But first … olive oil?
This Mediterranean diet staple is having a moment. Olive oil is a much-loved topping on trendy salads and avocado toast, but now some TikTokers are opting for a more generous pour. In fact, they’re downing shots of the stuff for its purported health benefits.
In one video with 3.5 million views, @oliveoilqueen claims that drinking olive oil reduces her bloating, among other positive effects. Others, like @eliyahmashiach, prefer a tablespoon in the morning for digestion. Some, like @back2basics4all, mix it with lemon juice.
Some celebrities love it, too. Kourtney Kardashian knocks back a tablespoon every other day as part of her morning routine. Model Agatha Relota Luczo takes a shot of her own blend, followed by lemon water and coffee, reports Goop. Producer Shonda Rhimes told WSJ. Magazine that she drinks olive oil with breakfast — a tip she reportedly picked up from Beyoncé.
But despite the buzz, the origins of drinking olive oil are hard to trace. Some personal accounts suggest that it is an age-old practice in Mediterranean regions; supposedly, a glass of olive oil served as breakfast for long-living Greeks on the island of Crete.
Are the benefits worth a shot (literally), or is this a short-lived fad?
What Are the Potential Health Benefits of Drinking Olive Oil?
Olive oil is a powerful ingredient: It’s got anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, per an article published in Cells in 2020.
But scientific data doesn’t suggest that you need to throw back olive oil like a shot. “There isn’t strong research to suggest that any of the potential benefits couldn’t be achieved through incorporating olive oil into recipes, rather than drinking it straight up,” says Maddie Pasquariello, a registered dietitian nutritionist in private practice in Brooklyn.
Hundreds of studies have examined the potential benefits of olive oil as used in food preparation. And yet few have studied the effects of actually drinking the so-called “liquid gold” — a moniker that Greek poet Homer reportedly bestowed on the pantry staple. The only nod to the practice is a brief reference in an article published in Scientific Reports in 2021 that noted that drinking extra-virgin olive oil “is rare among consumers,” perhaps due to its pungent, bitter aftertaste.
“If you already eat a balanced diet, it’s unlikely that you need to be adding more oil to achieve benefits for health,” says Pasquariello. “If you’re already using high-quality olive oil in your cooking, and using it in the right preparations, you’re getting the benefits.”
Heavy-hitting benefits, to be exact. “Including olive oil in the diet has been linked to improved heart health and reduced risk of certain types of cancers, as well as promoting satiety and overall digestive health,” says Emma Laing, PhD, RDN, the director of dietetics at the University of Georgia and a national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
In a study published in 2018 in The New England Journal of Medicine, participants had fewer cardiovascular events when they followed a Mediterranean diet, which is rich in vegetables, fruits, lean meats, whole grains, and — yes — plenty of olive oil.
Consuming olive oil in moderation as part of a Mediterranean diet may also help lower breast cancer risk, according to a review published in January 2022 in Molecules.
Finally, this oil is beneficial for the gut, where it helps the body absorb fat-soluble vitamins (like vitamins A, D, E, and K) in other foods, says Dr. Laing: “When you add olive oil to your salad, for example, you’re helping your body absorb these fat-soluble vitamins more efficiently.” It can also contribute to a healthy gut microbiome, Laing notes; according to an article published in Nutrition Reviews in 2021, consuming 3 to 4 tablespoons of olive oil daily may stimulate beneficial microorganisms in the gut microbiome.
One caveat: Although olive oil has benefits for gut health, claims that it can help reduce bloating are anecdotal. “It might work for some people, but not everyone,” Laing notes. “This is because we all don’t have the same eating pattern, nor do we have the same factors that also influence digestion — like stress, hormonal fluctuations, medications, food intolerances, and physical activity patterns.”
What Are the Potential Side Effects of Drinking Olive Oil?
“Drinking small amounts of olive oil should not cause harm or elicit negative side effects for most people,” says Laing. Some might experience gastrointestinal discomfort, since consuming any unfamiliar food in excess can cause stomach distress. If you have a health condition or you’re taking a medication that alters your absorption of dietary fat (such as a lipase inhibitor), speak to your doctor before making changes to your diet, she adds.
Another potential concern is caloric density. “Fat sources like olive oil contain about 40 calories in a teaspoon,” says Pasquariello. “So, if total caloric intake is something you’re concerned about, then foods high in fat can be a higher source of calories.”
While dietitians don’t generally recommend drinking olive oil, there are some cases where it could be appropriate, says Kelly Kennedy, RDN, staff nutritionist at Everyday Health. “Olive oil shots might be helpful for those who are struggling to get enough calories each day, for instance for those undergoing cancer treatment,” she explains. “In this case, a shot could serve as a concentrated source of calories and healthy fats even when appetite is low.” (That said, the same is true of nut butters, avocado, and calorie-dense smoothies, which are generally more palatable.)
How to Add Olive Oil to Your Diet
The recommended daily intake of olive oil is one and a half tablespoons, according to a 2018 statement by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, though some studies report positive effects with a few more tablespoons than that.
To increase your olive oil intake, try replacing saturated fats (like butter) with olive oil, says Laing: “The 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that individuals limit saturated fats to fewer than 10 percent of calories per day, yet 70 to 75 percent of adults exceed this limit.”
Making the swap is a heart-healthy choice, according to a study published in 2020 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. The study suggested that replacing 5 grams of saturated fat (like margarine, butter, mayonnaise, or dairy fat) with the same amount of olive oil (about a teaspoon) each day was associated with a lower risk of coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease.
From there, the cooking possibilities are endless. “Salads, stir-fries, roasted vegetables, chicken skewers, and fish dishes are some of my favorite easy ways to enjoy olive oil,” says Pasquariello. “It’s great for raw preparations, as well as panfrying and sautés, but wouldn’t be ideal for deep-frying or cooking at extremely high heat.”
Yes, olive oil is awesome for your health. No, you don’t have to drink it.
While there is some anecdotal evidence about the benefits of olive oil shots, there are no formal studies on whether drinking olive oil is more beneficial than eating it with your meals or using it to cook.
In general, health experts recommend using olive oil in place of saturated fat sources, but keep in mind that it is calorie-dense. Check with a doctor or registered dietitian to see how much olive oil is right for you, so that you don’t accidentally derail your weight loss or weight maintenance efforts. Everyone’s suggested intake is going to be different, depending on their goals.