 fatty acids. Some people tout fish oil as a source of omega 3 fatty acids. However, all of the omega 3 fatty acids in fish came originally from the plants, including algae, that are at the bottom of the food chain. Fish do contain some of the longer omega 3 fatty acids, such as docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid. However, the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences doesn't consider either of these fatty acids to be essential in human nutrition.

  2. But green leafy vegetables are so low in fat, there can't be that much Omega 3, right? I'm considering a low fat, high carb, whole foods diet, it sounds like a great way to go for the most part. I'm sick of all the low carb stuff! haha. But flaxseed being the main vegetarian source for Omega 3 doesn't sound very promising. Should we just supplement with Omega 3, like we have to supplement with B12?

  3. Some people add a spoonful of ground flaxseed to their cereal in the morning. That should provide more than enough for most people. When people got an essential fatty acid deficiency from being fed nothing but glucose intravenously, their needs for essential fatty acids could be met by rubbing a small amount of vegetable oil on their skin.

    Dr. McDougall argues that deficiencies of essential fatty acids do not occur in people eating low-fat diets because such diets include a lot of vegetables, which are rich in essential fatty acids. http://www.drmcdougall.com/res_vegetable_fat_med.html

    Of course, people who have a digestive disorder or metabolic disorder may need more fat than a person normally would. Also, there are some conditions for which doctors use essential fatty acid supplements as if they were a drug. If you're in one of those situations, you need to get advice from a dietitian or other licensed medical professional.

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