5 Reasons Why Olive Oil is the Ultimate Healthy Fat

5 Reasons Why Olive Oil is the Ultimate Healthy Fat

Whether in Rome or at home, do as the Romans do: Make olive oil a staple in your diet. If you already eat the Mediterranean way, you know that olive oil not only tastes good but also is good for you. It's an amazing source of antioxidants, capable of dousing inflammation, defending cells from menacing molecules, and more. Here's the latest on this superhero food.

It cuts your cancer risk
Olive oil's cancer-preventing powers are legendary. Which substances get the credit? Polyphenols, for one. These potent plant antioxidants protect against cancer-causing cell damage. But it also looks like the oil's monounsaturated fat has anticancer effects, which means olive oil packs quite a one-two punch! Need some proof? Check the lower rates of breast, ovarian, and prostate cancer among Southern Europeans, whose diets flow with olive oil, compared with their neighbors from the north.

It helps your heart
There's virtually nothing better than the big "double O" when it comes to your heart. Olive oil ups good HDL cholesterol, lowers bad LDL cholesterol, and reduces other harmful blood fats (triglycerides). That's not all. It also reduces inflammation, another contributor to cardiovascular disease.

It keeps your blood pressure down
Speaking of your heart, how's your blood pressure? If it's above 115/76, you need to get it down. And yes, olive oil can play a role, helping enough to reduce the need for daily meds. Those potent polyphenols appear to dilate arteries, which lowers blood pressure. (Always choose extra-virgin olive oil, by the way—its minimal processing preserves the maximum number of antioxidants and heat-sensitive vitamins.)

It helps you lose weight
"Great taste, less filling"—that light-beer slogan rings true for olive oil. Ounce for ounce, all oils have the same calories, but olive oil has a fuller flavor, so less is needed for tantalizing taste. Plus, research shows that overweight people who eat a diet with some fat—including olive oil—are more likely to shed pounds than the people who slash fat. Why? Oil's rich flavor makes it easier to stick with the program.

It eases your aching head
If you're prone to headaches and wary of overdoing ibuprofen, try routinely dressing your salad or veggies in extra-virgin olive oil. It contains oleocanthal, a natural compound that, like ibuprofen, blocks pain-producing and inflammatory substances—but without the risk of stomach upset. Although daily oleocanthal doses aren't the painkiller's complete equal, they could lower your risk for heart disease, cancer, arthritis, and possibly Alzheimer's.

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