9. Olive Oil
Olive oil is the pressed oil from olives – in its pure form, it is known as extra virgin olive oil. If it’s not extra virgin, it means it has been refined or diluted with cheaper oils and is therefore not as good for you. Extra virgin olive oil is high in antioxidants and contains vitamins E and K plus the good fatty acids. Olive oil has its own anti-inflammatory properties, which can also help keep your arteries strong and working well.
The beauty of olive oil is that it is so much tastier than most of its alternatives and can be added to your diet in so many ways. It is also a great substitute for some of the worst offenders in our diet, such as polyunsaturated fats and butter. Did you know that in many Middle Eastern countries, olive oil is the go-to spread for bread and toast rather than butter? It is also so much easier to spread on a cold day and is great for dipping your bread into with a little bit of balsamic vinegar added.
Even though it is a “good” fat, it is still a fat which should be eaten in moderation. While the benefits of olive oil in your diet is known from population studies, scientists in the laboratory still don’t fully understand why olive oil is good for your heart. However, there does seem to be signs that the combination of olive oil and green vegetables creates a molecule called “nitro fatty acid” which can relax blood vessels and reduce blood pressure.
The other benefit of olive oil is that it is so easy to combine with other foods which benefit the heart, such as asparagus, garlic or even broccoli. If you’re like me, thinking about the Mediterranean diet takes you to Italy, which has enough wonderful recipes to keep you going for years. Just remember that each and every country around the Med has its own wonderful tastes to discover, many of which include olive oil.