Eating a Mediterranean diet can help boost the function of your “good” cholesterol.
Chalk up one more health benefit to olive oil: Eating a Mediterranean diet can help boost the function of your “good” cholesterol, research from the American Heart Association suggests.
In the study, people at high risk of heart disease followed one of three diets for one year: a Mediterranean diet enriched with 4 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil each day, a Mediterranean diet enriched with a handful of nuts each day, and a control diet that focused on cutting processed foods and sweets. Both Mediterranean diets emphasized fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, along with moderate amounts of fish and protein.
Afterwards, the researchers discovered that following both Mediterranean diets improved the function of the participants’ HDL, or good cholesterol, levels—though the effect was much greater in those eating extra olive oil. (These are the best and worst foods for your cholesterol.)
Specifically, the olive oil-based Mediterranean diet improved a process called reverse cholesterol transport, or the removal of cholesterol from the plaque in your arteries to your liiver, the researchers reported in a press release. From there, the cholesterol could then be eliminated from your body.
The diet also helped relax blood vessels, which keeps them open and helps blood flow through them smoothly. Both of these factors can help reduce your risk of heart disease.
The researchers aren’t exactly sure why the Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil was more beneficial than the one emphasizing nuts, but they believe the antioxidants in the oil may help improve the function of HDL cholesterol, Medscape reported.
More research needs to be done to see if similar improvements can be seen in healthy people, too.