(NaturalHealth365) It’s no secret that diet choices, particular when it comes to fats in oils, play a major role in the prevention of health complications associated with cardiovascular disease. Numerous studies have shown that diets utilizing olive oil, in particular, are beneficial to slowing or stopping the advancement of heart disease, heart attack and stroke. For example, a study published in 2012 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that regular consumption of olive oil resulted in as much as a 44 percent reduction in death associated with cardiovascular disease.
Consistent results revealing the heart-healthy benefits of olive oil may have you stocking up on this Mediterranean favorite. But just like any other type of fat, not all olive oils are created equal. If you are seeking to optimize the benefits of including olive oil in your daily diet, there are a few things you need to know about this versatile oil.
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What exactly are the benefits of organic extra virgin olive oil?
To understand what can make one olive oil better than another, it’s useful to understand how olive oil is beneficial to your cardiovascular system in the first place. It was once a common school of thought that the cardiovascular benefits of olive oil consumption came about because of the oil’s high monosaturated fatty acid, especially oleic acid. Oleic acid was already known to be a factor in increasing high-density lipoprotein (HDL)), or good cholesterol while reducing the amount of LDL, or bad cholesterol.
The only problem with this time-worn hypothesis is that other oils also high in oleic acid, such as canola oil, do not offer the cardiovascular benefits of olive oil. This suggests that oleic acid is not the ‘magic bullet’ it was once thought to be and that some other attribute of olive oil must be behind its heart-healthy advantages.
So what is behind olive oil’s unique ability to prevent cardiovascular disease?
More recent studies suggest that it is actually the minor components of olive oil, particularly polyphenols, that likely contribute to the oil’s benefits for a healthy heart. Although it makes up a mere 1 to 2 percent of the content of virgin olive oil, polyphenols – and more specifically, hydroxytyrosol – have been shown to play a critical role in cardiovascular health.
In fact, it’s believed that one of the main routes that olive oil contributes to improved cardiovascular health is through its ability to reduce LDL cholesterol, based on studies of olive oil’s effects on cardiovascular disease. More recent studies have shown that the polyphenol content in olive oil plays the most critical role in accomplishing a healthy blood lipid profile.
How to choose the best olive oil
There are a number of ways you can enhance the benefits of including heart-healthy olive oil in your diet to pave the way to a healthy heart, but one of the most crucial is to being with a high-quality oil. Choose extra virgin olive oil, which contains olives superior in polyphenol content. When olive oil is further refined, many polyphenols are lost.
It’s not unusual to find the polyphenol content plummet from as much as 350 mg/kg found in extra virgin olive oil to as little as just 2.7 mg/kg in oil that has been further refined.
In addition to choosing extra virgin varieties, buy only high-quality brands. If you do not have the luxury of living near an olive oil mill or purchasing your olive oil from a market that enables you to taste before buying, choose a vendor known to perform very stringent quality control. And remember, unlike a fine wine, olive oil does not get better with age.
Once you have selected an oil, try to use it in low-heat cooking or raw on salads daily. In nearly all studies showing the benefits of olive oil, the study subjects used olive oil on a daily basis.
But don’t give up if you find it difficult to switch completely. Even a gradual or partial increase in the amount of extra virgin olive oil in your diet can prove beneficial to your heart.