Apr 292014

I’ve often said that I consume so much extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) I probably bleed the stuff. As far as I’m concerned, EVOO might as well be a needed food group, occupying the biggest section of myplate.

In fact, much has been written about the health benefits of the Mediterranean Diet, which include improved heart health, lower cholesterol, improved insulin levels, and reduced blood sugar.

A recent study published in the Annals of Neurology reveals that a diet high in mono-unsaturated fatty acids, like EVOO, is protective against congnitive decline. Specifically, researchers looked at older, female participants in the Women’s Health Study and identified three populations: those whose diets were high in saturated fats (SFAs), those whose diets were high in mono-unsaturated fats (MUFAs) and those whose diets were high in polyunsaturated, non-trans-fats (PUFAs). As dietary SFA increased, cognitive ability decreased. Conversely, as MUFA intake increased, so did cognitive ability. There was no correlation between PUFA intake and cognitive ability.

Interested in increasing MUFAs in your diet? Here are some good choices:

  • Olive Oil
  • Canola Oil
  • Grape Seed Oil
  • Avocados
  • Almonds
  • Macadamia Nuts
  • Cashews
  • Pecans
  • Peanuts
  • Sesame Seeds

MUFAs are also found in foods such as beef, butter and cheese, but tend to be accompanied by high levels of SFAs in those foods. For this reason, it’s best to get your MUFAs from the sources listed above.  As far as I’m concerned, EVOO will remain my go-to oil.  It is delicious in salads and on steamed vegetables and excellent for pan sautéing. If you plan to deep fry (who, you?), then use an oil with a higher smoke point, like grapeseed oil.