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When it comes to cooking oils, we’re advised to stay away from animal fats and go for plant-based oils instead.
And even though there are plenty to choose from — avocado, walnut, safflower, canola, coconut, and hemp seed — there’s one that keeps coming out on top…
That’s why I keep it simple and reach for a bottle of olive oil — extra-virgin, of course. Extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) is lower in chemicals and free radicals and higher in antioxidants and healthy fats than regular olive oil.
Not to mention that EVOO helps fight heart disease and osteoporosis, support healthy arteries, heal intestinal injury, and reduce risks for diabetes and depression. It’s been linked with a lower death risk from four major causes — and helps fight aging.
Another big benefit is EVOO’s potential ability to lower dementia-causing brain proteins. Most people live in fear of losing memory and cognitive function as they get older. It’s great to know that it may only take a spoonful of EVOO to keep this scourge of aging at bay.
And there’s more good news on this front…
EVOO appears to lower risk of death from dementia
In a new study, scientists analyzed dietary questionnaires and death records collected from more than 90,000 Americans over three decades to determine if there was a relationship between diet and dementia-related death.
This is what they discovered:
- People who consumed more than half a tablespoon of olive oil per day — about the amount used in a serving of salad dressing — had a 28 percent lower risk of dying from dementia compared with those who never or rarely consumed olive oil.
- People who replaced just one teaspoon of margarine and mayonnaise with the equivalent amount of olive oil each day had an 8 to 14 percent lower risk of dementia-related death.
“Our study reinforces dietary guidelines recommending vegetable oils such as olive oil and suggests that these recommendations not only support heart health but potentially brain health, as well,” said Dr. Anne-Julie Tessier, a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “Opting for olive oil, a natural product, instead of fats such as margarine and commercial mayonnaise is a safe choice and may reduce the risk of fatal dementia.”
Now, it’s true that if someone regularly uses olive oil instead of processed or animal fats, they’re more likely to have a healthier diet overall. But Tessier notes that the relationship between olive oil and dementia-related death risk was independent of overall diet quality. That could suggest it’s the olive oil itself that’s benefiting the brain…
“Some antioxidant compounds in olive oil can cross the blood-brain barrier, potentially having a direct effect on the brain,” she says. “It is also possible that olive oil has an indirect effect on brain health by benefiting cardiovascular health.”
Getting the best EVOO
Tessier cautions that her research doesn’t prove that olive oil is the cause of the reduced risk of fatal dementia. But additional randomized controlled trials may be able to confirm that and determine how much olive oil is needed to achieve these benefits.
But there’s certainly no harm in adding a bit more EVOO to your daily diet, especially considering all the other benefits it can bring you.
One way to make sure you’re getting plenty of EVOO is to adopt a Mediterranean-style eating plan. Olive oil is the diet’s central nutrient and its main fat source. Once you look at it as a lifestyle shift rather than a “diet,” you’ll find going Mediterranean to be pretty simple. Here’s a guide to get you started.
Now, let’s talk buying EVOO….
- If you can, try to find a brand of EVOO that has the harvest date marked on it. This way, you’ll know how fresh the oil is. And the fresher it is, the more of its aroma and flavor (and health properties) will still be intact.
- Don’t worry about looking for terms like “cold-pressed” — by definition, EVOO comes from the first pressing of the olives and must be accomplished with no added heat.
- Don’t buy the oil if it comes in a clear glass bottle, as it will have been exposed to light and lost most of its flavor and aroma. Look for EVOO in dark glass bottles, or better yet, in metal tins.
- Once you bring it home, store your EVOO in a cool, dark environment. Keep it away from your stove until you need it for cooking.
Editor’s Note: You’re invited to join a tiny handful of Americans who enjoy rare, fresh-pressed olive oil all year long. Take my word for it, there’s a difference in taste, quality and benefit! Click here to learn more…
Opting for olive oil could boost brain health — EurekAlert!
9 Pro Tips on How to Buy and Use Good Olive Oil — Food & Wine