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Extra Virgin Olive Oil vs. Nuts

The short-term effect of replacing refined olive oil with extra virgin olive oil, walnuts, or almonds on cardiovascular risk factors.

September 13, 2012 |
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Acknowledgements

Images thanks to Bj.schoenmakers, Victor M. Vicente, and Selvas via Wikimedia Commons; and muckster, Flickmor, letorrivacation, UNEP, and hippychick.

Transcript

Recently researchers in Spain wondered what would happen if they replaced much of the refined olive oil in people’s diets with extra virgin olive oil or walnuts, or almonds. What were the effects on people’s cardio vascular risk factors after a month on each of the different diets. Same people, but three different months diets different only by the main source of fat. And this is what they found

The people in the nut groups did significantly better, dropping their total cholesterol about 7%, knocking about 20 points off their bad cholesterol, however the extra-virgin olive oil did do somewhat better than the refined olive oil, presumably because it retains a few more phytosterols, but nuts—and seeds—remain the best source of fat.

Whole food sources of fats, like everything else, tend to be preferable. One can think of extra virgin olive oil like fruit juice—it’s got nutrients, but the calories you get are relatively empty compared to the whole fruit. Olives are, after all, fruits. You fresh squeeze them and you get olive juice, less nutrition than the whole fruit, but then it gets even worse, they throw away what’s called the olive wastewater, which contains all of the water soluble nutrients in olives so you’re really just getting a small fraction of the nutrition of the whole fruit. So why not just eat the olives? Well the problem is that they’re soaked in brine such that a dozen olives could take up half your sodium intake for the day, so I suggest eating them only in moderation.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Kerry Skinner.

To help out on the site please email volunteer@nutritionfacts.org

Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

Adding nuts and seeds to one's salad boosts the bioavailability of the fat-soluble carotenoid phytonutrients in the greens. See my video Forgo Fat-Free Dressings?. Oil would work, but whole food sources of fat (and other nutrients!) are superior. For more on nuts and cholesterol see Nuts and Bolts of Cholesterol Lowering and for more on the adverse effects of too much sodium, see Dietary Guidelines: With a Grain of Big Salt and Salt OK if Blood Pressure is OK?

If you haven't yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

For more context, check out my associated blog post, Stool Size and Breast Cancer Risk.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/ Michael Greger M.D.

    Adding nuts and seeds to one’s salad boosts the bioavailability of the fat-soluble carotenoid phytonutrients in the greens. See my video Forego Fat-Free Dressings?. Oil would work, but whole food sources of fat (and other nutrients!) are superior. For more on nuts and cholesterol see Nuts and Bolts of Cholesterol Lowering and for more on the adverse effects of too much sodium, see Dietary Guidelines: With a Grain of Big Salt and Salt OK if Blood Pressure is OK?

    • http://poxacuatl.wordpress.com/ Strix

       I like that juice:oil comparison! I’ve got to remember that one.

      I went salt free several years ago; but I still enjoy olives. I eat the raw, whole, no-salt olives. They are (supposedly) an acquired taste — either love them or hate them, I guess. I happen to love them.
      Any problem with these? I’ve not heard of any.

    • Jason Dunn

      Do Sprouted Nuts have a greater nutritional value (as do sprouted seeds and beans) vs raw nuts?  Would this help kick the salad up a notch?  For the people who need the oily texture on their salad, is virgin coconut oil a better alternative to Olive oil?  This is starting to sound more like a recipe channel.  Any input would be greatly appreciated Dr. Greger (specifically on the sprouted nut).

      • Thea

         Jason:  I know you addressed Dr. Greger, but I have some thoughts that you might find helpful.

        re: sprouted nuts:  I got into the idea of sprouting when Dr. Greger did his series on broccoli and sprouting.  I bought a couple of books on the topic to learn more.  It’s been a while since I read those books, but if memory serves, I believe that they did say that sprouted nuts do indeed have more nutrition – including more absorb-able nutrition.  (“You are what you absorb.”)

        Re: coconut oil vs olive oil:  Dr. Greger covered coconut oil in this video:
        http://nutritionfacts.org/video/is-coconut-oil-good-for-you/

        Hope that was helpful.

        • Jason Dunn

          Fantastic – Thank you for the affirmation (my research on sprouting nuts has been minimal) and I am love’n the sprouted broccoli (thanks for the heads up at your Toronto visit Dr. Greger) and other delisous seeds and beans I have sprouted.
           
          Sprout on my friend, Sprout on!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=640861216 Gary Yuen

    Had suspected this. I’m still curious about ghee (if one could find it without environmental toxins). And clarified butter made from milks more compatible with humans are better. Various ancient medicines (including Greek and Roman) mention many milks with different properties and tend to suggest best is of course human.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=640861216 Gary Yuen

    A new study on ghee seems to be making the rounds on some newspapers. “A spoon of ghee full of health: ‘Poses no danger to cardiac health’”. I think it’s this one.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23041740

    If anyone could share it, that’d be great.

  • Hathor42

    Huh — they didn’t think to compare to a diet enriched with nonfatty plants.  They had four groups, but apparently couldn’t add a fifth.  Partial funding from the International Nut and Dried Fruit Council…

  • Wayne Halford

    I’m allergic to nuts. All nuts. Has there been a comparison between the health benefits in seeds as compared to nuts? I’m looking for a way to enhance my salads without using nuts of course. I do use pumpkin seeds and sunflower and am wondering if there is enough fat in the seed to help with getting all the good from the nutrients in my salads.