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5 quick and easy Italian-inspired recipes to improve your heart health

Adding just 20ml of olive oil can have a positive effect on cardiovascular health

filippo berio recipes heart health
Francesca Shillcock
Senior Features Writer
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The beginning of the year, as we know, is all about fresh starts. Perhaps you've been working on a new reading goal, an engaging new hobby, or you're adding new tweaks to your routine to improve overall health – we all want to start as we mean to go on, right?

Cutting back on alcohol or lowering our meat consumption are hot topics when a new year begins, but cardiovascular health doesn't always land in first place when it comes to wellness trends, and it arguably should be a priority. 

Fortunately, some exciting new research shows that it's never been easier to add some tweaks to your everyday routine beyond just the first month of the year – and improve heart health in the process. And, if you love Italian-inspired recipes (who doesn't?) then this one's for you, because all it takes it just 20 ml of olive oil a day. Read on for all the info you need…

Poached eggs on sourdough

It's easy to add more olive oil into your everyday diet

How olive oil improves heart health

It's something most of us have in our cupboards, so adding olive oil to your everyday routine in order to improve the health of your heart sounds too simple to be true. But, olive oil giant Filippo Berio has launched a campaign to get everyone taking easy steps to keep our hearts in check. 

The brand teamed up with scientists at Glasgow University to release fascinating research to prove that this is indeed the case. The findings show that by adding olive oil, as opposed to sunflower or rapeseed, to your everyday diet has scientifically proven benefits to the heart. More specifically, people who consume this amount each day will see a beneficial effect in coronary artery disease. 

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Olive trees being tended to in Tuscany

Filippo Berio grows its olives in Tuscany, Italy

The good news is that it only takes 20 ml of olive oil to have a positive effect on heart health. In everyday terms, that's the equivalent to one table spoon and one teaspoon. The important part to note is that the olive oil needs to be consumed raw: so no frying. If you're used to only using oil for cooking, here are five easy recipes to add in raw olive oil to get you started.

The 5 recipes: 

No-bake energy bars 

A fantastic breakfast option or to simply keep in the fridge when you need a sweet pick-me-up.

Ingredients: 50 porridge oats; 50 g almonds; 4 tbsp mixed seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, linseed); 200 g soft pitted dates; 100 g raisins; 2 tbsp honey; 80 ml Filippo Berio Mild & Light Olive Oil; 50 g dried cranberries. 

Line the base a 28 cm x 18 cm baking tin with baking paper. Place the oats, almonds and seeds in a dry frying pan over a medium heat and lightly toast. Allow to cool, then place in a food processor and pulse until the nuts are roughly chopped. Tip into a bowl.

Add the dates and raisins to the processor with the honey and blend until smooth then add the oil and pulse to combine. Add to the bowl, with the cranberries and stir to mix well. Spoon into the tin and press to flatten with the back of a spoon. Chill for 1 hr or until firm, turn out onto a chopping board, remove the baking paper and cut into 16 bars.

No Bake energy bars place on plate

Sicilian Pesto

Pesto is a real favourite of ours. Whether it's mixed in with linguine and fresh green veg, spread on sourdough, or simply used as a dip, it's the perfect Italian sauce we never get tired of.

100ml Filippo Berio Extra virgin olive oil; 40g blanched almonds without the skin; 1 clove garlic, peeled and halved; 200g chopped tomatoes; Sea salt - to taste; 50g Parmesan or pecorino cheese, grated; 80g fresh basil, washed and chopped. Place all ingredients except the olive oil in a food processor and pulse until blended.

Be careful not to blend too vigorously as you don’t want the basil to be heated up by the warm blades of the food processor. Once blended smoothly, add the olive oil slowly until you have a smooth pesto. 

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jar of green pesto next to plate of pasta

Avocado on sourdough toast with olive oil 

Who doesn't like avocado on toast? Olive oil makes the perfect topping to this staple brunch meal. Use sourdough; 2 ripe avocados, sliced; Juice of 1/2 lemon or lime; sea salt and pepper - to taste; 1 tsp chilli flakes (optional); Filippo Berio extra virgin olive oil - to serve. 

Toast the sourdough bread and set aside. Mix the sliced avocado with lemon or lime juice, season to taste. Spread the mixture between the 4 sourdough bread slices. Drizzle a generous helping of raw olive oil over each slice before serving. 2 tsp contain 10mls of oil. 

Avocado on sourdough bread

Greek yoghurt with honey and olive oil 

Make no mistake, it's not just savoury meals to consider when adding olive oil to your everyday diet. By using non-extra virgin olive oil to something like Greek yoghurt, you won't get an overpowering olive taste when you're on the hunt for something sweet. Use 300g organic Greek yoghurt; 4tsp honey; Ground cinnamon - to taste; 40g chopped nuts; Fresh or stewed fruit – optional; Filippo Berio olive oil - to serve. 

Mix the Greek yogurt with honey and divide into 4 bowls. Top with 10g of chopped nuts per bowl and some stewed fruit. Add cinnamon if desired. Drizzle a generous helping of light or extra virgin olive oil over each bowl before serving. 2 tsp contain 10mls of oil.

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yoghurt and fruit pots

Whipped ricotta/feta cheese with olive oil 

This could be the dip to pull out at a dinner party, or for yourself if you're feeling fancy! To make whipped ricotta or feta, place the cheese in a food processor or in a bowl and use a whisk, beat until smooth then gradually add olive oil and beat until you have the right consistency. Stir in some freshly chopped herbs. Delicious served as dips for crudites or with slow roasted tomatoes. Delizioso! 

Whipped feat on a plate with carrot and tomato

What the experts say about olive oil and heart health

Dr Bill Mullen carried out both the olive oil study and the follow-up study to test sunflower and rapeseed oils. He explained: "The initial olive oil study was carried out in Glasgow because the Glasgow population had such a low intake of olive oil that it was like painting on a blank canvas. Glasgow was also the heart attack capital of the UK, if not Europe.

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"We tried to recreate the olive oil study using the two other oils. It was a surprise to us to find that neither oil provided any beneficial effect for heart health."

Filippo Berio classico olive oil

Filippo Berio's UK managing director, Walter Zanré, explains: "Olive oil has long been viewed as a healthy oil because of its association with the Mediterranean diet. However, this theory has previously only been based on correlation.

"For example, those who live in the Mediterranean have a lower incidence of heart disease (CAD) than in the UK. But this research by the University of Glasgow not only proves causation between olive oil, in any form, and improving heart health - it also shows it's the only oil that delivers these benefits."

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