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Is Olive Oil Good or Bad for Diabetes? Glycemic Index and Sugar Content
Diabetes

Is Olive Oil Good or Bad for Diabetes? Glycemic Index and Sugar Content

HR_author_photo_Edibel
Written by Edibel Quintero, RD | Medically reviewed by Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD check
Published on 2022 September 26
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4 min

Extra virgin olive oil is a versatile oil that is commonly known as healthy. However, does this apply to those with diabetes? Let’s talk about it!

is olive oil good for diabetes

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Olive oil is the perfect addition to your salad, sandwich, or entree that can add a delicious flavor. In addition, some like to cook with extra virgin olive oil, including roasting, sautéing, and more.

It is the main facet of the Mediterranean diet, which is used for heart health and weight loss. 

Many people with diabetes are skeptical about consuming olive oil due to its high-fat content and potential for weight gain. But what about olive oil’s impact on blood sugar levels? Do the benefits outweigh the downsides?

Read on to learn more about olive oil and diabetes.

Is Olive Oil Good for Diabetes?

Olive oil is good for diabetes because it contains essential fatty acids, antioxidants, and more. In addition, consuming olive oil appropriately can help with lowering blood glucose or blood sugar control, weight management, and risk of heart disease.

Does Olive Oil Lower or Raise Blood Sugar? 

Since olive oil does not contain carbohydrates, it does not raise blood sugar levels.

In fact, according to a meta-analysis of studies in the journa Nutrition and Diabetes, extra virgin olive oil can lower hemoglobin A1C, also known as glycosylated hemoglobin, and fasting blood glucose levels.

Olive Oil Nutritional Value 

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) food database, a one tablespoon serving of olive oil contains 124 calories, 14g of total fat, and no carbohydrates.

Additionally, it has trace amounts of calcium, iron, potassium, vitamin E, and more.

Almost 2g of the total fat is saturated fats, while the rest is monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.

It is also free of cholesterol, which can increase the risk of heart disease. 

There are different varieties of olive oil, including pure olive oil and light olive oil; however, extra virgin olive oil is typically the healthiest and least processed. 

It is the typically recommended oil for the Mediterranean diet and is what we will primarily focus on in this article.

What Are the Benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil for Diabetes? 

Extra virgin olive oil has many benefits for overall health, especially for those with diabetes. Let’s dive into some of the key players.

#1 Rich in essential fatty acids

The 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans state that oils are essential in a healthy and balanced diet because they contain essential fatty acids.

Many shy away from fat sources. However, olive oil is a plant oil that contains mainly unsaturated fat instead of harmful saturated fat.

More specifically, olive oil contains a type of unsaturated fat called monounsaturated fat.

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), consuming moderate amounts of monounsaturated fat can lower the risk of heart disease, including heart attack and stroke, by lowering low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.

LDL cholesterol is the “bad” cholesterol, as opposed to high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels.

A study performed in 2013 by the journal Diabetes Care studied participants who replaced carbohydrates in the diet with unsaturated fat sources. Researchers found that these participants had improved insulin sensitivity.

Therefore, consuming olive oil in the diet can contribute to improved insulin sensitivity and reduced insulin resistance in those diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. 

#2 Acts as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory

Extra virgin olive oil contains many antioxidants that help the body fight against harmful free radicals. Free radicals are naturally produced by bodily processes, such as metabolism. 

A diet rich in antioxidants can help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation. Inflammation and oxidative stress play a role in diabetes.

For this reason, olive oil is a central component of the widely recommended Mediterranean diet.

#3 Slows down the digestion of sugar

Additionally, according to the Cleveland Clinic, consuming fat with a carbohydrate source slows down the digestion and absorption of sugars. This is also the case with protein and dietary fiber.

Therefore, consuming extra virgin olive oil with a source of carbohydrates can control blood sugar levels, preventing it from spiking.

#4 Promotes weight loss

A 2018 European Journal of Nutrition study found that participants who consumed extra virgin olive oil experienced lowered blood pressure and reduced body fat.

Additionally, extra virgin olive oil’s fat content promotes fullness and satiety, especially when combined with a lean protein and a dietary fiber source. Therefore, you are more likely to consume less food and stay full longer.

This satiety can promote weight maintenance or even weight loss over time.

However, oils and other fats still contain significant calories, so portion sizing remains essential. For example, the serving size of extra virgin olive oil, or any oil, is one tablespoon.

FAQs

Does olive oil have a glycemic index?

Olive oil does not have a designated glycemic index since it does not contain any carbohydrates and does not increase blood glucose levels. Therefore, it can be considered to have a low glycemic index.

Is olive oil good for type 2 diabetes?

Yes, olive oil is good for type 2 diabetes because it is rich in healthy fats, antioxidants, and more. In addition, olive oil does not have any carbohydrates.

Does olive oil cure diabetes?

Unfortunately, olive oil cannot cure diabetes. However, it can help prevent or manage diabetes in many ways, including blood sugar and glycemic control, weight management, and much more.

A Word From a Nutritionist

Olive oil is an excellent addition to a healthy and balanced diet, even for people diagnosed with diabetes. Swap out your butter or shortening with olive oil to lower your saturated fat intake.

However, using only a tablespoon of olive oil is essential since it has many calories per serving. You may easily exceed this amount when using olive oil for dipping, salad dressing, or cooking.

Additionally, studies support olive oil’s health benefits to heart health, blood pressure, blood glucose levels, inflammation, and more.

Olive oil also contains many vitamins and minerals that benefit overall health and is part of the healthy Mediterranean diet.

Conclusion

Extra virgin olive oil is part of the Mediterranean diet and is good for diabetes as it does not have carbohydrates but has many health benefits.

Any fat, including oil, slows down the digestion and absorption of sugars, reducing the glycemic effect of carbohydrates in your diet. In other words, fat can reduce the severity of blood sugar spikes.

Extra virgin olive oil is especially rich in essential fatty acids, which can support insulin sensitivity, heart health, and more.

It also contains antioxidants that fight free radicals that are harmful to the cells in the body. 

A balance of free radicals in the body and antioxidants in the diet can reduce inflammation and oxidative stress that plays a role in diabetes.

Add extra virgin olive oil to your diet, including the Mediterranean diet, to help manage your diabetes and support a healthy weight and heart.

HR_author_photo_Edibel
Written by
Edibel Quintero is a medical doctor who graduated in 2013 from the University of Zulia and has been working in her profession since then. She specializes in obesity and nutrition, physical rehabilitation, sports massage and post-operative rehabilitation. Edibel’s goal is to help people live healthier lives by educating them about food, exercise, mental wellness and other lifestyle choices that can improve their quality of life.
Medically reviewed byRosmy Barrios, MD
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