How Extra Virgin Olive Oil Helps Keeping the Mind Sharp

From the day we are born, we begin aging. This inescapable process causes the body’s everyday functions to diminish as time goes on.

As the brain ages, cognitive decline occurs, for some more rapidly than others. Losing your memory can be very scary to think about, especially if you’ve watched someone close to you lose the full capacity of their brain over time.

Although there is no magic pill to preserve brain function, recent studies have shown extra virgin olive oil plays an essential role in maintaining cognition.

Extra virgin olive oil has neuroprotective qualities that have been found to play a role in memory, attention span, and overall brain comprehension.

Valls-Pedret (4) suggests that following a Mediterranean diet with olive oil was associated with overall improved cognitive function, both in the frontal lobes and globally.

A recent study by Angeloni and Malaguti (2) reported that phenolics from olive oil have strong antioxidant properties that counteract oxidative stress in brain tissue. Additionally, Anastasiou and Hussain (1, 3) support this claim with their research as well.

You may be wondering, why is extra virgin olive oil so special? What role could it possibly play in preserving brain function?

Let’s dive deeper into the physiology behind why extra virgin olive oil helps keep the mind sharp.

High quality, minimally processed extra virgin olive oil contains a rich abundance of polyphenols –– a type of antioxidant that preserves brain function by maintaining healthy synapses.

There are about 100 trillion synapses in our brains, and all of them help it communicate with the rest of the body. Each individual thought we have must pass through a synapse to translate information. As you can tell, healthy synapses are critical!

Although the nervous system is extremely complex, one thing is for sure, the healthier the synapses are, the better the brain function! So keep your synapses sharp by incorporating extra virgin olive oil into your everyday diet to increase your intake of polyphenols.

Give these simple swaps a try!

  1. Ditch the store-bought salad dressing and make your own! It’s super simple, just mix extra virgin olive oil with any herbs/spices you desire, add a squeeze of lemon juice and your set.
  2. Forget the pre-packaged popcorn, buy your own kernels and drizzle extra virgin olive oil on top. Add your choice of truffle salt, parmesan cheese, or garlic powder with cracked pepper. The combinations are endless.
  3. Impress your guests with an easy Bruschetta. Take your favorite loaf of rustic bread and rub it with garlic, then toast it to crisp perfection. Then top it with fresh diced tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, and any herbs or spices for garnish. 

Written by Chloe Morrill
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.