Olive Oil and a Healthy Heart
By Brad Gillman
Feb 14, 2018
Updated Oct 25, 2023
5 min read
As you think of your heart health this month, among the tips, advice and warnings you see, consider the food that you use – and how you are preparing the food. Oils can be harmful, or healthy, to your body and it depends on the source of the oil.
“All oils are fats, and will have some composition of saturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, and monounsaturated fats. So, while one tablespoon of any oil will provide about 120 calories, the quality of these calories is not equal,” said Kary Woodruff, registered dietitian at the Salt Lake Intermountain LiVe Well Center.
“Some types of fats, for example, may increase our risk for heart disease, while others may provide a protective benefit,” Woodruff said.
Saturated fats can be found in butter coconut oil and hydrogenated oils. The fat can increase your LDL cholesterol level in your blood stream. Unsaturated fats, which olive oil has, can help with HDL “good cholesterol” levels.
“Extra virgin olive oil is a great source of monounsaturated fatty acid and has shown to help reduce one’s risk for heart disease,” Woodruff said.
Olive oil also helps with giving antioxidants that can protect red blood cells from damage – otherwise that damage could lead to heart disease, heart attacks and stroke.
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Is it safe to fry with olive oil?
Olive oil is limited with what you can do with it in food preparation. Olive oil is not the best option when frying food because it has a lower smoke point. To heat the oil up high enough for frying it creates an over-heating and excessive smoke danger.
“Extra virgin olive oil cannot be heated to high temperatures like canola oil, so is recommended for salad dressings, drizzling on roasted vegetables, and other lower heat cooking methods.”
Also, frying foods in olive oil does not mean it is healthier than the other options. Limiting fried foods in lieu of the salads and roasted vegetables is always a safe bet.
Olive oil can be used for dipping bread recipes, drizzled over bruschetta, roasting vegetables such as tomatoes and asparagus and a variety of other delicious options.
A way to have a more heart-friendly diet is to incorporate elements of the Mediterranean diet. This includes fish, which helps in getting omega-3 fatty acids, and fruits and vegetables. Pasta dishes also can benefit with some olive oil.
In honor of Heart Month, We Olive & Wine Bar at Salt Lake City’s Trolley Square is partnering with the Intermountain Foundation. During February, for every bottle and featured food sold, We Olive will give a portion of proceeds to the Intermountain Foundation for Intermountain’s cardiovascular research program. For more information, visit We Olive’s Facebook page.