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Is Olive Oil a Low Glycemic Index Food?

author image Aglaee Jacob
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.
Is Olive Oil a Low Glycemic Index Food?
A bottle of olive oil on an outdoor table. Photo Credit ivan68/iStock/Getty Images

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.

Glycemic Index

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. 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. On the other hand, the carbohydrates in low glycemic index foods, which have a value of 55 or below, have a more subtle effect on your blood sugar concentrations and help you prevent large blood sugar fluctuations, keeping your energy levels more stable between meals. Medium glycemic index foods, which have a value between 56 and 69, have an effect somewhere in between.

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Olive Oil

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.

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. The monounsaturated fats in olive oil can help lower your LDL cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of developing heart disease. In addition, olive oil, especially if it is cold-pressed and extra virgin, provides important polyphenols and vitamin E, which act as antioxidants to protect your body against the damages of oxidation.

Low Glycemic Index Foods

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. 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, quinoa, barley, legumes, sourdough bread, Basmati rice and stone-ground whole-grain bread.

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