Olive Oil for a Healthy Heart
One source of healthy dietary fat is olive oil. It is used in Mediterranean diet as a key constituent and is obtained from olive, which is a crop of the Mediterranean basin. American diet consists of unhealthy fat in a large proportion in the form of butter, cheese, mayonnaise, etc. This is why, the incidence of cardiovascular diseases is more in America as compared to Mediterranean countries. However these days, awareness about incorporating healthy fat in the food has triggered the use of olive oil in the diet. There are numerous benefits and side effects of olive oil. It can be used for cooking and seasoning. There are various types of it available in the market. The extra virgin olive oil is the best one and is recommended for people aiming at reducing high cholesterol levels.
Chemical Composition of Olive Oil
To understand how olive oil and cholesterol levels are related, let’s have a quick look at its chemical constituents. It contains:
-Free fatty acids
-Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
Olive oil comprises mainly triacylglycerol molecules. Different types of fatty acids are attached to a triacylglycerol molecule. These include oleic acid, linoleic acid, palmitic acid, stearic acid, and linolenic acid. Oleic acid is the major fatty acid making up around 55-83% of olive oil. It is a monounsaturated fatty acid i.e., a healthy dietary fat. Including olive oil in the diet increases the proportion of healthy dietary fat in the body.
Does Olive Oil Reduce Cholesterol?
The chemical composition of olive oil makes it clearly evident that this oil has more amount of healthy dietary fat as compared to harmful fat. Human heart is supplied with blood through coronary arteries. Rise in bad cholesterol level in the body results in deposition of fats in coronary arteries as well. This causes blockage in the arteries due to which the heart has to pump harder, in order to push blood through the blockage, so that it can reach to various body parts. This exerts pressure on the cardiac muscles and results in hypertension or rise in blood pressure. Rising cholesterol levels may also lead to serious heart diseases.
Use of olive oil helps in reducing cholesterol level in the body to some extent. The monounsaturated fatty acids present in it help in reducing the total cholesterol level and low density lipoprotein level in the body. Also, monounsaturated fatty acids do not lower the level of high density lipoprotein which is beneficial to the body, contrary to polyunsaturated fatty acids which may reduce HDL cholesterol. In this way, olive oil increases the content of healthy fat in the body and reduces unwanted fat. It must be kept in mind that using olive oil along with foods containing saturated fat will not reduce the bad fat content. One should replace unhealthy fat with it to gain its benefits.
The Food and Drug Administration allows the manufacturers to mention in the label that, “some evidence suggest that use of two tablespoons of olive oil daily may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease due to the presence of monounsaturated fats in the oil”.
For those who are busy shedding kilos of weight, don’t forget that olive oil also has the same amount of calories as found in other oils. So watch out for the portion of oil you consume. If you are someone who is at a high risk of developing coronary artery disease due to high cholesterol level in the body, it isn’t a bad idea to replace unhealthy fat in your diet with healthy fat in the form of olive oil, reduce the cholesterol level, and have a healthy heart!