Your body needs some fat to function properly. While some types of fat, such as trans fat and saturated fat can be harmful, other types of fat, such as polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, can actually help you. If you have high cholesterol, you may be able to lower it by adjusting your diet and eating more foods that contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, such as olives and olive oil.
Your body produces several forms of cholesterol. LDL, or low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, can be harmful if your levels are too high. LDL can build up in your bloodstream and cling to the walls of your arteries, leading to a condition called atherosclerosis, according to the American Heart Association. When you have atherosclerosis, your arteries are not as flexible as they should be, blood cannot flow through as easily as it should, and you are at a greater risk for a heart attack or a stroke.
Olives and olive oil contain monounsaturated fats, which can help reduce your LDL cholesterol levels. Olives contain antioxidants in the form of vitamin E, according to the World’s Healthiest Foods website, which can prevent cholesterol from building up and damaging your arteries. Olives and extra virgin oil also contain polyphenols, another antioxidant that helps to keep your heart healthy, according to the MayoClinic.com. The less processed the olive is, the more antioxidants it contains.
You can eat olives when they are unripe and green, or when they have ripened and turned black. Since they are high in fat, they are often turned into an oil. The quality of the oil depends on how much processing it has undergone. Extra-virgin olive oil comes from the first pressing of the olives and undergoes the least amount of processing. To get the most benefit from olives, eat them whole or use extra virgin oil when cooking or as a dressing.
According to both the MayoClinic.com and the American Heart Association, you need to replace the bad fats in your diet with unsaturated fats to reduce your LDL levels and improve your health. Eat a handful of olives in place of a food that is high in saturated fat, such as cheese or chips, not in addition to it. Coat vegetables with a layer of extra virgin olive oil before you grill or sauté them. If you eat bread, dip it in olive oil instead of spreading butter on it.
You can have too much of a good thing. If you have high LDL and want to attempt to lower your levels through diet, make sure you do not eat too many olives or too much olive oil. The American Heart Association recommends limiting your total daily fat to no more than 35 percent of your daily calories. If you eat a 2,000-calorie diet, you should aim to eat no more than 75 grams of fat daily.
- olive image by Marek Kosmal from Fotolia.com