Salmon with Blood Oranges and Olive Oil Recipe, Plus Learn How Fruits, Vegetables, Fish, Whole Grains and Fresh Pressed Olive Oil Can Effect Mental Health
The benefits of olive oil can be seen in almost every aspect of our health—and not only physical health, but mental health, too. Research has looked at how extra virgin olive oil, both on its own and as part of the Mediterranean diet, can be a helpful component in an overall plan to combat depression. That’s a powerful message. Cooking and sharing food with others are also powerful mood enhancers—one delicious way to do this is with my olive oil and orange baked salmon recipe!
A Surprising Benefit of Olive Oil: Easing Depression
Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, “Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Improves Depression Symptoms Without Affecting Salivary Cortisol and Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor in Patients With Major Depression: A Double-Blind Randomized Controlled Trial,” August 2021.
Nutrients, “The Relationship between Adherence to the Mediterranean Diet, Intake of Specific Foods and Depression in an Adult Population (45–75 Years) in Primary Health Care. A Cross-Sectional Descriptive Study,” August 2021.
BMC Medicine, “A randomised controlled trial of dietary improvement for adults with major depression (the ‘SMILES’ trial),” January 2017.
Research has shown that olive oil included in your diet on a regular basis protects against depression, especially when part of a Mediterranean diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, fish, and whole grains. Research published in 2017 in BMC Medicine looked at whether the diet could help treat major depression as well. Participants who got personalized nutritional consulting from a dietitian, including goal setting and mindful eating, and followed the Mediterranean diet had significantly greater improvement after 12 weeks than did participants who didn’t get that comprehensive plan. On a daily basis, the helpful diet included 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 5–8 servings of whole grains, 6 servings of vegetables, 3 servings of fruit, 2–3 servings of low-fat unsweetened dairy foods, and a serving of raw, unsalted nuts; and on a weekly basis, 3–4 servings of legumes, at least 2 servings of fish, 3–4 servings of lean red meat, 2–3 servings of chicken, and up to 6 eggs. At the same time, sweets, refined cereals, fried food, fast food, processed meat, and sugary drinks were limited to no more than 3 per week.
A pair of recent studies built on these findings. The study in Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that having 25 mL of extra virgin olive oil (about 5 teaspoons) every day for 52 days led to a significant improvement in depression symptoms among study participants with severe depression, making it a potential complementary therapy to mental health counseling and medication.
The Nutrients study took a more global view, similar to the one in BMC Medicine, investigating the effects of the Mediterranean diet along with the roles of specific foods. It also looked at depression from the opposite point of view—which foods are linked to depression. The researchers came to this positive conclusion: “Adherence to the Mediterranean diet and the resulting consumption of nuts, vegetables, and olive oil has been found to relate to a lower presence of depressive symptomatology. On the other hand, a poorer adherence to the Mediterranean diet and an excessive consumption of sugary drinks and red meats has been related to higher depressive symptomatology.” In view of this, they pointed out that assessing the diet of people with depression could help in development of a treatment plan. Of course, it’s important to keep in mind that diet is just one facet of depression care; the researchers added that “depression is a very complex issue and the relationship between nutrition and depression must be further examined to obtain additional scientific evidence.”
Salmon with Blood Oranges and Olive Oil
- Salmon with Blood Oranges and Olive Oil
The brilliant red color of blood oranges adds to the tasty appeal of this dish, rich in a variety of healthful fatty acids from both the fish and the olive oil.
- 2 blood oranges
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 6 center-cut salmon fillets, 4 to 6 ounces each, preferably with skin on
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground black and white pepper
- Chopped fresh dill or parsley for serving
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Juice one of the oranges and strain out any seeds. Whisk in the olive oil. Cut the other orange into thin slices and remove any seeds.
Arrange the salmon fillets skin side down in a baking dish. Drizzle half the olive oil–orange juice mixture evenly over the salmon fillets. Season generously with salt and pepper, and then top each fillet with an orange slice.
Drizzle the remaining olive oil–orange juice mixture over the orange slices. Bake the salmon, uncovered, for 25 to 30 minutes, or until done to your liking.
Transfer to a platter or plates and garnish with the dill or parsley.
Yields 8–10 servings.