Olive oil, sometimes referred to as “liquid gold,” has been a staple in Mediterranean cuisine for centuries. Today you can find this oil in many dishes from around the world. You might use it as a cooking aid, or you may use it as a delicious base for a salad dressing.
Some people might think of olive oil as just another option for cooking, but have you truly considered its health benefits in nutritional coaching?
Beyond its wonderful taste and numerous culinary applications, olive oil can improve brain health. You won’t feel an instant cognitive “boost” when you consume olive oil, but its long-term benefits may slow cognitive decline, decrease inflammation, and keep you sharp and focused for years to come. In this article, we will explore the science behind olive oil’s brain-health-boosting properties and show you five excellent dishes that put olive oil front and center.
Olive Oil and Brain Health: The Science
Many of us know that certain foods are healthy for us without knowing their exact effects on the body. Here are a few scientific reasons why olive oil is good for brain health.
Rich in Antioxidants
Olive oil is a potent source of antioxidants, particularly vitamin E and polyphenols. These compounds combat oxidative stress in the brain, reducing the damage caused by free radicals and lowering the risk of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Chronic inflammation has been linked to cognitive decline and the development of neurological disorders. Olive oil contains oleocanthal, a natural anti-inflammatory agent that works similarly to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) but without the side effects. Regular consumption of brain-healthy olive oil can help mitigate inflammation in the brain.
Improved Blood Flow
The monounsaturated fats in olive oil can enhance blood flow and circulation, benefiting the brain by ensuring an adequate supply of oxygen and nutrients. This improved blood flow helps maintain cognitive function and may reduce the risk of stroke.
Cognitive Function and Memory
Several studies have suggested that the Mediterranean diet, which prominently features olive oil, is associated with better cognitive function and memory. Olive oil’s protective effects on brain health via brain cells may contribute to this cognitive resilience.
Enhanced Mood and Mental Well-being
Olive oil consumption has been linked to improved mood and mental well-being, especially when it replaces heavier oils such as vegetable and canola oil. The high content of omega-3 fatty acids in olive oil can support overall brain health, possibly reducing the risk of depression and anxiety disorders.
Five Delicious Dishes Featuring Olive Oil
You’re probably not going to run out and start drinking spoonfuls of olive oil. Please don’t do that! Not only will you risk excessively soft stools, but drinking olive oil straight is a fad that has iffy benefits. Instead, you should use it as part of a full, nutritious meal.
Now that we understand the science behind olive oil’s brain-boosting benefits, let’s explore five mouthwatering dishes that showcase this Mediterranean treasure.
This refreshing salad combines fresh vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, and red onions with feta cheese and Kalamata olives. Drizzle it with extra-virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of dried oregano. The olive oil not only adds a delightful flavor but also enhances the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins from the vegetables, promoting brain health.
Pasta Aglio e Olio
Pasta Aglio e Olio is a simple yet flavorful Italian dish made with spaghetti, garlic, red pepper flakes, parsley, and a generous amount of olive oil. The olive oil forms a silky sauce that coats the pasta, infusing it with its rich flavor and brain-boosting properties.
Grilled Mediterranean Fish
Grilled fish, such as salmon or sea bass, marinated with a mixture of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and fresh herbs, creates a symphony of flavors. The omega-3 fatty acids in the fish, combined with the antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties of olive oil, make this dish a nutritional powerhouse for brain health.
Ratatouille is a delightful Provençal vegetable stew featuring eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers, tomatoes, and aromatic herbs. As it simmers, add a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil to intensify the flavors and provide the brain with a dose of protective antioxidants.
Olive Oil Cake
Don’t forget dessert! Olive oil cake is a moist and aromatic treat made with extra-virgin olive oil, citrus zest, and a touch of honey. The olive oil not only contributes to the cake’s delicate texture but also ensures you receive a dose of brain-boosting antioxidants even in your sweet indulgences.
Integra Health & Wellness Can Help You with More Brain Health Strategies
Olive oil is much more than a kitchen staple – it’s a powerful ally for brain health. Olive oil’s rich array of antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties, and healthy fats make it a crucial component of a brain-boosting diet. But even brain-healthy olive oil can’t improve your brainpower by itself.
Brain health and cognitive function require a holistic approach to health. From exercise to hormone health, your brain needs all the support it can get.
At Integra Health & Wellness, we create personalized wellness plans for all of our patients. We adjust these plans based on your needs and goals. Want to lose weight or improve your longevity? We can help!