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Diet

How Just Half a Tablespoon of Olive Oil a Day Can Improve Heart Health

oilve-oil-heart-health
Researchers say olive oil, as well as certain vegetable oils, are healthier for your heart than animal-based fats. Getty Images
  • New research shows that adding olive oil to a diet leads to improved cardiovascular outcomes.
  • While the health benefits of olive oil are well known, researchers found similarly positive results with other healthy vegetable oils.
  • Across the board, vegetable oils represent a healthier form of fat than animal-based fats.
  • Olive oil is a major component of the Mediterranean diet, one of the healthiest overall diets.

It’s long been known that the Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest overall diets.

Now, research shines new light on the ways that one of the diet’s main components — olive oil — helps boost heart health.

Researchers presented their findings today at the American Heart Association’s (AHA) Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health Scientific Sessions in Phoenix.

Their analysis of long-term data, dating back to 1990, shows that eating more than 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil per day lowers one’s risk of cardiovascular disease by 15 percent and the risk of coronary heart disease by 21 percent.

While consumption of olive oil has been associated with improved heart health for years, the new research shows these associations with a U.S.-based population for the first time.

“Mostly, these associations have been shown in the past in Mediterranean and European populations,” Marta Guasch-Ferre, PhD, lead author of the study and a research scientist in the department of nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, told Healthline. “But until now, there was no previous study that showed results in a U.S. population.”

 

New wrinkles

The health benefits of olive oil are well understood, according to Dr. Benjamin Hirsh, director of preventive cardiology at Northwell Health’s Sandra Atlas Bass Heart Hospital in Manhasset, New York.

“Olive oil is a simple way to replace unhealthy, saturated, and trans-fatty acids of animal fats with a source of omega-3 fatty acids that reduce inflammation and improve cholesterol,” Hirsh told Healthline. “It has also been associated with improved vascular function, heart health, and survival.”

Animal-based fats such as margarine, butter, dairy fat, and mayonnaise are less healthy than olive oil when it comes to supporting heart health.

An intriguing detail uncovered in the new study shows that olive oil isn’t the only oil that contains these benefits.

Guasch-Ferre said that researchers also saw positive associations with other plant oils, such as corn or safflower oil, although more research is needed to confirm the effects of plant oils on health outcomes.

“While olive oil was better than animal fat when we did the substitution analysis, they were not superior to vegetable oils,” she explained. “This means that other vegetable oils could be a healthy alternative compared to animal fat, especially because they tend to be more affordable in the U.S. compared to olive oil.”

Guasch-Ferre also pointed out that these findings are consistent with current recommendations that highlight the quality, rather than the quantity, of fat intake.

She adds that the study led to new questions, and more data will undoubtedly add to the overall understanding of the relationship between olive oil and heart health.

“One thing that we couldn’t analyze here was the different types of olive oil — whether it was common olive oil or extra virgin olive oil. There’s some evidence showing that extra virgin olive oil varieties have higher amounts of polyphenols that are associated with better lipid profiles and less inflammation,” she said.

“It would be interesting to see the effects of different varieties, along with the effects of different vegetable oils on health outcomes, along with defining the underlying mechanisms of these associations,” Guasch-Ferre added.

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Well-rounded approach

While replacing animal fats with healthier alternatives such as olive or vegetable oil is a strong step toward improved cardiovascular health, it’s hardly the be-all and end-all.

Good heart health also includes physical activity, a balanced diet and, ideally, visits with a doctor to stay on track.

Hirsh cautioned that olive oil by itself is not a miracle cure.

“I believe that focusing on one component of nutrition misses the benefits that derive from the change in the overall dietary pattern,” he said. “It is likely that those [in the study] who switched to consuming more olive oil as a substitute for unhealthy fats probably also enacted changes in their lifestyles to consume healthier food and be more active.”

Anyone who wants to change their diet to promote better heart health can start by adopting the Mediterranean diet. This diet focuses on unrefined, plant-based foods, along with fish, and — of course — plenty of olive oil.

A final note pointed out by both Guasch-Ferre and Hirsh is that the study’s findings are observational. This means that researchers can’t prove cause and effect.

Still, the findings are supported by long-standing medical knowledge surrounding the health benefits of olive oil while adding an intriguing wrinkle surrounding the benefits of other vegetable oils.

“There’s a lot of research showing that plant-based foods, including healthier vegetable oils like olive oil, can have benefits for heart health,” Guasch-Ferre said. “Butter or other fats, which are high in saturated fats, can be harmful for the heart. It’s better to use olive oil for cooking than other animal fat and it’s also better to have olive oil in ingredients rather than other animal fats.”

Natures Bounty – 25 Edible Wild Plants, Fruits and Trees for Wilderness Survival

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Nature’s Bounty. 25 Edible Wild Plants, Fruits, Berries, Leaves, Roots & Trees for Wilderness Survival. A video analysis.

This charming & informal video explains what to do in the wild when you are chilling by the campfire & you just ‘run out of marshmallows’!

The author shows how to identity, prepare & cook wild, edible, & healthy plants, fruit & trees.

Edible Plants & Trees explained –

  • Primrose

    (Primula Vulgaris).

    One of the first plants to emerge in spring, widely available throughout the summer & well into autumn. The woodland dwelling Primrose is an abundant source of food & nutritioncarbs, calories, sugars, starch & fiber. Primrose is a substantial source of life-sustaining nourishment.
    The author explains how to accurately & safely identify the Primrose. Once the plants identity is confirmed, (remembering that there are orange & violet variations), all parts of the plant are edible – leaves, flowers & roots.
    Important to completely wash, & boil in hot water, the entire plant, especially the root network. This is not essential but is best practice & applies to all the edibles referred to in this video.

  • Thistle

    (Circium sp.)

    The Common Thistle is a familiar sight along the hedgerows & tree lines. It is easy to spot with it’s bulbous purple flower which later turn into a cloudy seed. The plant is covered in prickly spikes especially the end of the leaf lobe which have a sharp thorn making handling difficult. However it is only the root of the plant which is edible.
    Harvesting the Thistle is easiest in the spring & is best achieved by digging up the roots using a sharp knife revealing a thick root network. The roots are a substantial source of carbs, fiber, starch, sugars & calories. can be eaten raw like carrot or celery.
    Technically the leaves & stalks are edible once the sharp needles & brack are removed.

  • Fireweed

    (Chamaenerion angustifolium.)

    Impressive in height. The Fireweed can grow up to 8 ft & grow in enormous colonies in woodland clearings & riverbanks.
    The plant is noticeable from a distance, the purple & green spikes feature smooth slender stems featuring four-petalled purple flowers, diagonally climbing seed capsules & signature dark green, large shaped leaves. Each leaf is slim, narrow & pointed.
    in Autumn the seed capsules will erupt into large fluffy white seed clouds, resembling candyfloss. Also useful for flash tinder in fire making.
    All parts of Fireweed are edible. The piff in the center of the stem is especially nutritious & can be scraped out using a knife. It can be eaten raw & tastes very similar to Cucumber.
    (In Russia, the leaves are cooked to make a hot tea called Ivan Chai.)

  • Young Fireweed

    (Chamaenerion angustifolium.)

    Once familiar with identifying mature Fireweed, it becomes much easier to identify Young Fireweed.
    In the Spring, the young shoots of Fireweed emerge from the ground & can be identified by their familiar leaves & stems & will often have a bright red tinge to them. The reddest are sweeter in taste.
    All parts are edible. The root is a long tap horizontal root & is especially nutritious. A top tier survival food.

  • Dandelion

    (Taraxacum officinale.)

    A familiar plant in all terrains, easily identified by it’s bright yellow sun-burst flower & large, jagged, teeth-like leaves. All parts of the plant are safe to eat, with younger leaves preferred as the older leaves tend to be too bitter, as is the root. However, the roots, if roasted, can be ground into a delicious coffee.
    Rich in potassium & iron, more so than spinach.
    Considered a weed, the Dandelion is a highly nutritious natural resource.

  • Stinging Nettles

    (Urtica dioica.)

    Notorious for their sting, if handled correctly, Stinging Nettles are an excellent natural resource for vitamins & minerals.
    They have heart or arrow shaped leaves heavily serrated along the edges & droopy hanging flowers when in bloom.
    The plant protects itself with sharp hypodermic needles but can be harvested manually using gloves. The fresher the leaves the better. The stinging needles can be removed easily by passing the entire plant over a flame.
    The leaves are naturally rich in Vitamin C, iron & protein.

  • Dead Nettles

    (Lamium album)

    Another variety of nettle is the Dead Nettle.
    It does not have the droopy hanging flowers of the Stinging Nettle, but, instead have plump white flowers. Though unrelated to the Stinging Nettle they are equal in every respect, except they do not sting.

  • Daisy

    (Bellis perennis.)

    Small & inconspicuous, these penny sized grassland flowers have a central yellow disk, thin wiry stems & a white halo of petals.
    All parts of the flower are edible.

  • Ox-eye Daisy

    (Leucanthemum vulgare)

    Bigger & bolder than the Daisy, the Ox-eye Daisy is a substantial source of food typically found in meadows & open canopy forests.
    The flower is similar to the common daisy. It features a furry stem & small, serrated, succulent, cactus-looking leaves.
    It emits a foul-smelling scent, when crushed.
    However, it’s central yellow disk tastes pleasant when eaten.

  • Hawthorn

    (Crataegus monogyna.)

    An exception to the rule to avoid eating wild red berries. Hawthorn is an tree that produces substantial amounts of red berries.
    When identifying plants & trees in the wild with red berries it is usually the leaves which are the most unique features.
    Leaves of the Hawthorn are glossy & bright green & are deeply lobed, meaning that they have protrusions that stick out rather than being all rounded. The berries themselves are glossy bright blood red with a dark crater in the middle.
    They can be eaten raw with care, as they contain a hard stone in the middle. It is best to squeeze the berry to remove the pip before eating.
    The branches of the Hawthorn do contain sharp thorns, so care is also advised when handling.
    The leaves are edible with apple taste.
    The berries are available in Summer, with the leaves available Spring to Autumn.

  • Rowan

    (sorbus sp.)

    Another tree with edible red berries is the Rowan tree, or ‘Mountain Ash’.
    As with the Hawthorn, it is the shape of the leaves which are key in identifying the Rowan.
    Rowan leaves are very divided. Each leaf being composed of at least 15 different leaflets which are serrated along the edges. They are similar to Fern fronds in appearance.
    The berries are orange-red in colour with a small brown star-shaped stud in the base.
    They must not be eaten raw as they contain a poison acid when uncooked.
    After boiling in hot water they are safe to eat & ,unlike the Hawthorn, contain no hard pip.
    High in Vitamin C.

  • Garlic Mustard

    (Alliaria petiolata.)

    Garlic Mustard has edible leaves with a spicy onion taste.
    Found throughout the woodlands, particularly on the banks of rivers & ponds.
    They grow in abundance & to a height of 1 m.
    The leaves are crinkled, heart-shaped, with serrated edges & resemble nettles. When crushed they emit a strong garlic scent. The stems are smooth & slender with clusters of cross-shaped white flowers.
    Garlic Mustard, other than the root, is edible. The freshest part of the plant, at the top, is particularly preferred.
    It was once widely used in European cuisine, but is now considered an invasive weed.

  • Red Clover

    (Trifolium pratense.)

    Red Clover produces a vast carpet of 3 or 4 leaf clovers with a distinct, crescent-shaped white chevron, (the presence of a chevron always indicates an edible plant). It has a bulbous edible flower which is a good source of protein, (It boasts a higher protein content than Spinach & Kale combined).
    It is reddish-pink in colour & has hundreds of small, tubular florets which flower from late spring to early winter. There is also a white-pale cream coloured variety.
    it is edible raw, but better boiled & has a mild sweetness like the Pea.
    Due to their pleasant taste, nutritional value & wide availability, Clovers have traditionally been a go-to famine food.

  • Knapweed

    (Centaurea nigra)

    Looking a lot like a Thistle from a distance, at closer inspection, it more resembles a clover with dozens of pink & white-tipped florets.
    It is nourishing as an abundance of sugars, vitamins & minerals. It has no sharp needles or spikes.
    The flower is perfectly edible raw. The other parts of the plant can be eaten but are tough & unpleasant to taste.

  • Greater Knapweed

    (Centaurea scabiosa)

    Identical to Knapweed in every respect but larger & scruffier in appearance.

  • Burdock

    (arctium sp.)

    Otherwise known as ‘Elephants Ears’. It is identified by it’s clusters of very large leaves which grow to 3 ft. in length & are deeply crinkled & craggy in texture on the front side, while underneath, are a lighter shade of green with fuzzy hairs. The stems also have a coating of fuzzy hairs & are completely hollow when sliced in half. It grows in multiple stalks. It can be eaten raw & is high in cellulose. The root is the main food & is very long, up to 30cm in length & 1 inch in width. After peeling the outer skin, the root can be eaten raw, tasting similar to a carrot. It is equal in carbs, calories & protein to the potato.
    It is popular in Japanese cuisine where it is known as gobo.
    It flowers from late Spring onwards.

  • Elderberry

    (sambucus nigra.)

    Sometimes found as a bush, but more often, a tree, in woodland environments. The Elderberry produces enormous clusters of shiny, purple to black berries, 5 mm, ball shaped in width. The stems are purple to maroon coloured. The branches are fawnless with leaves with heavily serrated margins. The berries are considered a superfruit as their nutritional value in far superior to many other berries found in the wild & can be eaten raw. The stems, leaves & unripened berries are not edible.
    The berries are high in antioxidants, Vitamin C. The Vit C content is 3 x higher than tomatoes, twice the protein of apples, & double the calories of Strawberries.

  • Blackberry

    (rubus fruticosus.)

    A common fruit found in hedgerows. The Blackberry bush, commonly referred to as Brambles, have strong stems with sharp spikes.
    The berries are soft, squiggy & composed of multiple drooplets. They can be eaten raw but identification is confirmed by examining the leaves, which grow in groups of 3 or 5, & the scrambling spines, which are covered in thorns & red or green in colour.
    The leaves have very jagged & serrated edges & are dark green on top & light green underneath with small prickles which run down the entire length of the middle vein. The leaves can be eaten raw after removing the prickles with a knife & are evergreen.

  • Pineapple Weed

    (Matricaria discoidea)

    A short plant growing up to 1ft. The Pineapple Weed features a flower head that is acorn like in shape. It is a bulbous yellow-green dome seemingly without petals. It’s leaves are thin & wiry &, true to it’s name, when crushed will release the scent of Pineapples.
    It can be eaten raw, except for the roots. It tastes sweet, mildly Pineapple & citrus & can make a sweet tea.

  • Rosehip

    (rosa canina.)

    Features bright red seed bearing pods which are the fruits of the Dog Rose Tree, a tree which displays small, serrated, oval-shaped leaves with white pink flowers from Spring to Summer. The flowers develop into the edible fruit after pollination which are known as haws or hips.
    The fruit is easily identified & contain 10x more Vitamin C than oranges & 3x more calories than apples!
    Care is needed before consumption, the fruit should be halved & seeds removed.

  • Crab Apple

    (malus sp.)

    Varying in colour from green to red, & in size from golf ball to cricket ball. Known as Wild Apples, they are edible.
    However, they are far too bitter & sour to be eaten raw, even by animals. They must be chopped & boiled throughout. They are full of good carbs, sugars & calories.

  • Pine Needles.

    (pinus sp.)

    An evergreen food source. The needles of the Pine Tree have afresh & minty taste & can be eaten raw. However, as they grow high up the tree, it is usual to find fallen needles.
    It has 3 – 4 inch long needles which always come in pairs of two.
    They are not high in calories but are rich in Vitamins A & C & are often brewed into tea.

  • Pine Nuts

    (pinus sp.)

    The edible nuts of the Pine tree. Small cream-coloured & found around the base of the tree, they have more calories & protein than peanuts. A top-tier trail nibble! (Frequently used in Italian cuisine).
    However, the nuts are a favourite with Squirrels, & so can be hard to find.

  • Poppy Seed

    (papaver rhoeas.)

    Poppy Seed are easily identified with 4 overlapping red-scarlet petals & protruding black stamens. They are only edible, however, after the petals have fallen leaving a bulbous, oval pod which is initially green but soon changes to brown.
    To eat, crack the pod open to reveal hundreds of small Poppy Seeds. One of the highest sources of calories in the wild. (Per gram, they have 5 times more calories than Chicken & 3 times more than Steak!)

  • Walnuts

    (juglans sp.)

    On the ground you may stumble across these golf-ball sized smooth, green husks. These are the unripened nut bearing husks of the Walnut Tree, which, from below, resemble the Horse Chesnut Tree.
    The Green husks are in-edible, so you should find & open, with a rock, the dark brown mature husks containing a delicious Walnut. Super high in fat, protein & calories.

  • Acorns

    (Quercus sp.)

    Last but not least. The familiar seeds of the Oak Tree. Nestled in a scaly cup.
    Whether Green on the tree, or Brown, on the ground. Crack open their thick outer shell to reveal a large edible nut, just like a Peanut. Super high in fat, protein & calories.

    Via –AlfiesAesthetics