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Benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil and the Mediterranean Diet

Research shows that one way to live a strong and healthy life is by following the Mediterranean diet.

Best known for being one of the healthiest diets, the Mediterranean diet has astounding benefits to overall health. Primarily consisting of plant-based foods, extra virgin olive oil, fruits, nuts, low amounts of dairy products and meat, the diet seems to correlate with lower mortality and decreased deterioration in health as you age. 

To evaluate the effectiveness of the Mediterranean diet in elderly adults 65 years and older, a collection of 36 articles was reviewed (1). The benefits of the diet ranged from decreased rates of cardiovascular disease and mortality to a reduction in the prevalence of metabolic syndrome (1). This post will highlight some key points regarding the cognitive benefits of the overall diet.

When following the Mediterranean diet, the rate of cognitive decline appears to be reduced in older adults. An Italian longitudinal study on aging indicated that cognitive performance in elderly adults who had a high intake of MUFA and PUFA following 9 years appeared to be a protective element against age-related cognitive decline (2).

What is “MUFA” and “PUFA” you may be asking? They are monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids, respectively. 

You may now be asking, “What does that have to do with anything?” Monounsaturated fats can be found in plant foods, nuts, avocados, and vegetable oils such as extra virgin olive oil (3). They are considered healthy fats that can also potentially help lower LDL cholesterol, which can ultimately reduce the risk of a heart attack (3). As for polyunsaturated fats, there are two types –– Omega 3-fatty acids and Omega 6-fatty acids. Omega 6-fatty acids are essential due to the human body’s inability to produce these types of fat. These can be found in fatty fish like salmon, eggs, walnuts, and flaxseed oil (4).

Hopefully, this provides some clarity into the cognitive benefits of the Mediterranean diet for its incorporation and emphasis on healthy fats attributed to the diet itself. As for aging adults, this may be beneficial in terms of longevity and deterioration of health.

If a Mediterranean dish sounds good right about now. Here are some dishes that might be right up your ally. Enjoy!

White Fish with Tomatoes

Eggplant Parmesan

Like this? Check out our other posts on Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) Health Benefits on Cognitive Function in Older Adults

Written by Jhun Kendrick Papio
Reviewed by Kelly Powers, MA, RDN, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who takes a holistic approach to nutrition and health. Kelly is a recipe developer with a food blog highlighting whole foods, simple recipes, and her life in San Francisco. She’s the creator of 52 Weeks, a weekly meal plan program that helps users get back in the kitchen and feed themselves well. Kelly is also a co-founder of Olivaio.