"Let food be your medicine” is a banner that followers of the Mediterranean diet could legitimately wave with enthusiasm. They could raise a second banner, “Let olive oil feed your brain,” touting the amazing benefits this oil offers as part of a natural brain care protocol.
Olive oil has been at the center of the Mediterranean diet for over 4,000 years, playing a key role in maintaining some of the healthiest cultures in the world. The health benefits of real olive oil are now backed up by definitive research giving us good reason to include this food in our diet on a regular basis.
Olive oil consists mostly of a monounsaturated fat called oleic acid. Oleic acid has been studied extensively for its benefits for the heart. These studies suggest that consumption of oleic acid is linked with a reduction in cardiovascular disease, lowering cholesterol, reducing risk of stroke and decreasing inflammation in the lining of the blood vessels.
But oleic acid also plays a key role in brain health.
In Staying Smart, my free webinar series, I recently talked about why it is important to include fat in our diet if we want to keep our brains healthy. In addition to its heart-protective qualities, olive oil has recently been found as being both protective and nourishing to the brain.
Oleic acid is an important component of our cell membranes, keeping them fluid and flexible. In the brain, this means that neurons can stay responsive and communicative. Additionally, studies on mice showed that oleic acid reduced plaques associated with Alzheimer’s and slowed the progression of the disease.
In addition to its fatty acids, pure unfiltered olive oil is loaded with antioxidants including oleocanthal and vitamin E. Oleocanthal reduces inflammation that impacts the brain, improving quick thinking and focus.
Vitamin E is especially protective for the fatty tissues of the brain. This is because the brain is loaded with omega 3 fatty acids that are vulnerable to oxidation - a little bit like rust on the tin woodman! It takes a fat-soluble antioxidant like vitamin E to protect the brain and keep it free from degradation.
Interestingly, a deficiency of vitamin E has been linked to both poor cognition and depression. To make matters more worrisome, 96% of people don’t eat enough foods rich in Vitamin E. Other food sources of E include avocado, raw sunflower seeds and nuts, broccoli and spinach.
Olive oil is extracted from the fleshy part of the fruit, not the seed. This means that no harsh chemicals or heat are necessary in its production. As different varieties of olives lend a unique flavor, many artisan oils are made from a blend of olives, crafting a signature product that delights the connoisseur. For maximum flavor, oil quality and antioxidant content, the olives must be cold-pressed and unfiltered.
Taste your olive oil.
If it is tasteless, the health benefit is minimal. Look for a sharp peppery flavor at the back of your throat. A little burn is a good thing! That indicates a high level of the antioxidants found only in a premium brain-protecting olive oil. Use this oil for drizzling over salads, cooked vegetables or any delicious food you want. If cooking with olive oil, use only a very low heat, or better yet, turn to a more stable option such as coconut oil.
Listen to the rest of this story in the replay of Staying Smart, “Eat Fat and Stay Smart”
Up next in the FREE webinar series: Staying Smart:
Monday, October 21, 2019 @ 7pm EST - SUPER FOODS for STAYING SUPER SMART - Charis Lindrooth and Rosemary Gladstar discuss their 3 favorite superfoods for brain health
Thursday, October 24, 2019 @7pm EST - HYDRATE and “FIBRATE” for a BETTER BRAIN -Charis Lindrooth and Tammi Sweet discuss the importance of staying hydrated and eating fiber for your brain