Olive Oil: The Natural Brain Food for You and Your Kids

Little boy pouring olive oil over salad with sister and granny

You’ve read the magazine articles and glowing blog posts. You know that extra virgin olive oil is loaded with antioxidants and monounsaturated fatty acids, giving it unparalleled healing powers when it comes to cardiovascular health. But did you know that this delicious staple of a healthy Mediterranean-style diet is proving to be a big ally to brain health as well?

A major study by researchers at the University of Louisiana, published in the journal ACS Chemical Neuroscience, shows that oleocanthal, a natural phenolic compound found in true EVOO, reduces build-up of Alzheimer’s Disease proteins in the brain. Researchers first became interested in this possibility after discovering that Alzheimer’s rates were lower in Mediterranean countries. These important new findings have some experts calling olive oil a natural brain food.

It works like this: When Alzheimer’s first starts to develop, abnormal proteins attach themselves to brain cells, making it impossible for the cells to communicate with each other. This condition leads to unfortunate memory loss and dementia. When oleocanthals come to the rescue, they manage to disable these invading proteins, stopping them before they start. How’s that for super food action?

Good fats, like olive oil, have also proven to promote healthy brain function beyond Alzheimer’s Disease. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, young children need the calories from dietary fat for normal brain development and maturity. Just look at the concentration of DHA-laden omega-3 fats that naturally occur in breast milk! While olive oil doesn’t contain the omega-3 fatty acid levels of, say, salmon or flaxseeds, it does contain essential omega-9 concentrations. More importantly, because it’s a monounsaturated fat, olive oil is part of the family of healthy fats that kids need to thrive.

In celebration of Every Kid Healthy Week, here are a few suggestions to help incorporate EVOO into your child’s diet. A simple, fool-proof method is to drizzle your favorite olive oil over roasted broccoli or any other favorite vegetable. Add a dash of salt and you’re good to go. Or, toast up a slice of delicious whole-grain bread and drizzle olive oil over it instead of butter. For a breakfast treat, bake up a tin of your child’s favorite muffins, replacing the butter with olive oil. Here’s an easy and tasty olive oil muffins recipe from Smitten Kitchen. For birthdays, how about a delectable carrot and olive oil cake? You definitely won’t miss the buzz from that grocery store cake sugar-bomb!

Every parent wants their child to thrive – at school, at home, and in life. Good nutrition is a huge part of this equation. So, the next time you or your child’s brain needs a lift, reach for the olive oil! Your neurons will thank you.