Happy 2022! I’m kicking off the new year by delving into the health benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) and why it must be essential in your diet. Not occasionally, but something you consume daily. I do lots of reading and am fascinated by foods and their effect on our brains and bodies. Bear with me; this is kind of long, but I think you’ll be amazed at the science behind EVOO. I highly recommend picking up a copy of Genius Foods by Max Lugavere and The Brain Fog Fix by Dr. Mike Dow. There are countless other books on the topic of brain health, longevity and nutrition, but I found these two to be excellent resources, and they are my references for this post.
EVOO is an incredible ingredient for brain health and cognition. You should be eating (or drinking) some daily to protect your brain from dementia, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, and even depression and other cognitive issues such as brain fog. In his book Genius Foods, Max Lugavere lists EVOO as Genius Food #1. Here’s why: EVOO contains a type of phenol called oleocanthal (a chain of phenols is called polyphenols). Oleocanthal is a powerful anti-inflammatory compound, and what gives EVOO its peppery taste. The spicier the oil, the higher oleocanthal it contains.
Even more impressive, oleocanthal has been found to be neuroprotective, and studies have shown that it helps the brain clear amyloid plaque. If not cleared, amyloid plaque accumulates, causing Alzheimer’s disease.
Great for the brain, great for the body. EVOO helps you lose weight by preventing the conversion of excess dietary carbohydrates to fat. Rich in Vitamin E, you get antioxidants in every tablespoon! Not all fat is bad; EVOO is healthy fat (monounsaturated fat) and consuming it daily protects your blood vessels and liver.
In The Brain Fog Fix by Dr. Mike Dow, he goes into detail about the health benefits of eating a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods. Studies have shown that EVOO not only improves your mood and sharpens your mind, but it also decreases your risk of stroke, decreases bad cholesterol (LDL) while not decreasing good cholesterol (HDL), and prevents “leaky brain” phenomenon. Plain and simple, EVOO should be a staple in your diet, incorporated into every meal. It makes you feel good! Studies also found that intensive use of olive oil for both cooking and as a dressing showed the best cognitive function as people aged, than either cooking or dressing alone.
I get asked all the time if you can you cook with top-shelf EVOO. Yes! Studies have shown that even under extreme conditions, it is quite heat resistant, retaining its beneficial qualities and much of its nutritional value during heating. So don’t be afraid to cook with it! From personal experience, and like they do around the Mediterranean, we use it on everything, and the flavor is retained even with cooking. In my opinion, the food tastes better! Other good healthy options for high heat cooking are coconut oil, avocado oil, grass-fed butter, and ghee, just stay clear of the list below!
Be wary and steer clear of what Max calls “Frankenoils” : Canola, Corn, Soybean, Vegetable, Peanut, Safflower, Sunflower, Rapeseed, Grapeseed, Rice Bran. Check your labels! These are hidden in everything, and they are pro-inflammatory, fueling chronic disease and increasing risk of cancer.