The Secret to a Healthy Heart and Blood Vessels

The Secret to a Healthy Heart and Blood Vessels

Ever thought that the secret to a healthy heart could lie in your kitchen cupboard?

Nutrition Experts found that olive oil and nuts, although high in fats, are packed with good healthy fats that promote better functionality of the heart and blood vessels. Olive oil, more specifically extra virgin olive oil and nuts are considered as protectors against the development of diseases related to the heart and blood vessels known as Cardiovascular Disease (CVD).

Extra virgin olive oil is made up from a natural extraction process of olives, and is therefore preferred over regular refined olive oil, since refinement causes loss of its beneficial antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Nuts on the other hand, are best eaten raw and unsalted or even spread in the form of nut butters. Different types of nuts provide various benefits, their main one being rich in unsaturated fats.

Top 10 benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil Top 10 benefits of Nuts
  1. Contains monounsaturated fats which have proved to promote better circulation and reduced risk of heart disease
  2. Contains powerful antioxidants which fight the build up of fatty deposits along the walls of blood vessels
  3. Increases satiety, contributing to a calorie deficit, and has therefore been linked with a reduction in waist circumference and BMI
  4. Lowers the risk of stroke
  5. An essential part of a Mediterranean Diet which is considered as a cardioprotective diet
  6. Lowers blood pressure due to improved blood vessel function
  7. Better control of blood sugar especially after a meal
  8. Has a pleasant taste, adding more flavour to your dishes
  9. Is an excellent cooking oil due to its high stability and content of monounsaturated fats, and is preferred over coconut oil which although similarly stable, has a lower antioxidant content and is high in saturated fat.
  10. Able to promote a shift from bad cholesterol to good cholesterol by reducing LDL and increasing HDL
  1. Contribute to weight loss by increasing satiety, showing reductions in waist circumference and BMI
  2. Rich in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats
  3. Have a cholesterol lowering effect by reducing LDL (bad cholesterol) and increasing HDL (good cholesterol)
  4. Rich in antioxidants, reducing oxidation and plaque build up in the arteries. Almonds and walnuts are remarkably beneficial in reducing oxidation in the body.
  5. Fibre content in nuts has shown marked benefits for blood glucose control
  6. Lower blood pressure due to improved blood vessel function
  7. Reduce blood sugar levels
  8. Contain important minerals and vitamins; magnesium, selenium, Vitamin E, folic acid, vitamin B6
  9. Contain anti-inflammatory properties known as phenolics that have shown to be mostly beneficial for people suffering from diabetes and kidney disease.
  10. Easy to incorporate in the diet, perfect as snacks and nut butters.

In 2013, Dr Ramon Estruch and his colleagues, from the University of Barcelona, conducted the PREDIMED trial, a large dietary intervention looking at the effectiveness of a Mediterranean diet in lowering the incidence of CVD. Rather than considering fat as a public health enemy, they provided evidence that not all types of fat led to an increased risk of CVD, but rather some of them were cardioprotective.

The study included 7,447 participants, 55-80 years of age, 57% of which were women. Only participants who were at a high risk of developing CVD, but free of the disease at enrollment were included. The participants were assigned to 3 groups;

  • Low-fat diet (control group)
  • Mediterranean diet supplemented with nuts
  • Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra virgin olive oil

The experts concluded that those following the Mediterranean diet supplemented with nuts or extra virgin olive oil had approximately 30% lower risk of cardiovascular events when compared to the low-fat group. This showed that the Mediterranean diet together with the beneficial properties of nuts and extra virgin olive oil, had a cardioprotective effect.

incidence composite cardiovascular end point

In 2015, Dr Miguel A. Martin-Gonzalez and his colleagues, published a report on the benefits of the Mediterranean diet, based on the findings of PREDIMED. They added that the participants following the Mediterranean diet, exhibited a positive effect on blood pressure, blood sugar control, and blood cholesterol and concluded that;

“The Mediterranean Diet rich in unsaturated fat and polyphenols can be a sustainable and ideal model for Cardiovascular Disease prevention”

Hence, international platforms dedicated at reducing the global burden of CVD such as the British Heart Foundation, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, World Health Organisation and the European Society of Cardiology, recommended lifestyle modifications which include the adoption of a Mediterranean diet rich in extra virgin olive oil and nuts, as a primary prevention against the development of CVD.

So my proposal is to resort to these simple measures, incorporating healthy fats to your diet in an effort to prevent cardiovascular illness and promote a healthy circulation.

Here are my top 5 tips on how to incorporate nuts/olive oil in your diet.

  1. Use nuts as a healthy snack alternative to potato crisps and sweets. Choose raw or roasted unsalted versions and bearing in mind their high calorific value, split them in small individual packs of 20 gr servings to be consumed 4-5 times per week.
  2. Use extra virgin olive oil instead of butter as a condiment with bread
  3. Choose extra virgin olive oil as the main oil in salads and cooking
  4. If extra virgin olive oil is not available, resort to olive, canola or sunflower oil, which are still of plant origin and much more beneficial than butter or margarine.
  5. Use nut butters to add flavour to your morning oatmeal, spread on whole grain bread or use as a dip for apple slices. It’s best to do your own nut butter by simply blending nuts in a food processor until smooth. If you prefer to buy ready made nut butters, ensure that there are no added sugars.


Thank you for reading ! If you would like more tips get in contact with me to get started.

Rebecca Micallef Dalli
Rebecca Micallef Dalli Member of the British Dietetic Association (SENR Registered), MSc. in Exercise and Nutrition Science. SENR Graduate Registrant
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