Fresh-Pressed Olive Oil Club

The Olive Oil Hunter News #116

Roasted Pears Recipe, How to Adopt the Mediterranean Diet, Plus Discover the Easy Ways to Get the Benefits of Olive Oil and Other Healthful Foods

Many issues of The Olive Oil Hunter Newsletter have been devoted to sharing the science behind the health benefits of olive oil and how you can reap them by adopting the well-known Mediterranean Diet. Still, changes to your diet—especially the permanent ones that can add up to longer life—are hard to make. Problem solved: this issue contains suggestions from two of the country’s leading health institutions, the Cleveland Clinic and Harvard Health, on how to adopt and adapt the most important parts of the diet. And to start, here’s a delicious recipe that doesn’t sacrifice anything in the way of taste.

Roasted Pears

Reaping the Benefits of Olive Oil

How to Adopt the Mediterranean Diet

You likely know about its benefits, which range from heart health to brain health, but chances are you haven’t fully adopted it. It can seem more overwhelming at first than it really is. Rather than being a diet with hard-and-fast rules, it’s about taking a thoughtful approach to eating: have more of the healthy foods and fewer of the less healthy ones. 

Mediterranean Diet
Quick Kitchen Nugget: Helpful kitchen tips for a healthier lifestyle

Master the Principles

Here are the food emphasized on the Mediterranean Diet, according to the Cleveland Clinic: 

  • Lots of vegetables, fruit, beans, lentils, and nuts
  • Lots of whole grains, like whole-wheat bread and brown rice
  • Plenty of extra virgin olive oil as a source of healthy fat
  • A moderate amount of fish, especially fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids
  • A moderate amount of cheese and yogurt
  • Little or no red meat—choose poultry instead
  • Little or no sweets, sugary drinks, or butter
  • A moderate amount of wine with meals (but if you don’t already drink, don’t start)
Fitness Flash: Health Tips for healthier lifestyle

Get Motivated 

Why is the Mediterranean Diet so good for you? Again, according to the Cleveland Clinic:

  • It rebalances the types of fat Americans typically eat. The focus is on healthy unsaturated fats because they promote healthy cholesterol and blood sugar levels, support brain health, and fight inflammation. You limit saturated fat, which can raise bad cholesterol and, in turn, the risk of plaque buildup in arteries (it’s also been linked to excess inflammation).
  • It prioritizes foods high in fiber and antioxidants. Antioxidants help reduce inflammation, the foundation of many types of diseases. Fiber helps to not only keep you regular but also sweep cholesterol out of your system.
  • It limits salt, sugar, and refined carbs. Too much salt is a high blood pressure risk. Refined foods, including sugary ones, can cause blood sugar spikes and usually deliver a lot of calories with little nutritional benefit. 

Together, these tenets of the diet translate to important health benefits: a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and its risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and being overweight. It improves the quality of the gut microbiome, which is important because a diversity of good bacteria promotes good health. It slows cognitive decline and, overall, helps promote longer life. 

Researchers believe these protective benefits are partly due to the healthy fats you eat on the Mediterranean Diet. These come from foods like extra virgin olive oil, nuts, and fish. Speaking of olive oil, here’s how the Cleveland Clinic distinguishes between extra virgin olive oil and lesser types:

“A crucial fact to know before starting the Mediterranean Diet is that not all olive oils are the same. The Mediterranean Diet calls for extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), specifically. That’s because it has a healthy fat ratio. This means EVOO contains more healthy fat (unsaturated) than unhealthy fat (saturated). Aside from its fat ratio, EVOO is healthy because it’s high in antioxidants. Antioxidants help protect your heart and reduce inflammation throughout your body. Because it’s manufactured differently, regular olive oil doesn’t contain these antioxidants.”

Get Started

Now that you know more about the Mediterranean Diet and why it’s so helpful, you probably want to know where to begin. Experts from Harvard Health offer steps for an easy and gradual transition. Try to incorporate a new one every week or two, and soon they’ll all be second nature:

  • Switch to extra virgin olive oil in cooking, as the base for salad dressings, and in place of butter on crusty bread.
  • Have a handful of raw nuts every day instead of processed snacks and candy. Olives are great, too.
  • Go for whole-grain bread and other whole grains at meals—try bulgur, barley, farro, couscous, whole-grain pasta, and pasta made from legumes.
  • Have a dark, leafy green salad plus seasonal veggies at every meal. In all, aim for three to four vegetable servings a day, and have fun by trying a new vegetable every week.
  • Discover the world of legumes—try the many varieties of lentils, beans, and dried split peas, plus chickpeas and peanuts. Aim for at least three servings a week.
  • Include three servings of fruit a day. Save high-fat, high-sugar desserts for special occasions.
  • Think fish first when choosing proteins. Aim for two to three servings a week. When you choose lean poultry, keep portions to 3 or 4 ounces. Use meat as a supporting player in dishes where you can maximize veggies, like stews, stir-fries, and soups. 
  • If you drink alcohol, substitute wine for other alcoholic beverages, but still stay within healthy guidelines: no more than two 5-ounce glasses per day for men, and one glass per day for women.

Harvard also offers these practical mealtime ideas to put their guidelines into action: 

At Breakfast

Have oatmeal or an ancient grain, like quinoa or farro, topped with yogurt, fruit, and honey. Or start with plain Greek yogurt and build on that with fresh berries and a sprinkle of nuts.

At Lunch

Have a grain- or legume-based salad, hot or cold, with a variety of vegetables and a fresh cheese like feta, and with a drizzle of a homemade vinaigrette.

At Dinner

Replace meat dishes with fish, especially wild-caught salmon and other fish high in omega-3 fatty acids. Expand meatless Mondays to two or three nights a week with dishes like lentil soup, veggie-stuffed acorn squash, and meatless lasagna. 

There are two more aspects of the Mediterranean Diet that I love and get to enjoy on my trips to Italy and Spain for the Fresh-Pressed Olive Oil Club: its emphasis on conviviality—cooking and sharing meals with family and friends—and eating locally sourced foods, which tend to maintain higher levels of nutrients than foods trucked across the country—it’s also better for the environment.

Get More Recipes In Your Inbox!

The Olive Oil Hunter News #113

Broccoli Cheddar Soup Recipe, Spotlight on Broccoli, Immersion Blender 101, How to Overcome Excuses for Not Exercising and Mastering Functional Fitness

Winter is a time of year when a thick and hearty soup can easily be dinner. Make a large batch, and you’ll have enough for a lunch or two as well. Winter is also when most of us need a little extra motivation to exercise. I’m sharing ideas as well as one aspect of fitness that may be new to you.

Broccoli Cheddar Soup

  • Brocoli Cheddar Soup Broccoli Cheddar Soup

    This is a popular item at restaurants and the soup station at supermarkets, yet so often tastes gummy. My recipe is chunky and creamy at the same time, thanks to a simple roux technique and not over-blending.  


    • 7 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more for drizzling
    • 1 large sweet onion, about 12 ounces, finely chopped
    • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
    • Coarse salt 
    • 2 pounds broccoli, trimmed and cut into small florets (slice stems into discs)
    • 1/4 cup white whole wheat flour
    • 3 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
    • 2 cups milk
    • 10 ounces sharp or very sharp white cheddar cheese, grated
    • Freshly ground black pepper to taste


    Step 1

    Heat a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed stockpot over medium heat. When hot, add 3 tablespoons of olive oil, the onions, and garlic. Add a pinch of salt to help the onions sweat. Sauté until soft, about 5 to 8 minutes. Add the broccoli and cook until it turns a brighter green, about 10 minutes, stirring often. Use a large slotted spoon to transfer all the veggies to a large bowl next to your cooktop.  

    Step 2

    Add the rest of the olive oil to the pot along with the flour and stir vigorously for 2 minutes to make a roux and cook the flour. Whisk in the broth, a half-cup at a time, letting the mixture come to a boil before adding the next half-cup. Repeat the technique with the milk and then stir in 8 ounces of the cheese. When smooth, add back in the vegetables. Continue to cook, partly covered, at a low simmer for 30 minutes or until the broccoli is tender. Stir occasionally to make sure all the broccoli gets submerged.

    Step 3

    Using an immersion blender or working in batches with a standard blender, blend the soup, stopping short of a full purée. Taste and season as desired with salt and pepper. Garnish servings with the rest of the grated cheddar and a drizzle of olive oil.

    Yields 8 to 10 servings

Food Pairings: The Power of Purple Potatoes

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight

Broccoli’s Bounty

Broccoli is on nearly every top 10 list of healthy foods, and science is still uncovering more of its benefits. Beyond its impressive list of vitamins and minerals, broccoli, like other cruciferous vegetables, has a phytochemical—or plant-based compound—called sulforaphane. Since the early 1990s, over 3,000 lab studies and over 50 clinical trials have looked at sulforaphane’s role in cancer prevention and even in cancer treatment. According to a review of research on broccoli and broccoli sprouts published in the journal Molecules, sulforaphane’s anti-inflammatory properties also show promise for easing arthritis and asthma, managing diabetes more effectively, and improving fatty liver disease. 

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight: Sweet spices for savory dishes

Quick Kitchen Nugget

Immersion Blender 101

I love a handheld cordless immersion blender for puréeing foods without having to transfer them to a standing blender or food processor. But not all models have the same power as those countertop workhorses. To make yours more effective, try these tips:

  • Precut any solid foods you’ll be blending into 2″ pieces or smaller.
  • Be sure any cooked foods are tender before blending.
  • The food to be blended should come at least an inch above the blade, and the blade should always be submerged, even when working it up and down. 
  • When using the immersion blender to homogenize small amounts of liquids for salad dressings or sauces, use a tall measuring cup if your appliance didn’t come with a special container.
Healthy Kitchen Nugget: The Truth About Nondairy Milks

For Your Best Health

How to Overcome Excuses for Not Exercising 

As many benefits as exercise has, people find even more excuses for not working out. Here’s some motivation from NIH’s National Institute on Aging:

No time? Get up a few minutes earlier and exercise first thing or combine physical activity with a task that’s already part of your day, like starting to walk to work.

Too boring? The only way to stick with a plan is to do activities you really enjoy. Also, try new types of exercise to keep it interesting.

Too expensive? All you need is a pair of comfortable, nonskid shoes to start walking and, for upper body strength training, your own body weight for moves like pushups or a pair of filled water bottles.

Too tired? That’s another reason to exercise early in the day when you have more energy. Plus, regular, moderate physical activity can help reduce fatigue.

Not convinced? Take a few seconds to read this list of exercise benefits whenever you need a little impetus to get going:

  • A lower risk of chronic conditions, like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and some cancers
  • Easier weight control
  • Better cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness
  • A lower risk of falling and better bone density
  • A lower risk of depression
  • Improved cognitive function and sleep quality
Healthy Kitchen Nugget: The Value of Variety

Fitness Flash

Mastering Functional Fitness

Your fitness and mobility levels are important signs of independence. They’re often assessed by what’s called functional fitness, the ability to carry out activities of daily living, or ADLs—being able to care for yourself, go shopping, get on and off the sofa with ease, and so on. Building and maintaining functional fitness is key to moving with ease now and staying mobile as you age. 

There are seven important movements we all draw on for those ADLs: pushing, pulling, squatting, lunging, hinging, rotating, and balancing. Doing exercises that use those movements will make it easier to handle all your daily tasks. Many common strength training moves, like pushups and chest presses, pullups and rows, squats, wall sits, and lunges, replicate them exactly. Kettlebell swings and twists mimic hinging. Some core exercises, like the woodchopper and working with a medicine ball, help with rotation. And there are many moves to improve balance, like sidestepping and heel-to-toe walking. If you’re new to any of these exercises or want tailored guidance, consider scheduling a session with a personal trainer.

Get More Recipes In Your Inbox!

The Olive Oil Hunter News #112

Chocolate Chiffon Layer Cake Recipe, Spotlight on Cocoa Powder, How to Maximize Chocolate Flavor, Benefits of Jarlsberg Cheese, and 8 Steps for Better Heart Health

I love a romantic dinner at home for Valentine’s Day, and my chocolate cake is the perfect dessert indulgence. Knowing there are healthful compounds, like polyphenols, in its natural cocoa should cancel out any guilt! Read on for tips to get the most flavor in all your chocolate creations. And since February is also heart health month, I’m sharing the American Heart Association’s eight strategies to keep your ticker in tip-top shape.

Chocolate Chiffon Layer Cake

  • Chocolate Chiffon Layer Cake Chocolate Chiffon Layer Cake

    Wedges of these light-and-luscious layers are great on their own or with a dollop of thick Icelandic skyr or Middle Eastern labneh, a cultured dairy product rich in probiotics. To elevate them to layer-cake status for a festive occasion, chocolate whipped cream is all you need.


    For the chocolate cake: 

    • 5 large eggs
    • 1 cup cake flour
    • 1/2 cup cocoa
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 1 cup sugar, divided
    • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
    • 1/2 cup brewed coffee at room temperature
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

    For the chocolate whipped cream:

    • 1/3 cup cocoa, plus more for dusting
    • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
    • 1 teaspoon instant espresso
    • 3 cups heavy cream
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla


    Step 1

    Separate the whites from the yolks when the eggs are cold and let them come to room temperature (the whites will whip much better). Place one of the racks in the middle of your oven and preheat to 325°F. Line two 9-inch cake pans with parchment paper, but don’t grease them; set aside. 

    Step 2

    In a very large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In another bowl, whisk the yolks and 1/2 cup sugar until fully blended and light in color, about 2 minutes, and then whisk in the olive oil, coffee, and vanilla. Whisk the egg mixture into the flour mixture until this batter is completely blended.

    Step 3

    In the bowl of a stand mixer or another large bowl, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar on low speed for about 30 seconds, and then gradually add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar as you slowly increase the speed to high. Continue beating until you get a glossy meringue with firm peaks, about 8 to 10 minutes.

    Step 4

    Fold about a cup of meringue into the batter to lighten it and then gently fold in the rest in three batches, just until there are barely any streaks of meringue visible. Divide the batter between the two pans and gently smooth the surfaces with an offset spatula. Bake the cakes on the same rack for 15 minutes and then reverse their positions. Continue baking until the tops spring back when lightly pressed with a fingertip and a tester comes out clean, about 10–15 minutes more, depending on your oven.

    Step 5

    Invert the pans onto two wire racks to cool for about an hour. Turn them right side up and run an offset spatula around the sides of the cakes to loosen them. Invert again, take off the pans, peel off the parchment, and let cool completely.

    Step 6

    To make the chocolate whipped cream, whisk the cocoa, confectioners’ sugar, and espresso powder together in a small bowl. Whip the heavy cream and vanilla at medium speed until thickened, add the cocoa mixture, turn up the speed to high, and whip until stiff. Use a large spatula to spread about 1/3 of the chocolate cream on one of the cake layers. Top with the other layer and spread the rest of the cream on the top and sides. Dust with additional cocoa. Store covered in the fridge.

    Yields 8–10 servings

Food Pairings: The Power of Purple Potatoes

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight

Cocoa Powder

Unsweetened cocoa powder is a food lover’s dream—intense chocolate taste and few calories. The cocoa process starts with roasted cocoa bean particles, or nibs. The nibs are turned into chocolate liquor. To make cocoa, the chocolate liquor is pressed to remove much of the cocoa butter and then ground into powder. This liquor is where most of chocolate’s flavor comes from and explains why white chocolate, made of cocoa butter and sugar, is rather bland.

From a health perspective, cocoa beans have more than 200 compounds, including anti-oxidant polyphenols, the best known of which are flavanols. Flavanols are thought to improve blood flow to the brain and heart, help lower blood pressure, and fight cell damage, according to Harvard Health. Ounce for ounce, natural cocoa is the food with the highest flavanol content. 

You might have noticed that cocoa is available in two main forms: natural, with a deeper taste yet lighter color; and Dutch-process, with a milder taste and darker color. When “dutching,” an alkaline ingredient is used to counter cocoa’s natural acidity. While it’s often possible to use the two interchangeably with only slight differences in taste in the finished dish, Dutch-processed cocoa retains fewer of its healthful compounds. According to a 2022 report on cocoa in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, dutching can reduce the polyphenols by 60 or more percent. 

To account for the acidity of natural cocoa, baking soda—with or without baking powder—is typically called for as a leavening agent in baked goods. If you don’t see it listed in the ingredients in a recipe, add 1/8 teaspoon of baking soda for every 3 tablespoons of natural cocoa powder. And always sift cocoa into the recipe’s other dry ingredients to avoid lumps. 

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight: Sweet spices for savory dishes

Quick Kitchen Nugget

Maximizing Chocolate Flavor

It might sound crazy, but a pinch each of salt and coffee powder help bring out the sweetness of chocolate without being discernible themselves. Simply whisk them into the other dry ingredients in a recipe or, in the case of chocolate sauce or hot cocoa, as you’re warming the mixture on your cooktop.

Healthy Kitchen Nugget: The Truth About Nondairy Milks

For Your Best Health

Say (Jarlsberg) Cheese!

A recent study on the potential benefits of eating Jarlsberg, a cheese from Norway, to stave off bone thinning showed that some types of cheese could be better for you than others. It builds on previous research suggesting that Jarlsberg may help boost levels of osteocalcin, a hormone associated with strong bones and teeth.  

The participants were 66 young and healthy women. One group added a daily 57g portion of Jarlsberg (about 2 ounces) to their diet for 6 weeks; the other added 50g of Camembert and then switched to Jarlsberg for another six weeks. 

While Jarlsberg and Camembert have similar fat and protein profiles, only Jarlsberg is rich in vitamin K2, which occurs thanks to bacteria in certain fermented foods. According to a summary of the results, “Blood sample analysis showed that the key biochemical markers of bone turnover, including osteocalcin, and vitamin K2 increased significantly after 6 weeks in the Jarlsberg group, but not the Camembert group.”

This finding (along with positive changes in blood sugar and cholesterol of Jarlsberg-eating participants) suggests that it might help prevent the bone-thinning of osteopenia, which precedes osteoporosis, as well as metabolic diseases, such as diabetes. 

The study, published in BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health, shows that “while calcium and vitamin D are known to be extremely important for bone health, there are other key factors at play, such as vitamin K2, which is perhaps not as well known,” commented Professor Sumantra Ray, executive director, NNEdPro Global Centre for Nutrition and Health, and co-founder of the publication, adding, “Different methods of preparation mean there are key differences in the nutrient composition of cheese which has often been regarded as a homogenous food item in dietary research to date. This needs to be addressed in future studies…As this is a small study in young and healthy people designed to explore novel pathways linking diet and bone health, the results need to be interpreted with great caution as the study participants will not necessarily be representative of other groups.” More research is needed to confirm these findings.

Healthy Kitchen Nugget: The Value of Variety

Fitness Flash

Steps for Better Heart Health

The American Heart Association recently introduced its Life’s Essential 8, a checklist of health markers and lifestyle habits that support the idea that it’s easier to prevent heart problems than try to correct them. An important part of the AHA message is that you’re never too old to take these steps: 

  • Follow the DASH Diet or, even better, the Mediterranean Diet, focusing on extra virgin olive oil, vegetables, fruits, fish, low-fat dairy, whole grains, and occasionally lean meat. 
  • Exercise for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise every week.
  • Avoid all types of nicotine exposure, including e-cigarettes/vaping.
  • Get 7–9 hours of sleep every night.
  • Know your body mass index to help assess whether you’re at risk for health problems from excess weight. 
  • Know your non-HDL cholesterol number—total cholesterol minus your good HDL number, a better and simpler way to assess blood fats with no fasting needed before the blood test. 
  • Know your A1C number, a better check of glycemic control than a single blood glucose reading. 
  • Know your blood pressure numbers—120/80 mm Hg is still optimal. Hypertension begins when either systolic pressure is between 130 and 139 mm Hg or diastolic pressure is between 80 and 89 mm Hg.

Get More Recipes In Your Inbox!

The Olive Oil Hunter News #111

Pork Chops with Tomatoes and Capers Recipe and What Makes Olive Oil a Good Fat

As members of the Fresh-Pressed Olive Oil Club know, the vibrant pepperiness of extra virgin olive oil comes from its polyphenols, important antioxidants that foster good health in so many ways. But there’s more to the story. EVOO’s main nutrient and the source of its calories is monounsaturated fatty acids, or MUFAs, which confer special benefits as well. That’s why many health authorities recommend them over saturated fats (those solid at room temperature, like butter). In this edition of the Newsletter, we’ll look at the one-two punch of MUFAs and polyphenols—and how together they can help staunch a very serious health epidemic, metabolic syndrome. But first, a wonderful winter recipe sure to become a favorite.

Pork Chops with Tomatoes and Capers

  • Pork chops with tomatoes and capers Pork Chops with Tomatoes and Capers

    This Mediterranean-style dish is cooked on the stovetop in a single pan and creates a rich, tomato sauce. 


    • 1/4 cup white whole-wheat or all-purpose flour
    • 1 teaspoon each coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • 6 pork chops, each about 1/2-inch thick
    • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    • 4 garlic cloves, minced
    • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
    • 1/3 cup chicken stock, homemade or low-sodium store-bought
    • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes with its juice
    • 4 tablespoons capers


    Step 1

    Combine the flour, salt, and pepper in a pie plate. Heat a frying pan large enough to hold the chops (if necessary, you can cook the chops in batches). Once the pan is hot, add the olive oil and quickly coat both sides of each chop in the flour mixture, shake off any excess, and add to the pan. Sauté 5 minutes on each side or until browned. 

    Step 2

    Transfer the chops to a dish. Add the garlic to the pan and sauté slightly, then deglaze the pan with the vinegar. Add the tomatoes along with their juice, the broth, and the capers, and briefly bring to a boil.

    Step 3

    Add back the chops, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook until the chops are cooked through and register 145°F on an instant-read thermometer, about 10 minutes more. 

    Yields 6 servings.

Healthy Kitchen Nugget: The Truth About Nondairy Milks

For Your Best Health

What Makes Olive Oil a Good Fat 

The study making news: “The clinical impact of an extra virgin olive oil enriched Mediterranean diet on metabolic syndrome: Lights and shadows of a nutraceutical approach,” a research review published in Frontiers in Nutrition (2022).

Most research on the benefits of olive oil and the Mediterranean diet centers on the healthful properties of its polyphenols, but its fatty acids deliver benefits of their own. What’s more, the polyphenols and fatty acids seem to work in synergy to do even more. 

As stated in this research review, one component of the Mediterranean diet “believed to contribute a strong beneficial effect is extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), high in monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) and with variable concentrations of phenols. These not only determine EVOO’s main organoleptic qualities (oxidative stability, specific flavor, and taste features) but make it a source of antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, insulin-sensitizing, cardioprotective, antiatherogenic, neuroprotective, and immunomodulatory activity.” (Antiatherogenic means that it fights against dangerous plaque buildup, or atherosclerosis, along artery walls.)

Why are MUFAs considered good fats?

According to the National Library of Medicine, monounsaturated fats are good for your health in several ways. They can help lower your LDL or bad cholesterol level. Keeping your LDL level low reduces your risk for heart disease and stroke. Also, MUFAs help develop and maintain your cells. Extra virgin olive oil is an excellent source of MUFAs. Olive oil also has the other preferred alternative to saturated fat, PUFAs, or polyunsaturated fatty acids, but to a lesser extent. (Some of the best sources of PUFAs are walnuts, flax, and sunflower seeds.)

For the Frontiers in Nutrition review, the researchers took a deep dive into how EVOO may help with the condition known as metabolic syndrome, one that has become more prevalent as people have become more overweight. According to the review, it’s “an increasingly pressing global health problem, affecting about 31 percent of the world’s population but predicted to increase over 50 percent in the next 15 years.” Metabolic syndrome is typically diagnosed when someone has at least three of these five conditions: abdominal obesity (belly fat), high triglyceride levels, low HDL or good cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and impaired fasting glucose (blood sugar). Each one is a risk factor for various metabolic and cardiovascular diseases, from diabetes to heart disease; having three or more creates a heightened risk.

As the report pointed out,

“The only established, effective treatment is lifestyle modification through increased physical activity, weight loss, and dietary intake high in fruits, vegetables, grains, fish, and low-fat dairy products: i.e., the Mediterranean diet (MD). Several studies have shown a direct correlation between MD adherence and overall reduction in mortality and morbidity.…

“The Mediterranean diet is a cornerstone in treating [metabolic syndrome] and preventing cardiovascular risk. Literature data indicate that an essential component is EVOO which, with high MUFA and polyphenol content, constitutes a food with excellent organoleptic properties and a substance with surprising nutraceutical abilities. EVOO, by activating multiple metabolic pathways, could optimize glycemic control and lipid metabolism, reduce endothelial damage and blood pressure, and provide systemic anti-inflammatory activity.”

Based on the studies that the researchers reviewed, they found that, in particular, “Extra virgin olive oil, due to its high MUFA content, significantly reduces concentrations of total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol, decreasing TC/HDL and LDL/HDL ratios. In this context, polyphenols act synergistically with MUFAs.Overall, EVOO seems to play an antiatherogenic and CVD risk reduction role, improving the overall health status of [metabolic syndrome] patients.” 

The researchers also mentioned that, in addition to helping counteract the inflammation that accompanies overweight, EVOO might indirectly help with weight loss by enhancing the way food tastes and perhaps helping people feel full sooner, thus preventing overeating. 

They did note that there are still unanswered questions. Since most studies don’t spell out the specific varietals of EVOO consumed by participants or their exact polyphenol levels, the researchers can’t say what concentration of polyphenols is needed or which olive varieties are best—things that future studies might tell us. One thing we do know: in general, the fresher the olive oil, the higher its polyphenol content.  

Get More Recipes In Your Inbox!