Looking for an easy way to jump-start weight loss and improve health? “Just take two tablespoons of olive oil every morning,” suggests Chef Maria Loi, a nutrition expert and host of the PBS program The Life of Loi: Mediterranean Secrets. She recently made headlines by urging employees of her New York City restaurant, Loi Estiatorio, to test this simple trick from her native Greece. “I wanted to boost their immunity during the pandemic,” explains Loi, who also provided them three free Mediterranean meals a day. Folks promptly shed up to 50 pounds, got off prescription meds and reversed type 2 diabetes. “People were skeptical until they saw the results!” Read on to see how olive oil for weight loss can help you too.
What is olive oil?
As the name implies, olive oil is the liquid obtained by pressing the fruit of the olive tree. Its history can be traced back 6,000 years, with its origins in the Middle East before spreading to the Mediterranean, where it has evolved into a cultural mainstay, particularly in the Mediterranean diet. Olive oil comes in three main varieties:
1. Extra-virgin olive oil
Famously referred to as “EVOO” by celebrity chef Rachael Ray, extra-virgin olive oil is derived from the initial pressing of olives. It boasts a minimal acid content and typically comes at a higher price point than the two variants below. EVOO stands out with its vibrant green hue and a robust olive flavor, making it an excellent choice as a base for salad dressings.
2. Virgin olive oil
While slightly inferior in quality compared to EVOO, virgin olive oil is a solid option. It’s an unrefined version of olive oil obtained through the cold-pressing method. Although it has a lower smoke point, making it unsuitable for high-temperature cooking, it still works well for low-heat culinary applications.
3. Light olive oil
Light olive oil undergoes further refining to eliminate all color and flavor. However, it’s important to note that the term “light” in its name pertains only to its appearance and taste, not its calorie content. Light olive oil contains just as many calories as the other varieties.
As the least-processed variety, EVOO offers the biggest health benefits, including lowering heart disease risk, easing inflammation and improving blood pressure. (Click through for more on the benefits of olive oil.) And it’s a big reason why the Mediterranean diet works so well.
The power of the Mediterranean diet
Experts have long touted the benefits of a Mediterranean diet. Indeed, a prestigious panel of experts assembled by U.S. News & World Report named it the best overall diet for 2023, and it’s held a mainstay in the top five diets for over a decade. The Mediterranean diet refers to the lifestyle and eating habits of people in Greece, Italy, Spain, France and other areas surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. In addition to olive oil and other healthy fats like avocado, the diet features vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds, legumes, whole grains and fish, plus some poultry, eggs and dairy.
But how does this way of eating speed weight loss? First, Mediterranean diets are typically packed with satiating fiber and protein, key nutrients that help you eat fewer calories effortlessly. The Mediterranean diet also allows for a wide variety of foods and meals, which studies show can make it easier to stick with a diet. What’s more, a multi-university study found that Mediterranean dieters lose four times more weight than other healthy dieters. (Click through to learn more, plus get a Mediterranean diet meal plan.)
Olive oil for weight loss: How it speeds slimming
Olive oil is made up of 55% to 83% oleic acid, a fatty acid proven to work like a strong appetite suppressant. On top of that, research by Brown University’s Mary Flynn, RD, PhD, shows that women on an olive oil-rich diet can actually consume hundreds more calories a day and still lose significantly more weight than their counterparts on a traditional low-fat diet.
How is that possible? Studies suggests that both oleic acid and potent polyphenol antioxidants in olive oil enhance health. Blocking fat absorption, speeding metabolism and soothing internal inflammation are just the start. “The fats in olive oil are very healthy and they can help with insulin resistance, and it’s rich in antioxidants,” adds Tufts-trained nutrition expert Melina Jampolis, MD. For weight loss, she recommends enjoying 1 to 2 tablespoons daily as part as a healthy Mediterranean diet.
There’s even more proof of olive oil’s weight loss power: European researchers found that — while other oils proved useless — two tablespoons of olive oil a day alters cell membranes in a way that can significantly improve blood sugar control. That’s key since better blood sugar control leads to less fat storage, particularly in the belly. (And the benefits don’t just come from the inside out! Click through to learn how olive oil can improve skin appearance and how it can help you sleep at night.)
Chef Maria Loi: “The weight just fell off”
As a native of Greece, Chef Maria Loi is no stranger to olive oil’s healing powers. Her grandfather insisted his entire family take daily doses of olive oil like vitamins, and she’s done it her entire life — save for one hectic period. “When I stopped, I gained 40 pounds. But I went back to my roots, and the weight just fell off. Now I’m over 60, and my doctor says I’m as healthy as a 25-year-old!”
Chef Loi stepped in when health issues made it unsafe for family friend Nicola Sambazis to work as a server during the pandemic. She prepared all Nicola’s meals and suggested daily olive-oil shots. Deeply touched by Chef Loi’s kindness, Nicola still hesitated to take olive oil straight. “She said I could mix it in a smoothie, so that’s how I started,” recalls the New York native, 55. “My hunger was significantly reduced, so I ate less without feeling deprived.” Soon, Nicola was down three sizes, and her meds for diabetes, cholesterol and blood pressure were all reduced. “My doctors are excited and I feel amazing — more energy, less pain. I even smile more!”
Olive oil for weight loss success story: Jennifer Eells, 53
At 274 pounds and on the verge of diabetes, Jennifer Eells found herself watching YouTube videos by keto expert Dr. Eric Berg. “He talked a great deal about using olive oil to overcome blood-sugar issues, and it just made so much sense,” recalls the Ohio business exec, 53. Jennifer was soon enjoying spoonfuls of olive oil along many lower-carb Mediterranean favorites like salmon, greens and nuts. “I even made chicken fingers with coconut flour, seasoning and olive oil. I’ve never been much of a cook, but once I was using delicious ingredients and not stressing over calories, I started making great food!” (Click through to learn more about Dr. Berg’s keto diet.)
Jennifer shed 32 pounds in her first 30 days. Inspired by her early progress, she logged all her meals and daily blood-sugar numbers to help determine which foods were best for her body. “I noticed that olive oil kept my hunger down and energy up, so I was able to skip snacks and eat less without struggle,” she recalls. Jennifer ultimately shed 137 pounds, most of it in 11 months. “I was once a size 24, and now I feel incredible when I pull on my size 6 jeans. I’m no longer prediabetic. I’m never tired. I feel so blessed!”
How to use olive oil for weight loss
Chef Loi recommends starting the day with 2 Tbs. of olive oil on an empty stomach. You can also blend it with frozen fruit to create a mini smoothie. Click through to see how you can even add olive oil to your morning coffee! After that, “aim for natural foods, with vegetables, beans, seafood, herbs and more olive oil as main staples,” she says. Here’s one of her favorite recipes:
Easy Greek Soup
Chef Loi’s olive oil-kissed “fasolada” makes a ultra-satisfying meal.
- 3 (15 oz.) cans cannellini beans
- 3 medium tomatoes, grated
- 2 red onions, finely chopped
- 2 carrots, chopped
- ½ cup olive oil mixed with 1 tsp. tomato paste
- 2 celery ribs, chopped
- Flat leaf parsley, chopped, to taste
- In soup pot, mix beans and 8 cups lukewarm water; bring to a boil.
- Add tomatoes, onions, carrots and oil mixture; stir well. Simmer over medium heat for 30 minutes; stir occasionally.
- Add celery, parsley, plus salt and pepper to taste. Simmer 20 minutes more. Serves 4
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This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.