Supermarket shelves overflow with oils of all types -- the standard olive and canola oils, nut oils such as walnut and peanut oils, and tropical oils including palm and coconut varieties. One oil that nutrition professionals praise for its healthful properties is olive oil, which is particularly rich in heart-protective monounsaturated fats.
While olive oil contains 13.5 grams of fat per one tablespoon serving, only 1.82 grams of this is saturated fat. Saturated fat is the type of dietary fat that can increase your LDL, or unhealthy, cholesterol, putting you at greater risk of heart disease. One tablespoon of olive oil provides 9.95 grams of monounsaturated fat and 1.12 grams of polyunsaturated fat. Both varieties are considered healthy fats because of their implication in lowering blood cholesterol, reducing inflammation and promoting stable heart rhythms.
Extra-Virgin Versus Regular
All varieties of olive oil are rich sources of monounsaturated fats. However, virgin and extra-virgin olive oils, which indicate a lower degree of processing, have the greatest percentage of the class of antioxidant known as polyphenols. Polyphenols are important in promoting heart health.
Recommended Intake and Usage
Your daily allowance for oil will depend on your age, sex and level of physical activity, notes the U.S. Department of Agriculture's MyPyramid website. The USDA encourages women to consume no more than 5 teaspoons of oils per day and recommends that men consume no more than 6 teaspoons of oil a day. Use olive oil as a cooking medium for stir-frying vegetables and meats or as an ingredient in homemade salad dressings.
While a healthful food, olive oil is dense with calories, containing 120 calories per one tablespoon serving. If you are concerned about limiting excess calories in your diet, use olive oil in small amounts.