No, You Don’t Need to Chug Olive Oil

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Written By Robby Macaay

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Forget morning coffee. Across the internet, people are broadcasting a different routine: drinking a shot of extra virgin olive oil after they climb out of bed.

Gulping down the oil that’s usually reserved for cooking has been a “gamechanger,” one TikToker said. “It gives my body a kickstart,” another chimed in. Others claim a shot (or more) of olive oil per day improves their gut health, boosts their metabolism, and makes their skin glow. Even celebrities, like Kourtney Kardashian and Ryan Seacrest, have trumpeted their love of olive oil shots. 

But are they pouring on the praise for good reason? We asked experts what they think of drinking a shot glass full of straight olive oil.

The health benefits of olive oil

Everyone needs fat in their diet, despite the bad rap that sometimes swirls around it. It’s an essential way our body stores energy, and it helps us absorb important vitamins like A, D, and E. “Don’t sleep on fats,” says Abbey Sharp, a Toronto-based registered dietitian who often reacts to food trends on YouTube. A completely fat-free diet wouldn’t be healthy. “If you’re eating a big salad with all these beautiful vegetables, but you’re not adding any fat, you’re not going to be utilizing or absorbing all the nutrients.”

The key, she adds, is being mindful of portion size and eating the right types of fats. That includes prioritizing monounsaturated fats, which are found in plant foods like nuts, avocados, and vegetable oils. One of the best choices, experts agree, is extra virgin olive oil, which is the least processed—and healthiest—form of olive oil. “It’s rich in anti-inflammatory polyphenols and other antioxidants that can ultimately help reduce the risk of heart disease,” Sharp says. Among them: the antioxidants oleacein and oleocanthal, which are touted for their inflammation-reducing qualities.

Read More: The 10 Best and Worst Oils For Your Health

According to one study, people who consume more than half a tablespoon of olive oil per day have a 19% lower chance of dying from heart disease than those who rarely or never have olive oil. Research suggests it improves cardiovascular risk factors like obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes, while leading to better cognitive function. And a meta-analysis of 13,800 people found that regularly consuming olive oil may be associated with a decreased risk of developing breast cancer or cancer of the digestive system.

But that doesn’t mean it’s time to start chugging. Moderation matters. “Drinking it just absolutely misses the mark,” Sharp says. “We have no evidence that this way of consuming olive oil is any healthier than consuming it in a more enjoyable way—like on a salad or as part of a meal.”

Downsides to drinking it

There are 119 calories per tablespoon of olive oil, and a shot typically consists of three tablespoons. That’s 357 extra daily calories. “The thing people don’t realize is that no matter what type of fat they’re consuming, it all has the same calories,” says registered dietitian nutritionist Mindy Haar, assistant dean at New York Institute of Technology’s School of Health Professions. “A tablespoon of lard and a tablespoon of olive oil are equal in number of calories.”

If you’re trying to lose or maintain weight, she adds, it’s best to avoid drinking olive oil. Plus, you’re probably not getting any pleasure out of those calories: Olive oil isn’t exactly known for its can’t-put-it-down taste, which could make you seek out other tasty choices and overeat. While drinking olive oil won’t make everyone gain weight—someone who’s super active and running miles a day might not notice a change, Haar says—it could make a meaningful difference for others.

“I’ve had clients tell me they drink a whole cup of olive oil—and they’re struggling with weight loss,” says Michelle Routhenstein, a registered dietitian nutritionist in New York who specializes in heart health. “There’s more to the picture, but a cup of olive oil is really calorically dense.”

Read More: Why Your Diet Needs More Fermented Pickles

Even if you’re not worried about gaining weight, it’s worth noting that those extra calories won’t fill you up, Sharp points out. Let’s say you consume about 100 calories of olive oil: “It’s not very satiating, because there’s just not a lot of food there,” she says. “You can easily clock in the calories without actually having any kind of volume to help you fill up.” You’d be better off consuming 100 calories of a whole-food fat like avocado or nut butter, she adds—both of which supply healthy fats in addition to fiber and other nutrients.

Another potential downside: You might need to account for extra trips to the bathroom each day. Olive oil “lubricates the bowel,” Sharp says, especially for people with sensitive stomachs. People who drink it might experience loose stools and other unpleasant digestive symptoms.

Most importantly, there’s simply no evidence that drinking olive oil confers any special benefits. Take the TikTok-popular idea that it magically improves gut health. “In reality, oil is lacking the most important gut-friendly food component, which is fiber,” Sharp says. “Never in a million years would taking a shot of olive oil be my first recommendation for somebody who’s struggling with their digestion.”

Better ways to get your olive oil fix

As the U.S. Food and Drug Administration notes, consuming 1.5 tablespoons of olive oil per day can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease—but to achieve this benefit, one should use it to replace fats and oils that are higher in saturated fat, while making sure it doesn’t increase the total number of daily calories consumed.

Read More: Why Full-Fat Dairy May Be Healthier Than Low-Fat

Instead of drinking a shot of olive oil, aim to spread your intake out throughout the day, subbing it in for less healthy choices like sour cream and mayo. You could splash it on top of a baked potato, for example, instead of your usual toppings. Sharp likes using it in salad dressings—like vinaigrettes and marinades—and to improve the texture and flavor of naturally nourishing foods. She sometimes mixes olive oil with fresh garlic and herbs, and then drizzles it over roasted Brussels sprouts or cauliflower. “If some olive oil is going to help you eat your vegetables, add the olive oil to the vegetables,” she says. It can also deliver moisture and flavor to your favorite poultry, meat, and fish.

So put your shot glasses away. Drinking olive oil isn’t dangerous, Haar says, but it also doesn’t make sense. “Once a food rightfully gets a healthy aura, there’s this notion of, ‘Some is good. More is better,’” she says. “But that’s not always the case.”

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