How Healthy Is Extra-Light Olive Oil?

Woman pouring olive oil in a jar

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Olive oil is considered a heart-healthy fat because of its high monounsaturated fat content, making it a good choice when we need to use fat in our cooking or dressings. However, nearly all olive oil contains 14 grams of fat per tablespoon, even if the label describes it as light or extra light. Similarly, you'll find that all types of olive oil have about 120 calories per tablespoon.

Health Benefits of Olive Oil

Olive oil is also known as a healthy oil due to its presence of phenolic compounds, according to Nasir Malik of the U.S. Agriculture Department's Research Service. Scientifically, the polyphenols in olive oil are nutrients common in other beverages and ingredients like wine, tea, cocoa, fruits, and vegetables. These elements are known to decrease heart disease, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and reduce blood clots, and are thought to reduce cancer, lower inflammation, and more.

There are endless oil choices, including vegetable, canola, walnut, sesame, coconut, avocado, and so on. Olive oil is one of the best ones for cooking due to its heat stability and flavor. It also contains monounsaturated fatty acids, which are healthy fats that assist with lowering the risk of heart disease and bad cholesterol in the bloodstream. In comparison to regular olive oil, extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) has fewer chemicals and free radicals than regular olive oil, higher antioxidants, and plenty of good fats.

Light and Extra Light

Light or extra light refers to the color and flavor of the olive oil, not its calorie content, and the label on the bottle should say something to this extent. Extra-light olive oil is often pale and mild, as it's been ultra-refined. Extra-light olive oil has a higher smoke point than regular or extra-virgin olive oil, so it can withstand hotter temperatures before breaking down and is best suited for use in baking, or types of cooking where a neutral-tasting oil is needed.

For salad dressings or other dishes where the flavor and fruitiness of olive oil are important, opt for extra-virgin olive oil, which has the purest taste. The oil is fresh from the fruit—it may be filtered but no heat is used to refine the oil. Because of its strong flavor, a little olive oil really does go a long way.

The Difference in Oils

Extra virgin olive oil has been processed the least. Fresh and untouched extra virgin olive oil tastes fruity, bitter, and peppery. Most extra virgin olive oils simply taste better, but those that are cold-pressed, stone-pressed, and unfiltered taste even better.

Some pure olive oils aren't really pure at all. Many are a mix of extra virgin olive oils and processed oils. Check the label to make sure. Light olive oil has no real difference other than it being processed and thus it has a lighter color. While this can last longer and be heated at a higher temperature, there are more chemicals and fewer nutrients. Ultimately, you want to go for heart-healthy extra virgin olive oil when you can.

Article Sources
The Spruce Eats uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. US Department of Agriculture. Food Data Central. Olive oil. Updated April 1, 2020.

  2. Agricultural Research Service.  US Department of Agriculture. Olive oil’s health benefits? It’s a slippery question. September 11, 2012.