EVOO for Healthy Brains and Bodies
By Catherine Kenwell
We’ve all heard that the Mediterranean Diet can keep our hearts healthy. But are you familiar with the DASH Diet to treat and prevent high blood pressure and diabetes, or the MIND Diet, which helps our brains stay healthy as we age?
At the centre of all three of these preventative diets is the use of—you guessed it—high-quality extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO).
Let’s take a quick look at the lesser-known DASH and MIND diets. The DASH Diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) limits sodium, emphasizes fruits and vegetables, and includes whole grains, fish, poultry, nuts and healthy oils, particularly olive oil. EVOO is also a source of nutrients such as calcium, magnesium and potassium, which are vital in maintaining good health.
The aptly named MIND Diet is somewhat of a hybrid of the Mediterranean and DASH diets; in fact, its full name is the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. As its name suggests, studies show that following the MIND Diet can help prevent, reduce or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases. It’s the diet recommended at The Toronto Memory Program, which houses a clinic for diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Focusing on dark, leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, whole grains, fruits, nuts and lean meats, MIND recommends consuming EVOO daily, and using it as a primary cooking oil.
There’s science to back it up. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined how the Mediterranean Diet, and olive oil in particular, affected hypertension. Researchers found that while the vegetable consumption (often consumed with olive oil) associated with the diet is important, it is the olive oil that has the dominant beneficial effect on arterial blood pressure.
EVOO is full of antioxidants and monounsaturated fats; simply put, olive oil helps protect blood vessels and reduce inflammation throughout the body. And oleocanthal, a compound found in EVOO, behaves similarly to classic non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. It’s responsible for the burning or coughing many people experience when they sip high-quality EVOO. Oleocanthal may help speed the removal of beta-amyloid, a protein in the brain that is linked to Alzheimer’s.
The Mediterranean, DASH and MIND diets are easy to follow and while they limit processed foods, sugars, and fried foods, they include an awful lot of deliciousness. The great news? We have such a diverse variety of EVOOs that you’re sure to find one or two you love. And oh yeah—the MIND Diet even allows a daily 5-oz glass of red wine, if you’re so inclined.
Sources: The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, “Olive oil, the Mediterranean diet and arterial blood pressure: the Greek European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition” Ellingsworth C. and Khaleghi, M.The Everything Guide to the MIND Diet