Improves Heart Health
That's in large part a result of the heart-helping benefits from the monounsaturated fatty acids that abound in olive oil and nuts, which take a leading role in the Med diet, pushing artery-clogging saturated and trans fats to the side. Plus, extra-virgin olive oil spurs a decrease in bad cholesterol and an uptick in HDL cholesterol (a.k.a. the good stuff). HDL works to eliminate excess cholesterol from your arteries and keep your blood vessels open and blood flowing, notes new research in Circulation.
Fights Other Chronic Conditions
Olive oil's phytochemicals are also believed to quell inflammation and insulin resistance, the root of many diseases like breast cancer and diabetes, according to Connie Diekman, RD, author of The Everything Mediterranean Diet Book. To wit: A Mediterranean diet has been shown to reduce one's risk of breast cancer by 57 percent and diabetes by 30 percent, according to a 2016 study in the Annals of Internal Medicine. That inflammation reduction? It decreases pain, too, and it helps the brain, notes a 2017 study at The Ohio State University.
Bolster Brain Power
The Mediterranean diet's ability to tamp down inflammatory responses is part of the reason it's been shown to slow rates of cognitive decline and boost brain function. Further brain-fortifying news came earlier this year when Australian researchers found that one-third of clinically depressed individuals who at a Mediterranean diet for three months reported a significant improvement in their mood and depressive symptoms.