Olive oil is one of the main ingredients in the Mediterranean diet, a healthy eating plan that has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and other chronic diseases. Read all about the health benefits of olive oil and ways that you can incorporate it into your diet.
One of the most basic changes you can make to your every day cooking routine that can significantly improve your health is to cook with olive oil.
Olive Oil from Spain
First, let me give you a little background on olive oil. Did you know that Spain is the largest producer of olive oil in the world? Spain provides around 50% of all the olive oil produced worldwide and is the largest exporter of organic extra virgin olive oil to the USA. Spain has taken great strides in developing and promoting the quality of its olive oils and they invest more in R & D than all of the other olive oil-producing countries combined. With more than 260 different olive varieties, Olive Oils from Spain have a unique range of flavors, aromas, and textures. Some of the world’s best chefs cook with Olive Oils from Spain, including José Andrés. I’ve actually had the good fortune of dining at his amazing restaurant The Bazaar in both Beverly Hills as well as South Beach, and it’s no wonder he has such a stellar reputation!
Fat is not the enemy
It’s interesting how diet advice changes over the years as new research emerges. For years, we were taught to follow a low-fat diet if we wanted to lose weight. Fat was the enemy and we should avoid it at all costs. Now, we know that we need fat in our diets and it actually plays an important role in our health. The key is not cutting out all fat, but rather eating the right types of fat. Focus on eating unsaturated fats like those found in foods like extra virgin olive oil, avocados, nuts, seeds, and cold water fish. Try to limit the amount of saturated fats in your diet. You should also limit the amount of trans-fats, which are unhealthy manmade fat found in many packaged foods. Saturated and trans fats can increase your risk of heart disease, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, and some cancers.
Extra virgin olive oil, on the other hand, is composed of healthy monounsaturated fatty acids, especially oleic acid. These fats help lower your risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol levels and normalizing blood clotting. They also help regulate your blood sugar. Extra virgin olive oil also contains many other powerful compounds like antioxidants, polyphenols, anti-inflammatories, and vitamin E, which have many important health benefits and can help prevent chronic diseases.
The Mediterranean Diet
How to Incorporate Olive Oil into your diet
So how can you incorporate olive oil into your home cooking to reap all of its health benefits? Here are just a few ways:
Grilled Garlic Shrimp Skewers with Parsley Oil
Then, I thread the shrimp onto skewers, alternating with lemon slices, and toss the skewers on the grill.
The shrimp cook in a matter of minutes and the lemons get a nice char. To drizzle over the skewers, I also make vibrant, green herb oil by blending olive oil with fresh parsley.
I like to arrange the skewers on a serving platter and drizzle some of the parsley oil on top. Tell your guests to squeeze the charred lemon on the shrimp for an extra punch of flavor before digging in!
More Mediterranean Diet Recipes
- Blueberry Farro Salad
- Greek Feta Shrimp Skillet
- Mediterranean Pasta
- Olive and Sundried Tomato Crusted Fish
- Barley Salad with Roasted Carrots and Chickpeas
- Spanish Garlic Shrimp (Gambas Al Ajillo)
Natalie @ Obsessive Cooking Disorder says
I love olive oil! We went to an olive tree farm not too long ago - picking the fruit is quite a feat but the product is well worth it! Thanks for all the ingredient info
Anu - My Ginger Garlic Kitchen says
Olive oil is in one of my favorites —I love using olive oil in my cooking. I so love the versatility of this magic ingredient. This shrimp looks so delicious, beautiful and full of health. Lovely share, Sonali.
GiGi Eats Celebrities says
Olive oil is CERTAINLY one of my favorites! It just enhances the flavor of EVERYTHING it's paired with!!! INCLUDING this luscious shrimp!!
Big Rigs 'n Lil' Cookies says
Your shrimp with the parsley oil look like a beautiful and healthy plate!
Thanks so much!
Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table says
Great minds... I just posted a Mediterranean dish this week too! I think I was meant to be Greek or Italian... and YES to olive oil. We go through an embarrassing amount.
Haha, don't be embarrassed 😉 Great minds indeed!
Laura Sandford says
I LOVE fat! LOL! I couldn't live without olive oil! This recipe looks delicious!
Haha, me too! Thanks, Laura!
Taylor Kiser says
Great background information on olive oil! Love the recipe for your Grilled Garlic Shrimp Skewers with Parsley Oil! Need to make this soon!
Thanks, Taylor! I hope you try it out 🙂
I love this!! However - olive oil should not be used for cooking at high temps. It's preferable to not cook it at all, as you mentioned due to the monounsaturated structure. Curious your thoughts about the newest research on saturated fat as well - the source seems to be more important than saturated/unsaturated (as in coconut oil, eggs, and pastured butter being OK, and factory farmed meats not OK)
Thanks for your comment, Amanda! And yes, the new research is definitely intriguing, especially with products like coconut oil, which I've started to incorporate into a lot of my recipes. And yes, I am a big fan of eggs, which have so many health benefits. For now, I'll continue to follow the "everything in moderation" path until more definitive evidence is there.
Kristina LaRue says
I need to make more olive oil marinades! I use it every day in cooking but herb infused olive oil is so delicious! Great recipe.
Thanks so much, Kristina!
Olive oil is definitely a go-to for cooking for me and this is such a wonderful way to highlight it! Parsley is definitely an under-appreciated herb.
It is for me too. And I love adding parsley to a wide variety of dishes for a pop of flavor!
And we wonder why the Greeks live sooooo long?!?! I'm a huge fan of the Mediterranean diet! I love olive oil and I cannot wait to try this recipe! So fresh!
Definitely! Thanks, Natalie!
Lauren Grant says
This recipe looks so tasty! And it's so stunning!
Thanks so much, Lauren!
Jenn Sebestyen says
I love that your turned it into parsley oil. Any chance to adds some freshness from the garden and I'm in!
Thanks, Jenn! I love using fresh herbs whenever I can!
I like that you recommend to use it in raw options such as salad dressings, because another important thing to remember about olive oil is that when it is heated to a temperature too high, it becomes rancid and can release free radicals into our food. Keeping it on a low heat, and enjoying it in raw options is the best way to avoid this. Thanks for all the great info Sonali!
Thanks so much for your comment! Yes, I use olive oil a lot in raw applications.
Elizabeth Shaw says
Great post Sonali- I am 100% in support of the Med Diet! Such a powerful healthy eating plan that really deserves the attention it gets. I love your recipe too- and the Moscow Mule in the photo too! There's a small specialty olive oil shop in Temecula that I usually get olive oils from, but now will have to check this out!! Thanks!
Thanks, Liz! Those Moscow Mule cups were a Father's Day gift that I got for my hubby 🙂
I saw this on Instragram and literally drooled! I love me some delish olive oil too, and it's all about how you use it! YUM!
Yay! I'm all about the healthy fats! :] It's something I try to tell my patients about (with varying degrees of success on whether or not they believe me, but I try...). I'm in the process of trying to add/set up nutrition as part of the curriculum here! *-* Fingers crossed!
Those skewers look delicious! So many colors! :]!
Wow, that's great Farrah! That's definitely something we need more of in med schools- best of luck!
Kristy Sayer @ Southern In Law says
Olive oil is such a versatile ingredient and one I reaaally hope I'll be able to eat again (food intolerances suck!) as I miss it so much!
I really hope so too Kristy! Thanks for stopping by 🙂