Olive oil and the power of healthy fats

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

oily greens
Throw together some greens with that olive oil for an especially healthy treat.

If you’ve ever watched a cooking show on the Food Network, you’ll know that chefs love to drizzle just about everything with olive oil, especially salad. Not only is it a healthier replacement for calorie-packed dressings like ranch, but new research shows that olive oil on a leafy green salad causes a chemical reaction that gives rise to a super healthy fat molecule!

Healthy fat? What is this nonsense?! Yeah, it may seem like fat is the enemy in our diets – and it is in extremely high amounts – but the fact of the matter is that fat is still an essential nutrient. See, fat can take many forms and comes in three main types: saturated, unsaturated, and trans. Saturated fats and trans fats are bad because they raise levels of bad cholesterol, a waxy substance in our cells that can increase the risk of heart attacks and stroke. Meanwhile, unsaturated fats are relatively healthier, since they’re less likely to clog your arteries or raise bad cholesterol levels.

Now, according to a recent study, eating a salad topped off with olive oil is a great way to get those good fats. There is a chemical found in plants known as nitrite that combines with unsaturated fat to create super healthy molecules known as nitro fatty acids! After testing this special blend in mice, researchers found the molecules did a superb job of lowering blood pressure. The olive oil doesn’t just work with leafy greens, either, since the effect also happens with avocados (that are healthy in their own right), nuts, and other veggies.

If that’s not enough to get you excited about whipping together a deliciously oiled up meal, another study found that olive oil may protect blood vessels from the damaging effects of pollution. Before you go guzzling down spoonfuls of olive oil, though, just remember that it’s still a fattening substance and should only be used in moderation.

Featured image courtesy of US Department of Agriculture on Flickr. Image of salad courtesy of Rexipe Rexipe on Flickr.