The Health Benefits Of Olive Oil And Balsamic Vinegar

Olive oil and balsamic vinegar are both staples in the Mediterranean diet, which is a plant-forward, heart-healthy diet that emphasizes whole foods and limits highly processed foods.

The Mediterranean diet is inspired by the eating patterns seen in the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. It is recommended for heart health as it is seen that some of these countries, including France, Greece and Italy, have lower rates of mortality from heart disease compared to other regions of the world (1).

In this article we will look at the health benefits of consuming olive oil and balsamic vinegar and how to incorporate them both into your own heart-healthy diet!

Key Takeaways

  • Rich in monounsaturated fats, vitamins E and K, and antioxidants, olive oil supports heart health by lowering LDL cholesterol and raising HDL cholesterol, reducing inflammation, supporting brain health, aiding digestion, and potentially reducing the risk of certain cancers.
  • Balsamic vinegar, low in calories, contains antioxidants and acetic acid, which may stabilize blood sugar levels, promote healthy digestion, aid in weight loss, combat oxidative stress, promote skin health, and potentially contribute to heart health.
  • Opt for extra virgin olive oil over refined oil, stored in dark glass bottles. Look for authentic balsamic vinegar labeled “Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale” with a DOP/PDO stamp, traditionally made in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna and Modena regions.
  • Incorporating both olive oil and balsamic vinegar into your diet maximizes antioxidant intake and enhances flavor, offering versatile options for salad dressings, drizzling over cooked dishes, marinades, dips, and sauces.

Nutrient Composition Of Olive Oil

Monounsaturated Fats

Olive oil is high in monounsaturated fats – specifically oleic acid, which is actually the most common monounsaturated fat found in our diets.

Monounsaturated fats have a structure that contains one double bond. They are a type of unsaturated fat, which are considered to be the “healthy” fats. All unsaturated fats contain at least one double bond, which is what differentiates them from the saturated, “unhealthy” fats that do not have any double bonds.


Olive oil contains vitamins E and K, both of which have antioxidant properties.

Vitamin E is also important for your immune system and vision (2), and vitamin K is needed for blood clotting and bone health (3).   

Antioxidants And Phenolic Compounds

Olive oil is high in polyphenols, which are compounds that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which can help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.

The above vitamins (E and K) are also some of the antioxidants found in olive oil. Some of the other antioxidants include secoiridoids, lignans and flavones, all of which have similar anti-inflammatory benefits.

Health Benefits Of Olive Oil

An infographic on olive oil and balsamic vinegar with their respective health benefits listed.

Cardiovascular Health

The monounsaturated fat in olive oil can impact cholesterol levels in the blood.

Cholesterol plays a role in the development of atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a condition in which the arteries are narrowed due to a buildup, which can increase the risk for heart disease and stroke.

LDL cholesterol, the bad cholesterol, can contribute to this buildup found in atherosclerosis.

HDL cholesterol, on the other hand, is known as the good cholesterol, as it helps to remove LDL cholesterol from the arteries to bring it back to the liver where it will then be broken down and used.

Monounsaturated fats may help to lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol, contributing to heart health by lowering the risk of atherosclerosis and therefore heart disease (5). I have listed olive oil as one of the top 39 foods to lower cholesterol.

Anti-inflammatory Properties

The nutrients found in olive oil – oleic acid, vitamin E, vitamin K and other antioxidants can all have potential anti-inflammatory effects.

As antioxidants, these nutrients play a role in preventing oxidative stress, which is a state where there are more free radicals than antioxidants in the body, which can cause some serious damage.

Free radicals are highly reactive compounds that harm cells and tissues and can contribute to the development of various diseases and increase inflammation if oxidative stress is not prevented.

Free radicals are byproducts of some metabolic reactions that occur in the body, however, other lifestyle factors like smoking, can increase the number of free radicals someone has.

Consuming antioxidants is important for preventing oxidative stress which in turn may help to lower the risk of heart disease, PAD, stroke, stent placement, diabetes, and other chronic diseases, as well as the chronic inflammation that often accompanies these diseases.

Monounsaturated fats have also been suggested to help with inflammation, which is why they may also play a role in reducing the risk of chronic disease (6).

Supports Brain Health

Recent studies have suggested that olive oil may help to lower the risk of dementia and support brain health (7). It is recommended in the MIND diet. This is most likely due to its antioxidant properties, as well as being a part of an overall healthy eating pattern like the Mediterranean diet.


It has been suggested that polyphenols, like those found in olive oil, can be beneficial for our gut microbiota which is found in the large intestine (8). Keeping our gut microbiota healthy is important for our digestion and for preventing constipation. 


Some studies show that following the Mediterranean diet, and consuming olive oil, are related to a reduced risk of certain types of cancer. One study in particular suggested olive oil’s relation to reduced breast cancer and colorectal cancer risk (9).

Choosing The Right Olive Oil

When choosing olive oil, it is important to look for extra virgin olive oil, as opposed to refined olive oil.

This is because refined olive oil has been treated with heat, which can compromise its antioxidant content.

Extra virgin olive oil on the other hand, is not treated with heat, but rather is cold-pressed, which helps to maintain its antioxidant content.

The olive oil should also be stored in a dark glass bottle, rather than a plastic bottle, which will help prevent light from getting inside, also helping to preserve the antioxidant content.

Image of Veronica Rouse with Free 7 day heart healthy meal plan freebie.

Nutrient Content Of Balsamic Vinegar


Balsamic vinegar is made using “grape must”, which is essentially grape juice that still contains the skin and seeds from the grapes. Grapes contain antioxidants which, as we discussed earlier with olive oil, can help alleviate the damage caused by free radicals and oxidative stress.

Low In Calories

Balsamic vinegar is low in calories, which makes it a great ingredient to use to add distinct flavour to your dishes without the additional calories. 

Acetic Acid

To actually make balsamic vinegar, the “grape must” undergo fermentation. Through the fermentation process, acetic acid is formed. Balsamic vinegar contains 6% acetic acid.

Acetic acid has various health benefits which will be discussed in the next section.

Health Benefits Of Balsamic Vinegar

Stabilizing Blood Sugar Levels

It has been suggested that the acetic acid found in balsamic vinegar may help to stabilize blood sugar levels after a meal by increasing insulin action (10).

Insulin is the hormone in our bodies that has the job of moving sugar out of the blood and into our cells, where it will then be used for energy by the cell. If insulin action is increased, this means that blood sugar levels will decrease.

Healthy Digestion

Balsamic vinegar may contribute to healthy digestion because it contains probiotics.

Probiotics are live bacteria or yeasts found in some foods that help to promote healthy digestion and contribute to our gut microbiota.

Weight Loss

As we mentioned before, balsamic vinegar is low in calories and therefore can be used to add flavor to dishes without adding too many extra calories.

It has also been suggested that vinegar may delay gastric emptying, which can keep you feeling full for longer (11). This may help with weight loss by preventing overeating since you may not feel hungry as quickly after eating a meal.

Combat Oxidative Stress

The antioxidants found in balsamic vinegar work the same way as those found in olive oil. They help to combat oxidative stress caused by free radicals, which helps protect cells and tissues from damage and helps to prevent chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes.

Skin Health

The acetic acid found in balsamic vinegar has antimicrobial and antioxidant properties that may help to keep skin healthy as well (12).

Heart Health

As mentioned before, the antioxidants in balsamic vinegar can help prevent oxidative stress, which in turn may reduce the risk of heart disease.

Additionally, one study found that consuming vinegar lowered LDL cholesterol and the risk of atherosclerosis in rabbits (13). However, more research needs to be done on the impact it has in humans.

Choosing Authentic Balsamic Vinegar

Balsamic vinegar is traditionally made with grapes grown in the Emilia-Romagna and Modena regions of Italy. When looking for balsamic vinegar, there are a couple things to look out for to ensure that it has been made authentically.

First, it will be labeled with “Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale”, and secondly, it will have a DOP/PDO stamp. These both ensure the quality of the balsamic vinegar.

Benefits of Combining Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar

As we have seen, both olive oil and balsamic vinegar have many health benefits on their own. We can also use them together in many different ways such as:

  • Making salad dressings
  • Drizzling over cooked vegetables or proteins
  • Marinades for meat, poultry, or fish
  • Making dips and sauces

Consuming both olive oil and balsamic vinegar can help to maximize your antioxidant intake and will enhance the flavor profile of your dishes!

Final Thoughts

Both olive oil and balsamic vinegar are key ingredients in the Mediterranean diet and offer various health benefits individually, however, they are also great when paired together!

I encourage you to try some of the suggestions above or find recipes that can incorporate olive oil and balsamic vinegar into your own heart-healthy diet!

An image of Veronica The Heart Dietitian cutting an apple, and an image of a book. The text on the image and book reads "FREE 4 steps to a happy heart without restriction ebook".

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