Olive oil, once reserved for “serious” cooks and restaurant chefs, is now used in more home kitchens because of the resounding support among health experts for this heart-healthy oil. In addition to what it does, what it doesn’t do is a key factor in its benefits and popularity. Take advantage of all of the benefits this Mediterranean staple offers as part of a healthy living plan.
Healthy Fat Substitute
Olive oil is a monounsaturated fat, as opposed to saturated and trans fats, which are direct contributors to obesity and poor heart health. Many cooked dishes require fat for flavor, body and to prevent foods from sticking to pots and pans. Using monounsaturated fats gives you the flavor and cooking benefits of other fats without their negative effects on health. Check out our article on cooking with healthy fats for more information and tips.
Using olive oil not only reduces the ill effects of trans and saturated fats on cholesterol, but also adds positive benefits to fighting unhealthy cholesterol levels. Trans fats raise low-density lipid blood counts (the “bad cholesterol” that can lead to atherosclerosis, or a “clogging” and hardening of the arteries). Replacing saturated and trans fats with olive oil reduces this risk. In addition, olive oil decreases low-density lipid numbers; as little as 2 tbsp. per day of olive oil may reduce the risk of heart disease, according to the Food and Drug Administration.
According to a study published in “Nutrition Journal,” researchers found that diets relying on olive oil as its main source of fat were effective at reducing weight because they reduce appetite, increase metabolism efficiency and improve blood sugar levels. Their conclusion was that a diet of this type (specifically, the Mediterranean diet) was a safe an effective way of losing weight.
Lower Blood Pressure
Another benefit of olive oil is that it helps reduce high blood pressure, according to the Mayo Clinic and other health experts. While no definitive research has found the exact link between olive oil and reduced blood pressure, antioxidants known as polyphenols, found in olive oil but not other oils, like sunflower, for example, may be responsible for improved blood pressure levels.