Olive Oil + Leafy Vegetable Recipes Cut Heart Disease Risk Nearly in Half

For a double dose of heart protection, pair olive oil with leafy vegetables in our delicious recipes, such as Escarole Salad with Parmesan, Italian Chard Soup, or Spinach Pesto Penne.

January 20, 2011

This satisfying spinach, feta, and olive combo is good for your heart as well as your taste buds.

RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—If you need further motivation to follow the so-called Mediterranean diet, consider some new, amazing research findings on two of the diet’s staples: leafy green vegetables and olive oil. In the study on 30,000 women, researchers found that women who consumed at least one serving of leafy vegetables a day were more than 40 percent less likely to get heart disease over an eight-year period, compared to women who ate two or fewer portions a week. For its part, olive oil provided equally strong heart protection among women who consumed at least three tablespoons of it per day. All in all, these are some good reasons to include some recipes with olive oil and greens in your meal plan.


Though the exact mechanisms behind this protection aren’t known, researchers believe that antioxidants in both olive oil and leafy greens, along with the folate and potassium in the greens, play a role.

The study authors don’t stipulate that the greens and olive oil need to be eaten together to engender these benefits, but other evidence suggests that recipes with olive oil and leafy greens may offer enhanced health-promoting powers. For example, one study found that people who ate salads with dressings that contained fat (such as olive oil) absorbed more nutrients from the salad than those who ate fat-free dressing. Even reduced-fat salad dressing did better at boosting nutrient absorption than fat-free versions. Given all this, it’s clear that including healthy fats like olive oil is a great way to prepare greens, whether you’re tossing a crisp table salad or sautéing Swiss chard or spinach.

The following recipes with olive oil and leafy greens, all from the Rodale Recipe Finder, provide a nutritional punch and heart protection all rolled into one. And did we mention how easy to prepare they are, and how sublime they taste?

#1: Escarole Salad with Parmesan. Crisp escarole or endive works equally well in this simple salad. For another unique and tasty salad option, try a Spinach-Endive Salad with Vintner’s Dressing. As an alternative to salad, Spinach with Olives and Feta Cheese works as a side or a light lunch in itself.

#2: Sautéed Spinach with Garlic and Red Pepper Flakes. Yes, it does taste as good as it sounds. This nutritious side dish can accompany all sorts of entrées, from steak to chicken to pasta.

#3: Quinoa with Spinach and Cheese. This hearty, grain-based side dish also works well as a vegetarian entrée, as does Barley Risotto with Wilted Greens.

#4: Italian Chard Soup. On an upcoming winter night, serve up this comforting soup with a big hunk of crusty bread. You'll feel as warm and cozy as a hibernating bear.

#5: Spinach Pesto Penne. This pesto-inspired pasta dish bursts with flavor and good health. Same goes for this excellent Fusilli with Mushrooms and Swiss Chard.