Hold the butter…pass the olive oil!
Fat gets a bad rap, but it is essential for our bodies to function properly.
However, some fats are friendlier to our bodies than others - so upgrading your diet to include the healthiest choices is a good idea. A new study on olive oil from the Harvard School of Public Health lends more evidence to this advice. Researchers found that individuals who consumed about half a tablespoon of olive oil per day experienced better health outcomes when compared with people who rarely or never consumed olive oil.
That doesn’t automatically mean that swapping out butter and mayo for olive oil will save your life. The people who ate more olive oil in this study also tended to eat a heart-healthier diet -- no surprise there.
Still, there’s plenty of evidence to support the idea that poly and monounsaturated fats, found in sea- and plant-based foods, are beneficial for cardiovascular health. These types of fats have been shown to help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, raise HDL (good) cholesterol and lower triglycerides. They are also anti-inflammatory. Conversely, saturated fats (which come from animal sources) tend to raise LDL (bad) cholesterol and elevate inflammatory markers. And inflammation is never good because it increases the risk for heart attack and stroke.
It makes sense, therefore, that olive oil could have positive health effects given that it’s composed primarily of those good monounsaturated fats.
For the new study, researchers analyzed data from 60,582 women and 31,801 men over 28 years. And they discovered that higher olive oil intake was associated with a 19% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease. And the benefits didn’t stop at heart health: They also noted a 17% lower risk of death from cancer, a 29% lower risk of death from neurodegenerative disease, and an 18% lower risk of death from respiratory disease.
Similarly, when people replaced margarine, butter, mayonnaise and dairy fat with the same amount of olive oil, researchers found an 8%-34% lower risk of death.
That’s good news for a lot of people, because the researchers also noted that olive oil is trendy! The data showed that olive oil consumption more than doubled from 1990 to 2010, from 1.6 grams per day to 4 grams per day. During the same period, margarine use dropped from 12 grams a day in 1990 to 4 grams a day in 2010. That’s great news because margarine is a trans fat, which has only negative health effects.
Olive oil isn’t the only healthy fat on the table: when swapped out with other plant-based fats olive oil didn’t show a difference in impacting mortality, the researchers noted. (Read more about coconut oil here.) At Step One Foods, we load up our products with healthy fats from chia seeds, walnuts and flaxseed - so you should be covered.
But even if you eat our products regularly, this study is still a good reminder to toss the mayo and reach for the olive oil instead. And for heaven’s sake – just throw out the margarine!
Get heart health tips and articles like this, delivered right to your email.
New articles every week.