Sub in this fat where you can and your heart will thank you.
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Pictured recipe: Vegan Pesto

A new study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that consuming more than a half tablespoon of olive oil each day was associated with lower risk of cardiovascular disease mortality, cancer mortality, neurodegenerative disease mortality and respiratory disease mortality. Researchers also found that replacing about 10 grams of margarine, butter, mayonnaise or dairy fat with the equivalent amount of olive oil each day was also associated with lower risk of overall mortality.

"Our findings support current dietary recommendations to increase the intake of olive oil and other unsaturated vegetable oils," Marta Guasch-Ferré, Ph.D., the study's lead author, said in a news release. "Clinicians should be counseling patients to replace certain fats, such as margarine and butter, with olive oil to improve their health."

vegan pesto

Researchers used data from the Nurses' Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, which followed more than 92,000 people over 28 years. As part of the study, individuals were asked to complete a survey about their diet once every four years. The study found that those who consumed more olive oil generally had healthier lifestyles, as they were less likely to smoke and more likely to exercise and eat fruits and vegetables.

"It's possible that higher olive oil consumption is a marker of an overall healthier diet and higher socioeconomic status. However, even after adjusting for these and other social-economic status factors, our results remained largely the same," Guasch-Ferré said.

It's no surprise that olive oil can be such an integral part of a healthy eating pattern—one dietitian has called it the "mascot" of the Mediterranean diet, which was recently named the best diet of 2022. Because olive oil is high in monounsaturated fatty acids, it can even help you raise the level of "good" cholesterol in your body, which can improve your cholesterol levels overall. Plus, excess amounts of saturated fat can be hard on the heart. Substituting olive oil for mayonnaise or butter, which are higher in saturated fat, can help you lower your saturated fat consumption, and it even has some anti-inflammatory benefits.

If you prefer to cook with other plant-based oils, you could get in your daily dose of olive oil by dunking slices of your favorite fresh bread in an herbaceous dip or use olive oil in your next weekend baking project. No matter how you use it, keeping your olive oil handy in the kitchen is a healthy—not to mention delicious—idea.