There are many paths toward longevity, including movement, stress management, and dietary choices. While optimizing your diet can feel overwhelming at times, it doesn’t have to be. In fact, it’s the easy swaps and everyday habits that really go the extra mile. For example, a recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that simply eating more olive oil—especially in place of other fats—can lead to a longer life.
What did the researchers find?
The researchers pulled data from the Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up Study, which looked at more than 60,000 women and more than 31,000 men with healthy hearts. The participants were asked about their dietary choices every four years, over the course of 28 years.
When comparing the type of cooking fat each participant used, as well as the frequency of use, researchers concluded that eating more than half a tablespoon of olive oil per day supports cardiovascular health outcomes (19%), cognitive function (29%), respiratory health (18%), and longevity. Additionally, those who replaced margarine, butter, mayonnaise and dairy fat with olive oil had greater health outcomes.
It’s important to note: participants with the highest olive oil intake were also physically active, avoided smoking, and ate a lot of fruits and vegetables. “It’s possible that higher olive oil consumption is a marker of an overall healthier diet and higher socioeconomic status,” study author Marta Guasch-Ferré, Ph.D., said in a news release. “However, even after adjusting for these and other social economic status factors, our results remained largely the same.”
So, while the results shine a positive light on olive oil, more research is needed to fully understand the relationship between olive oil consumption, overall health, and longevity.
Why olive oil is so beneficial
Along with the findings in this study, we also know that olive oil is considered a healthy fat because it’s high in monounsaturated fats and low in polyunsaturated fats. It also contains large amounts of antioxidants, phytosterols, and vitamins, according to registered dietitian Titilayo Ayanwola, MPH, R.D., L.D.. (Here’s how it stacks up to avocado oil, if you’re curious).
And as nutritional psychiatrist Drew Ramsey, M.D., notes: “olive oil is also a cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet,” which is often considered one of the healthiest diets to follow, and focuses on fruits and veggies, omega-3 rich seafoods, and ancient grains.
How to eat more olive oil
“Clinicians should be counseling patients to replace certain fats, such as margarine and butter, with olive oil to improve their health,” Guasch-Ferré said. “Our study helps make more specific recommendations that will be easier for patients to understand and hopefully implement into their diets.”
According to the reports, olive oil consumption was used for salad dressings, baking and frying, or added to food or bread (think: drizzling or dipping!). These are relatively simple ways to up your olive oil consumption, but if you’re looking for more inspiration, try one of these recipes: