New research suggests that virgin and extra-virgin olive oils produced by mechanical pressing of the olives, (with no chemical additives) contain antioxidants called polyphenols. Polyphenols are found in red wine and green tea and prevent free radicals from oxidizing LDL—oxidation of LDL causes damage to the arteries.
In a three-week study of 200 men published recently in Annals of Internal Medicine, those who consumed just under two tablespoons a day of high-polyphenol virgin olive oil in place of other dietary fats registered larger increases in “good” HDL cholesterol and fewer markers of oxidative stress than men who consumed the same amount of “ordinary” olive oil, which had a very low polyphenol content. Chemical refining processes remove some polyphenols from “ordinary” olive oils (often labeled as “pure” in the U.S.) and other cooking oils, says Maria-Isabel Covas, Ph.D., lead author of the study and a researcher at the Municipal Institute for Medical Research in Barcelona, Spain.
The next time you go shopping for a healthy oil in the grocery store, pick up a bottle of virgin or extra virgin oil—your heart will be thankful.