Olive oil is the main staple in Mediterranean and Italian dishes. Beyond giving food an aromatic flavor, it’s also good for your body and, more specifically, your heart health. Learn of the many health perks of olive oil and why it should be a regular part of your diet.
How Does Olive Oil Benefit Your Heart?
A study published in the American Heart Association revealed that consuming half a tablespoon or more olive oil every day lowered the risk of cardiovascular disease by 15%. So, what makes olive oil so good for heart health?
Olive oil, of course, comes from olives, which are high in a class of antioxidants known as polyphenols. This antioxidant prevents the oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol. Cholesterol oxidation is linked to blood clots, a precursor for strokes and heart attacks.
In addition, olive oil is also an excellent source of monounsaturated fatty acids. Studies show that consumption of this “good” fat has been linked to reduced blood pressure and increased HDL (good) cholesterol.
Other Health Benefits of Olive Oil
What other ways do olive oil benefit you? A 2019 study suggests that olive oil may boost memory and also offset the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, olive oil may reduce pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis. Research shows that the compounds in the oil may reduce C-reactive protein levels, an inflammatory marker linked to joint and inflammatory pain.
Finally, olive oil consumption may actually make you happier! In an Australian study known as SMILES, subjects were divided into two groups. One group took part in a social support class. The other group took part in the support class in addition to receiving dietary guidance that included an olive oil-rich Mediterranean diet.
The result? A third of the group that received both the support class and diet counseling experienced a remission in depression, versus just 8% from the support-only group.
What Kind of Olive Oil Is Best?
It’s best to go with extra virgin olive oil; look for “cold-pressed” stamped on the label. Cold-press is a chemical- and additive-free process. There’s also no heating involved in the production. Heating can destroy nutrients and minerals.
With plain olive oil or virgin olive oil, makers use a heating process to extract additional oil from the pomace (crushed olives). While not a must, try to aim for an organic brand to ensure the olives are non-GMO. It doesn’t matter if the brand is local or is imported.
How to Incorporate Olive Oil into Your Diet
There are various ways to incorporate olive oil into your meals.
- Use it as a dipping sauce for bread
- Add it to your salads. Olive oil is a healthier alternative to many dressings, often containing unhealthy partially-hydrogenated oils.
- Sprinkle it on your pasta dishes
- Drizzle it over sauteed vegetables
- Add a small amount to your sandwich in lieu of mayonnaise or butter
You can also cook with olive oil. It’s a healthier alternative to vegetable or corn oil. Contrary to belief, olive oil actually remains stable and holds up well to high heat. Feel free to use the oil when heating any number of your favorite dishes.
Read also: Heart Healthy Grilling Tips
Make Olive Oil a Part of Your Diet for Heart Health
With the studies to back it up, olive oil is one staple to add to your diet for long-term benefits. However, various lifestyle factors contribute to your overall heart health. As you get older, your routine should also include periodic visits to a licensed cardiologist.
At CT Cardio, Dr. Corwin A. Thomas and his team can provide pulmonary testing and dietary/exercise advice for maintaining healthy heart function.