Olive oil has long been popular for both cooking and seasoning in Mediterranean countries. These days, however, it has been rediscovered in America. The low frequency of heart disease among those living in Mediterranean countries, despite lifestyles similar to more industrialized nations, has made us look more closely at their diets.
The heavy use of olive oil by people living in that part of the world is the source of the high level of monounsaturated fat in their diets. Olive oil is rich in oleic acid, the most common monounsaturated fatty acid found in the diet. Numerous studies indicate that monounsaturated fat is about as effective as polyunsaturated fat in lowering total blood cholesterol and LDL cholesterol when substituted for saturated fat in the diet. In addition, unlike polyunsaturated fat which may lower HDL cholesterol (“good” cholesterol) when taken in large amounts, monounsaturated fat does not lower HDL cholesterol or raise triglycerides.
The Food and Drug Administration allows manufacturers of olive oil to claim that “limited but not conclusive evidence suggests that eating about two tablespoons of olive oil daily may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease due to the monounsaturated fat in olive oil.”
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Reducing saturated fat is the single most important dietary change you can make to cut blood cholesterol. Soy is used as a replacement for meat and cheese. It helps your heart by slashing the amount of saturated fat that you eat. Why is saturated fat so bad for your heart? The liver uses saturated fat to make cholesterol, so eating foods with too much saturated fat can increase cholesterol levels, especially low-density lipoprotein (LDL) which is the bad cholesterol.
Saturated fats are usually found in animal products such as whole milk, cream, butter, and cheese, and meats, such as beef, lamb and pork. There are some plant-based saturated fats you should avoid too, notably palm kernel oil, coconut oil, and vegetable shortening.
Not familiar with soy foods? Popular soy products include tofu, soy nuts, soy flour, and enriched soymilk. Great-tasting, protein-rich meat alternatives include soy sausage and breaded cutlets and nuggets that taste like chicken. The FDA recommends eating at least 25 grams of soy protein each day. Consuming 25 grams of soy protein daily lowers high cholesterol.
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