Currently, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. It might seem like gloomy information, but we’re also learning more and more about what can help keep our heart healths as we age. Recently, a team of scientists discovered that as little as half a tablespoon of olive oil per day can help you avoid cardiovascular disease.
We’ve long heard about the many health benefits of olive oil, and now, a team of researchers has set out to determine the long-term effects of having it in your diet. For the study, the researchers used data from two other studies including over 100,000 people over the course of 24 years.
Within the group, only individuals who did not have cancer, heart disease, or had a stroke at the onset were included. Subjects’ diets were assessed using a questionnaire in the beginning and then every four years after. During the follow up, 10,240 cases of cardiovascular disease were documented, including 6,270 cases of coronary heart disease and 3,970 stroke cases.
At the end of the study, the researchers found that compared to those who did not have olive oil in their diets, those who did had a significantly lower risk of cardiovascular difficulties. In fact, they found that as little as half a tablespoon of olive oil per day lowered subjects’ risk as much as 15 percent! Even further, they determined that replacing one tablespoon of margarine, butter, mayonnaise, or dairy fat with the equivalent amount of olive oil was associated with a five to seven percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
This may not come as a huge surprise, as diets like the Mediterranean diet, which are packed with olive oil, have been shown to decrease your cardiovascular risk. Why? Well, there are a few reasons: For one, olive oil contains omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids which, when consumed in the right amounts, have shown to benefit heart health. What’s more, olive oil is composed mainly of a monounsaturated fat called oleic acid, which has shown to reduce inflammation (often a marker of heart disease) as well as improve cholesterol levels!
There are a few things to note before you start going crazy with the olive oil, though. Quality matters: When you can, choose extra virgin cold-pressed olive oil, which hasn’t been processed and still contains all of those vital nutrients you need. The best way to consume your EVOO is raw. Drizzle a little bit over your meals or turn it into a delicious homemade salad dressing! For an EVOO we love, try this one from Colavita ($15.52, Amazon).
A healthier heart is just half a tablespoon away!
This story originally appeared on our sister site, First for Women.