January is time of extremes: extreme weather, dieting, exercise, mood swings…. January wrecks havoc on us. There’s even a day called “Blue Monday” which has been deemed the saddest day of the year. Huh? At the beginning of January we make rock solid resolutions to BE better without defining how to BE better (for more on this check out my post “Why Resolutions Suck”). If you live up here in the northern hemisphere you go through weather extremes that have you stuck inside some days and running around trying to catch up on others. All the while hearing people complaining about the weather! By the end of the month the rock solid resolutions have been given up on and we are feeling bad about, well, pretty much everything! Sound familiar?
Other than move someplace hot what can we do about this? Actually a lot! Mood is greatly dependant on nutrient intake. We can take control! Yes fruits and vegies are slightly scarcer but they are not the only source of feel good nutrients.
A six year study was completed which indicated that diets high in trans-fats and processed foods increase the likelihood of depression. Of course this is nothing new but what was very interesting is that the consumption of olive oil decreased the risk of depression! This was not the first time this fact has arisen. With the resurgence of the Mediterranean diet research has been accumulating as to why people on this particular have decrease rates of depression, heart disease and diabetes. One theory is olive oil.
How is olive oil different from other cooking oils?
Olive oil is a naturally pressed vegetable product that undergoes minimal processing, if any. Other types of vegetable oils undergo a great deal of processing which destroys any nutritional value they may have started with. This processing also has the ability to destabilize the oil produced; resulting in toxins that may accumulate in your food.
3 Important Health Benefits of Olive Oil
Olive oil, when combined with greens such as spinach and kale, produces nitro fatty acid. This compound helps lower blood pressure by relaxing blood vessels, thereby reducing pressure on the heart.
While researchers were studying the Mediterranean diet an interesting fact was observed: There is a lowered risk of diabetes associated with people on this diet! While further research is warranted they believe this is due to the high olive oil consumption in this region. Olive oil contains oleic acid and hydroxytyrosol these two compounds help keep the pancreas (produces insulin) in check. Along with these healing compounds olive oil also contains hydrophilic fractions which protects the liver from oxidative stress. The liver is responsible for regulating blood compounds such as glucose and protein.
So how does olive oil help depression? Through all of the above! Relaxing blood vessels is not only good for the heart it also allows for better overall oxygenation of the body, particularly the brain. When the blood vessels are relaxed oxygen is transported and has time to be properly absorbed where it is needed most.
By protecting the liver and pancreas olive oil also helps keep blood nutrient levels in check a very important part of mental health. While Oleocanthal (a brain healthy phenolic compound found in olive oil) reduces the accumulation of beta-amyloid which has been linked to Alzheimer’s and depression.
Complete health cannot be attributed to just one ingredient. The foods we eat work together synergistically to provide all the nutrients and compounds needed to regulate the system. Olive oil is just one component. Adding it to an unhealthy meal will not make that meal healthy; instead it can be used in an already healthy meal to increase overall health. Use it in place of butter or generic highly processed oils, use olive oil mixed with some vinegar as a heart healthy salad dressing. The possibilities are endless!
Coming up next we celebrate the Chinese New Year with some healthy tid-bits about traditional foods of the Orient!
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