“The people living in these so-called Blue Zones tend to live to be 100 years old at ten times greater the rate than the average population,” say The Nutrition Twins Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CDN, CFT and Tammy Lakatos Shames, RDN, CDN, CFT. “They’re active, eat a mostly plant-based diet, drink a daily glass of red wine, plus they’re spiritual and stay connected with their family and friends and surround themselves with positive people.”
The top two types of cooking oil for longevity
There are a number of eating habits shared among folks residing in the Blue Zones. For instance, as mentioned, they consume a largely plant-based diet comprised of plenty of beans, fresh produce, whole grains, fresh fish, herbs, spices, and more. But what are the most common oils that the centenarians in the Blue Zones cook with (and drizzle on dishes) regularly? In short, it’s not any form of saturated oil.
1. Olive oil
"In Ikaria, we found that people aged 65 and older that consume at least four ounces of olive oil per day were associated with the lowest mortality rates,” says Dan Buettner, founder of Blue Zones. “In other words, relatively high olive oil consumption seemed to predict higher life expectancy.” Olive oil is also very popular in the Blue Zone regions of Sardinia and Loma Linda.
"Olive oil is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are great for heart health," Melissa Rifkin, MS, RD previously told Well+Good. Besides being full of these beneficial fats, it's also a good source of antioxidants. Both of these reasons are why it's been linked in countless scientific studies to reducing inflammation.
When you consider its benefits, it’s no surprise that many of the Blue Zone regions tend to use olive oil—and extra virgin olive oil in particular—liberally. “EVOO is rich in monounsaturated fat, which research has shown to be the good-for-you fat that helps fight inflammation and protects your heart from heart disease by protecting your blood cholesterol from oxidation,” say The Nutrition Twins. “It’s also low in inflammatory omega-6 fat and a large review study of more than 800,000 people found that olive oil was the only fat source that was associated with reduced risk of both stroke and heart attacks.”
This certified non-GMO olive oil is made in California, ensuring you’re getting the real deal (and that the olives are of the highest quality). Rich, and slightly floral and fruity, this Everyday Extra Virgin Olive oil is our favorite for cooking.
When it comes to cooking with olive oil there have been several misconceptions because of its lower smoke point. While many people think it’s not safe to cook with, that’s actually not true. “Research has shown that high quality extra virgin olive oil is safe to cook with and doesn’t turn into a pro-oxidant or degrade and its’ high levels of polyphenols protect the oil against oxidation when cooking at high temperatures,” say The Nutrition Twins.
These are the benefits of olive oil you should know about:
2. Avocado oil
Oil plays an important role in the Nicoyan diet as well, but there it’s high in avocado oil. You probably already know how nutrient-rich avocados are, and Rifkin says much of the fruit's nutrients can be found in avocado oil, too. "Similar to olive oil, avocado oil is high in unsaturated fats, linked to lowering inflammation," she told us. “Avocado oil has a high smoke point and therefore may be a good oil for high temperature cooking," adds Buettner.
The Nutrition Twins agree. “Avocado oil is a great versatile oil and can be used for almost anything,” they say. “Avocado oil is packed with antioxidants, so you have less worries about degradation for that reason as well. Avocado oil is good for heart health and has been found to reduce triglycerides and bad, LDL cholesterol without affecting good, HDL cholesterol. Avocado oil is rich in the carotenoid lutein which improves eye health and may reduce the risk of age-related eye diseases.”
These are the dietitian-backed avocado benefits you should know about:
So, which is the best cooking oil for longevity?
Bottom line: Both olive oil and avocado oil are great for your health and longevity. Plus, they both fit into the American Heart Association's (AHA) recent formal statement that outlines for top ten key features of a heart-healthy approach to eating. Specifically, the AHA recommended consuming "liquid non-tropical plant oils such as olive or sunflower oils" when it comes time to whip up a heart-healthy meal.
"When it comes to incorporating oils, variety is best, so mix it up between olive oil, sunflower oil, avocado oil, and so on," Lisa Moskovitz, RD, CDN, CEO of NY Nutrition Group and author of The Core 3 Healthy Eating Plan previously told Well+Good. "The more variety of food groups you consume, the more nutrients your body advantageously absorbs." Keep that kicker in mind as you're staring down the cooking oil section at the grocery store.
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