Mediterranean Diet Post 7: Olive Oil Is Relatively Devoid Of Nutrients, Except Fat

Here are the vitamins and minerals in one tablespoon of olive oil, from NutritionData:

So, what does olive oil have, if not vitamins and minerals? Fat:

Olive oil has no protein, and no fiber since it has no carbohydrate and all fiber is carbohydrate. Olive oil is an industrially-produced, ultra-processed, concentrated fat extract. This one tablespoon has more saturated fat (1.9g) than a large egg (1.5g). Olive oil has twice the saturated fat of other vegetable oils like safflower.

Yet companies claim that it is “very rich in vitamins and minerals” and other unsubstantiated flim-flam. An example:

The refining process removes vitamins, minerals, and polyphenolic compounds. Extra virgin olive oil is less refined and may contain more nutrients. But you can’t tell from reading the label if olive oil is extra virgin. That’s because a lot of extra virgin olive oil isn’t extra virgin, and sometimes it’s not olive oil at all. It could be hazelnut or soybean oil with chlorophyll added for color. The FDA doesn’t have the time or resources to oversee olive oil:

Adulteration And Corruption In The Olive Oil Trade
Most Imported Extra Virgin Olive Oil Is Probably Not “Extra Virgin”
Most Oil Sold As Italian Olive Oil Does Not Come From Italy, Some Isn’t Even Olive Oil

I know what you’re thinking, “Not my olive oil.” I was surprised to learn that many common oils sold as extra virgin didn’t live up to that designation in the UCDavis analysis (e.g. Berio, Bertolli, Colavita, Carapelli).

If it’s polyphenolic compounds you’re after, you can find them throughout the plant kingdom, without having to intake all that nutrient-void, calorie-laden, industrially-produced grease that may not even be olive oil. The lowly potato or celery has more polyphenols per serving than extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) with more vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber to boot. (EVOO contains about 150-400 mg/L of polyphenols. There are about 68 tablespoons in a liter. So, there are about 2-6 mg of polyphenols per tablespoon of the very best EVOO you can buy, which may not be EVOO at all).

Polyphenols: Food Sources And Bioavailability, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, May 2004

This is a big table; I chopped it off. You can see the whole table here.

5 thoughts on “Mediterranean Diet Post 7: Olive Oil Is Relatively Devoid Of Nutrients, Except Fat

    1. Bix Post author

      Holy cow. I hadn’t thought of that. I think you’re right about fraud.

      Beyond Italy [57%], the European commission has projected 2018-19 olive harvests to drop by 20% in Portugal and 42% in Greece, although industry sources said final figures there could be significantly worse.

      I’ve spent so much money over the years on olive oil. I completely believed the hype.


      1. forumholitorium

        Me too, and also because I love the taste of “real” olive oil, that scratch at the back of the throat. I can find good quality extra virgin easily since I live just a few hours north of Italy and Croatia. I’ve bought olive oil from the producers and walked under the trees, which have beautiful silvery-green leaves. And then there is the romantic idea that by eating olive oil, it connects me to my Tuscan ancestors in Italy (who probably ate a lot less olive oil than I imagine they did because they were poor people who worked the land).


  1. Marj

    Yes, lots of money spent over the years and I always had the feeling I had found an “authentic” oil, thanks for the info and the amazing chart. So much glorification of olive oil over time, not to mention false and misleading facts re other foods. It’s both refreshing and anger-provoking to learn the real story.


  2. Pingback: Mediterranean Diet Posts | Fanatic Cook

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