The Mediterranean diet has long been lauded as the key to good health, with olive oil taking the throne as the staple source of dietary fat – and for good reason. Here's how it can improve blood pressure and why we love the stuff.
Research shows olive oil reduces the risk of cancer and cardiovascular diseases, and we’ve long known about its anti-inflammatory properties – but its blood-pressure lowering abilities are somewhat less widely known. With Ikaria in Greece making it to the blue zone list of long-living populations, and members of the island regularly surpassing their hundredth birthdays – while staying mostly free of age-related diseases like dementia – it’s no surprise that one of their pantry staples could lower blood pressure levels.
One study found that olive oil slashed the needs for blood pressure medication by almost 50%. Considering that high blood pressure is a major precursor for heart disease and stroke, it’s promising to see research backing the healthful benefits of this nutritional powerhouse.
But that’s not the only reason to add this nutritional powerhouse to your shopping basket – here are 3 reasons to get some olive oil into your diet.
Without essential fatty acids our bodies wouldn’t be able to process vitamins A, D and E – all of which are required for a healthy body, from our eyesight to basic skin and muscle repair processes.
Olive oil happens to have these healthy fats in spades – a notable one is oleic acid, which studies have found to prevent insulin resistance and reduce the risk for heart disease. Healthy fats also keep us fuller for longer, especially those which are known as medium chain triglycerides – these have been found to decrease appetite and curb sugar cravings.
These same phenols that lower blood pressure also have a host of other benefits – from reducing inflammation and strengthening the gut microbiome to fighting off pathogens. The reason? Antioxidants. These antioxidants work to reduce inflammation and drastically cut your chances of developing metabolic diseases and autoimmune conditions. Another benefit of these antioxidants is reduced cholesterol levels and, in turn, a reduced risk for heart disease.
If that’s not convincing enough, researchers found that just 3.5 tablespoons of olive oil provided the pain relief effect of 10% of a dose of ibuprofen. Pretty impressive for a humble condiment.
Have you ever heard that handy tip about washing your wooden chopping board with olive oil instead of water? There’s a reason for this – and it’s not just because wood doesn’t do well with frequent water exposure – it’s the antibacterial properties in olive oil that make it an effective cleaning agent. But it’s not just the chopping block that benefits from this, adding it to your salad can give you some powerful antibiotic protection. This healthful oil may even inhibit the growth of helicobacter pylori – the bacterium that causes stomach ulcers. One study found that extra virgin olive oil combats 8 strains of H. pylori– including some which are antibiotic-resistant. Not a bad reason to add a bottle to your shopping trolley!
If you’re looking to reap these blood pressure-lowering and anti-inflammatory benefits of olive oil, we recommend keeping your sugar intake to a limit. The reason is simple: sugar is like the anti-olive oil – it’ll raise your blood pressure, blood sugars and cause inflammation. Appetising, we know.
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