A new study published last week highlights the benefits of the Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil for improving good “HDL” cholesterol especially in people at high risk for cardiovascular disease.
The study followed 296 participants with high risk of cardiovascular disease. One group followed a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil, the second group followed a Mediterranean diet rich in nuts, and the third group followed a control diet which reduced red meat, processed foods, high fat dairy products, and sweets.
All participants following the Mediterranean diet ate vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, and moderate amounts of fish and poultry.
The control diet reduced total and bad “LDL” cholesterol levels, and while both Mediterranean diets improved HDL function, the olive oil group saw the biggest improvement.
HDL works like a sponge, patrolling arteries and collecting cholesterol to bring back to the liver for recycling or disposal. HDL provides antioxidant protection which can help lower plaque from forming in arteries. It also improves vasodilation which keeps blood vessels open and blood flowing more freely.
While the control diet did show benefit for lowering total and LDL cholesterol it had a negative impact on HDL’s anti-inflammatory capabilities. This could be less beneficial for people with high cardiovascular risk.
Research continues to show strong health benefits with the Mediterranean diet, especially when olive oil is used regularly.
Mediterranean Diet Tips
- Eat mostly plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, and nuts
- Replace butter with olive oil and canola oil
- Use herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor food
- Limit red meat to a few times per month
- Eat fish at least twice per week
- Limit sweets to a few times per month
- Get plenty of exercise