Extra-virgin olive oil may hold secrets to not only peripheral nerve health but central nerve health as well, including protection against Alzheimer’s disease. It’s not only good for cooking, but olive oil is good for nerves too.
1. Olive Oil Good for Nerve Myelin
One tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil contains 10 percent of the daily recommended intake of vitamin E per day. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that protects fatty structures in your body. A very important fatty structure for your nerve health is myelin. The branches of your nerve cell bodies are called axons, these axons are covered with a fatty structure called myelin sheath. Myelin is an insulating layer, or sheath, that forms around nerves. It is made up of protein and fatty substances. This myelin sheath allows electrical impulses to transmit quickly and efficiently along the nerve cells.
2. Olive Oil May Reduce Type 2 Diabetes Risk
Olive oil appears to be protective against type 2 diabetes, one of the top causes of neuropathy. High levels of sugar in the blood damages delicate blood vessel walls, which cascades to a hindered ability to nourish nerves. Several studies have linked olive oil to beneficial effects on blood sugar and insulin sensitivity.
A randomized clinical trial in 418 healthy people recently confirmed the protective effects of olive oil. In this study, a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil reduced the risk of type 2 diabetes by over 40 percent.
3. Olive Oil Helps Your Body Absorb Certain Antioxidants
Some nutrients need fat in order to be absorbed by your body. Among these are the carotenoid antioxidants, which are pigments found in many plant foods. However, fruits and vegetables rich in carotenoids are typically low in fat. So adding healthy oils, like extra-virgin olive oil, to your salad helps your body absorb these important nutrients.
4. Olive Oil May Benefit Brain Cell Function
Extra-virgin olive oil is a staple food in the Mediterranean diet, and people who consume these kinds of diets have a lower incidence of Alzheimer’s disease. Oleocanthal may play a role here as well. Studies involving oleocanthal have demonstrated the potential of this phenol to help the brain clear itself of amyloid plaque, the sticky protein that destroys connections between nerve cells found in Alzheimer’s disease. It does this by increasing the activity of enzymes that breakdown the plaque
Watch for Olive Oil Fraud
Olive oil quality is extremely important when you are consuming it for health benefits. Extra virgin olive oil is considered healthier than more refined varieties because it retains more of the antioxidants and bioactive compounds from olives.
Even so, there is a lot of fraud on the olive oil market, as many oils that read “extra virgin” on the label have been diluted with other refined oils. Therefore, examine labels carefully to ensure you’re getting real extra virgin olive oil. It’s always a good idea to read ingredients lists and check for quality certification.
In fact, a study by UC Davis in 2011 found that 73 percent of the 5 best selling olive oil import brands did not meet standards for extra virgin olive oil set by European regulators. Meaning they had been deliberately tainted with cheaper oils such as soy, corn, cottonseed, and canola that contribute to inflammation.
The best way to evaluate if an oil is good quality is to taste it. A good quality olive oil should taste grass-like, never greasy. Because oleocanthal is responsible for the peppery taste in virgin oils, it can be used as a measure of how much is in the oil. Stronger oils can be so spicy that you may even find yourself coughing. This is a good sign. Next time you find yourself “cough-cough” when eating a dish doused with olive oil, you’ll know you found a keeper.
Use Caution When Cooking With Olive Oil
You just learned about all of the nerve health benefits of olive oil, now you are going to learn that you should use caution when cooking with it. Counter-intuitive, yes?
Perhaps you’ve heard rumors that cooking with olive oil is bad. This is only partially true. Healthy phenols are easily damaged by heat. And once oils begin to smoke, not only are their health benefits degraded, but they produce damaging free radicals. In fact, all oils will become unhealthy if heated past their smoke point.
Stovetop cooking is usually around 350 F. The smoke point for extra-virgin olive oils is around 320 F to 380 F. So it’s on the borderline. If using for extra-virgin olive oil for low-temperature cooking, or adding it at the end of cooking, you don’t need to worry about all the hype that cooking with olive oil is bad.
If you normally use olive oil for high-temperature cooking, you are probably wondering what to do now? There’s a simple solution. Choose fats with a higher smoke point.
|Oil/Fat Type||Smoke Point|
|Avocado Oil||520 F|
|Rice Bran Oil||490 F|
|Ghee (clarified butter)||485 F|
|Extra Light Olive Oil||468 F|
|Refined Coconut Oil / Unrefined Coconut Oil||450 F / 350 F|
|Extra Virgin Olive Oil||320 F|
Extra-virgin olive oil is an excellent addition to lavishly add to salads and cooked meals. It provides vitamin E to protect myelin, may reduce risk of type 2 diabetes, and may protect your central nervous system from damaging amyloid plaque. However, extra-virgin olive oil is not suitable for high-temperature cooking due to its lower smoke point at which heat burns the sensitive oil, destroys its health benefits, and begins creating harmful free radicals.
Avocado oil for high-temperature cooking is your best bet. Avocado oil has a very high smoke point by comparison to other cooking oils. It will not burn or smoke until it reaches 520 F, which is ideal for high-temperature cooking.
Always look for organic, cold-pressed oils and be mindful of purity.
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