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Olive oil is a popular oil that can be used for preparing vinaigrettes, cooking or simply drizzling over pasta or vegetables. Extra virgin olive oil has a stronger taste, and it is best to avoid heating it to prevent losing the precious polyphenols and vitamin E it provides. Regular olive oil has the same types of fats as extra virgin olive oil, but because of its lower cost, it is more appropriate for cooking. It is also possible to find light olive oil. The term light doesn't refer to the fat or calorie content but rather to the taste of the oil, which is more subtle compared to other olive oils.
Carbohydrates used to be classified as being simple sugars or complex starches. However, the glycemic index has now replaced this previous categorization, allowing you to better predict how much a food can influence your blood sugar levels 1. High glycemic index foods have a value of 70 and above are quickly digested and absorbed and result in a quick and sharp rise of your blood sugar levels, which can ultimately lead to high blood sugar levels and blood sugar crash within a few hours after their consumption 1. Medium glycemic index foods, which have a value between 56 and 69, have an effect somewhere in between.
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Olive oil is purely fat, it doesn't contain any protein nor carbohydrates. For a food to have its glycemic index measured, it must contain carbohydrates. Because olive oil does not contain any carbohydrates, it is impossible to assign a glycemic index value to this food. The same goes for any other oils or fat, such as canola oil, coconut oil, soybean oil, butter, cream, lard or mayonnaise. However, the fact that olive oil doesn't have carbohydrates indicates that it won't raise your blood sugar levels and its glycemic index value can therefore be estimated to be close to zero 1.
- Olive oil is purely fat, it doesn't contain any protein nor carbohydrates.
- Because olive oil does not contain any carbohydrates, it is impossible to assign a glycemic index value to this food.
Benefits of Olive Oil
Olive oil is a fat and does not influence directly your blood sugar levels. If consumed as part of a meal though, olive oil, just like any other fat, can delay gastric emptying and helps smooth out your blood sugar response after your meal. Olive oil is also a source of monounsaturated fats, the heart-healthy fats that are prominent in the Mediterranean eating plan 2. The monounsaturated fats in olive oil can help lower your LDL cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of developing heart disease 2.
Low Glycemic Index Foods
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Although olive oil does not have an attributed glycemic index value per se, it can definitely be considered a low glycemic index food since it is free of carbohydrate and will not directly influence your blood sugar levels 1. Olive oil can be part of a healthy low glycemic index diet, along with other low glycemic index foods, such as:
- nonstarchy vegetables
- temperate climate fruits
- whole-grain pasta
- sweet potato
- sourdough bread
- Basmati rice
- stone-ground whole-grain bread 1
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- University of Sydney: The Glycemic Index
- American Heart Association: Monounsaturated Fats
- Ojo O, Ojo OO, Adebowale F, Wang XH. The effect of dietary glycaemic index on glycaemia in patients with type 2 diabetes: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Nutrients. 2018;10(3):373. Published 2018 Mar 19. doi:10.3390/nu10030373
- Glycemic Index and Diabetes. American Diabetes Association
- Search for the Glycemic Index. The University of Sydney
- Zeevi D, Korem T, Zmora N, et al. Personalized Nutrition by Prediction of Glycemic Responses. Cell. 2015;163(5):1079-1094. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2015.11.001+
- Sacks FM, Carey VJ, Anderson CA, et al. Effects of high vs low glycemic index of dietary carbohydrate on cardiovascular disease risk factors and insulin sensitivity: the OmniCarb randomized clinical trial. JAMA. 2014;312(23):2531-41. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.16658.
- Vega-lópez S, Venn BJ, Slavin JL. Relevance of the Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load for Body Weight, Diabetes, and Cardiovascular Disease. Nutrients. 2018;10(10). doi:10.3390/nu10101361
- Glycemic Index Database. University of Sydney. Updated October 13, 2020
- Eleazu C. O. (2016). The concept of low glycemic index and glycemic load foods as panacea for type 2 diabetes mellitus; prospects, challenges and solutions. African health sciences, 16(2), 468–479. doi:10.4314/ahs.v16i2.15
- Foster-Powell, Kaye, Holt, Susanna and Brand-Miller, Janette. "International table of glycemic index and glycemic load values: 2002." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 76,:1: 5-56 (2002).
- International Carbohydrate Quality Consortium, Jenkins, D. J., Willett, W. C., Astrup, A., Augustin, L. S., Baer-Sinnott, S., … Wolever, T. M. (2014). Glycaemic index: did Health Canada get it wrong? Position from the International Carbohydrate Quality Consortium (ICQC). The British journal of nutrition, 111(2), 380–382. doi:10.1017/S0007114513003905
- Leroux, MarcusFoster-Powell, Kaye, Holt, Susanna and Brand-Miller, Janette. "International Table of Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load Values: 2002." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Vol. 76, No. 1, 5-56, (2002).
- Lui, S., Willett, WC, et al. "A prospective study of dietary glycemic load, carbohydrate intake, and risk of coronary heart disease in US women.." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 71(6):1455-61. (2001).
- Mayer-Davis, E.J., Dhawan, A et al. "Towards understanding of glycaemic index and glycaemic load in habitual diet: associations with measures of glycaemia in the Insulin Resistance Atherosclerosis Study.." British Nutrition Journal. 95(2):397-405. (2006).
- Sacks, F. M., Carey, V. J., Anderson, C. A., Miller, E. R., 3rd, Copeland, T., Charleston, J., … Appel, L. J. (2014). Effects of high vs low glycemic index of dietary carbohydrate on cardiovascular disease risk factors and insulin sensitivity: the OmniCarb randomized clinical trial. JAMA, 312(23), 2531–2541. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.16658
- Salmeron, J, Manson, JE, et al. "Dietary fiber, glycemic load, and risk of non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus in women.." Journal of the American Medical Association. 12;277(6):472-7. (1997).
- Vega-López, S., Venn, B., & Slavin, J. (2018). Relevance of the Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load for Body Weight, Diabetes, and Cardiovascular Disease. Nutrients, 10(10), 1361. doi:10.3390/nu10101361
- Zeevi, D. Korem N. et al. Personalized Nutrition by Prediction of Glycemic ResponsesCell. 163:(5):1079-94. November 2015.
Aglaee Jacob is a registered dietitian. She has experience working with people who have diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and obesity issues. Jacob obtained a bachelor of science and a master of science, both in nutrition, from Laval University in Quebec City, Canada.