Frugal Food: Olive Oil

As part of Nutrition to Fit’s Frugal Food Favorites series, each week we highlight a favorite affordable food and all of its nutritional benefits, in addition to ways and recipes to include it in your life. This week is all about olive oil!

I love olive oil! I see many recipes and features on social media that feature all sorts of unique, fancy oils, but I always go back to olive oil for my number one. It may not be something you initially think of when you think of stocking a frugal kitchen, but when you consider the price per serving it seems much easier to incorporate it into your health-conscious, frugal kitchen! Now let’s check out some of those health benefits.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

When we’re discussing health benefits, the vast majority of them (antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, etc.) are most applicable to extra virgin olive oil. This extra virgin classification is when oil is mechanically pressed from the olives without any heat or chemicals applied (1). The International Olive Council and the USDA are supposed to enforce the standards of oils that are labeled with extra virgin olive oil, but you may want to do a little research into the brand you’re buying because a lot of these standards are not enforced which has resulted in a big olive oil fraud industry (companies will dilute extra virgin olive oil with other, cheaper oils to make increase their profits).

Rich in Healthy Monounsaturated Fats

Monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) is an extremely healthy fat that you want to have in your diet. 73% of the fat in olive oil comes from oleic acid, a type of MUFA (2).

Digestive Health Benefits

Evidence from test tube trials and initial human trials are suggesting that olive oil can have anti-bacterial properties, specifically against the strain Helicobacter pylori (3). This is a bacteria that lives in the stomach and can cause stomach ulcers and stomach cancer. One human study showed that 30 grams of extra virgin olive oil daily reduced Helicobacter pylori infection in 10-40% of cases within two weeks (4). Many studies have also shown that populations that consume diets rich in olive oil (like the Mediterranean diet) have lower amounts of upper digestive tract cancers, including stomach and small intestine (5).


Extra virgin olive oil is rich in antioxidants. Specifically it has a large number of (and large variety of) polyphenols, which function as antioxidants in the body, and may also have anti-inflammatory benefits as well (5).


It’s really unique that extra virgin olive oil can provide some anti-inflammatory benefits, because most fats tend to create more inflammation in the body. Those same antioxidant polyphenols are the same ones that have awesome anti-inflammatory benefits.

Cardiovascular Benefits

Olive oil can help lower inflammation, protects LDL cholesterol, may help prevent unwanted blood clotting, and can lower blood pressure (6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11).

Anti-Cancer Properties

As mentioned above, populations that consume frequent amounts of olive oil have shown to have lower incidence of certain types of cancer. Free radicals are believed to be a leading cause of cancer and the antioxidants in olive oil may help combat them (12).

May Help Treat Rheumatoid Arthritis

Individuals with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) that supplement their diets with olive oil seem to have improved inflammatory markers and and reduced oxidative stress (13, 14). This is especially true when olive oil supplementation is combined with fish oil. One study showed that participants taking olive oil and fish oil together had significantly reduced joint pain, increased grip strength, and decreased morning stiffness (15).

Cognitive Benefits

One benefit of the Mediterranean diet is improved cognitive function, especially among older adults (5). A lot of research is being done into the role olive oil plays specifically in this, as it is a critical component of the Mediterranean diet. Recent research is suggesting that in animal trials, olive oil can help during times of brain imbalance, like molecules passing too easily along the blood barrier (5). Other studies are suggesting that a substance in olive oil can prevent buildup of a type of plaque in brain cells that is a key feature of Alzheimer’s Disease (16).

Recipes + Uses for Olive Oil

When using extra virgin olive oil, it is best to use it in cold applications like salad dressings, because heating it can destroy some of the benefits specific to extra virgin olive oil.

When using regular olive oil, you can cook with it. There will still be some health benefits, just not quite the extent of benefits found in extra virgin olive oil.

Below you’ll see a variety of recipes contributed from registered dietitians around the web. Let me know what’s your favorite!

Everyday Herb Oils by Katie Cavuto, RD at Katie Cavuto, RD

Lemon Za’atar Roasted Chicken with Caulifower by Katie Cavuto, RD at Katie Cavuto, RD

Dark Chocolate Olive Oil Mug Cake by Diana K. Rice, RDN at The Baby Steps Dietitian

Pasta Aglio e Olio by Sarah Pflugradt, RD at Salubrious RD

Lemon Baked Shrimp by Cara Harbstreet, RDN at Street-Smart Nutrition

Broccoli Slaw Salad with Flaxseeds and Hemp Seeds by Amy Gorin, RDN at Amy Gorin Nutrition

Easy Creamy, Polenta, Shrimp, and Vegetable Bowls by Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD at Better is the New Perfect

Sesame Free White Bean Hummus by Chelsey Amer, RDN at C it Nutritionally

Everyday Lentil Salad by Dixya Bhattarai, RD at Food, Pleasure and Health

Roasted Beet Pesto and Greens Pasta Toss by Katie Pfeffer-Scanlan, RD at One Hungry Bunny

Roasted Asparagus with Harissa-Spiced Sorghum by Sharon Palmer, RD at Sharon Palmer, the Plant-Powered Dietitian

Slow Cooker Greek Baked Beans by Kara Lydon, RDN, RYT at The Foodie Dietitian

Chimichurri by Lindsey Pine, RDN at Tasty Balance Nutrition

Middle-Eastern Inspired Veggie Bowls with Hummus-Harissa Dressing by Edwina Clark, RDN at Edwina Clark

Siracha Hummus by Jodi Danen, RDN at Create Kids Club

Best Pork Chops Ever by Jodi Danen, RDN at Create Kids Club

Grilled Hasselback Potatoes by Lindsey Janeiro, RDN, CLC at Nutrition to Fit

Zucchini Noodle Caprese Salad by Lindsey Janeiro, RDN, CLC at Nutrition to Fit

Greek-Inspired Lemon Skillet Potatoes by Lindsey Janeiro, RDN, CLC at Nutrition to Fit


Let me know what recipes you try, and leave a comment if you have any other good ones!

Let’s get social!

Instagram @nutritiontofit | Twitter @nutritiontofit | Facebook @nutritiontofit

Leave a reply