Fresh-Pressed Olive Oil Club

The Olive Oil Hunter News #96

Easy Pizza Dough for Personal Pies Recipe, Spotlight on Pizza, White versus Wheat Flour, Why Thinking is Exhausting and Why Daily Exercise is Not

Who doesn’t love pizza? The problem is that it’s often saddled with the “unhealthy” label. But I’m here to tell you that homemade pizza can be delicious and nutritious. It all depends on the ingredients, and by that I of course mean the toppings! And I have some more food for thought: Why thinking is exhausting and why daily exercise nuggets are not (they’re actually invigorating!).

Easy Pizza Dough for Personal Pies

  • Personal Pizzas Easy Pizza Dough for Personal Pies

    Using bread flour is the secret for crusty pizza—one that holds up to a lot of sauce and toppings! You can make two large rounds from this dough, but making individual pizzas is more fun. Note: If you’re able to find instant yeast, you can streamline the technique even further, as it can be mixed with the other dry ingredients for a few seconds before adding the water and oil, before proceeding with the kneading as described. 


    • 1 1/2 cups warm water, about 110-115°F, plus more as needed
    • 1 teaspoon sugar
    • 2 1/4 teaspoons (or one envelope) active dry yeast
    • 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
    • 4 cups bread flour, plus more as needed 
    • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided


    Step 1

    Place the water, sugar, and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook attached. Turn it on for a few seconds to mix and then wait 5 minutes for the yeast to bubble up. 

    Step 2

    With the mixer on the lowest setting, add 3 tablespoons of olive oil, the salt, and the flour to the bowl. Once a doughy mass forms, slowly raise the speed and continue kneading until the dough ball is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. If the dough feels too dry, add more water, a scant tablespoon at a time. If too wet, add more flour, a scant tablespoon at a time.

    Step 3

    Lift the dough out of the bowl, remove the dough hook, and pour in the last tablespoon of olive oil, coating the bowl thoroughly. Place the dough back in the bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, and let it rise for about 60 minutes or so (depending on how warm your kitchen is) until double in size and spongy.

    Step 4

    Preheat your oven to 450° or 500°F, depending on how high it goes. Gently transfer the dough from the bowl to a large piece of parchment paper. Use a knife or pastry cutter to cut the dough into quarters. Transfer three of the pieces onto their own sheets of parchment. If the dough is sticky, first sprinkle the parchment paper with flour or some cornmeal. One piece at a time, stretch out the dough with your hands, rotating it by quarter turns until it reaches your desired thickness. The shape—round, rectangle, or oblong—is up to you, but keep a slight lip all along the perimeter. Transfer the pizzas to large baking sheets (you should be able to fit two per sheet). Use scissors to trim the parchment to within two inches of the dough.

    Step 5

    Working in batches as needed based on your oven capacity, bake the pizzas for 8 minutes. Carefully take them out of the oven, add your desired toppings, and return to the oven for another 8 to 10 minutes or until bubbly.

     Yields 4 individual pizzas

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight: Perfectly Petite Pork Tenderloin

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight

“Healthify” Your Pizza

One of the things I love most about making individual pizzas is that everyone can customize their pie. I like to “healthify” my pizza with loads of veggies, like onions, mushrooms, Brussels sprout halves, and broccoli rabe. Cherry tomatoes are a fun addition when there’s no time to make sauce (or even in addition to it). Topping your pizza right as it comes out of the oven with arugula and a drizzle of olive oil gives it a fresh and slightly peppery finish. Of course, almost any ethnic dish that you’d eat with bread, from chicken tikka marsala to shish kebab, can top your pizza for a delicious twist.

Healthy Kitchen Nugget: Meat Safety: Temperature is Everything

Healthy Kitchen Nugget

White versus Wheat Flour

Another trick to making pizza good for you is replacing about 25 percent of the white flour with whole wheat or whole wheat pastry flour. Because these flours are the least processed, they retain fiber and nutrients. At the other extreme is 00 pizza flour. It’s been getting more attention lately as Italian brands become more readily available (there’s also 00 flour for pasta, and they’re not interchangeable). It has the silkiest, smoothest texture of all flours and, consequently, retains virtually no fiber. Since, as always, the proof is in the pudding, you might do your own taste test to see the difference and even experiment by using 00 along with some whole wheat flour.

For Your Best Health: Rethinking Moderate Drinking

For Your Best Health

Don’t overthink it!

New research has found that too much mental effort can be as exhausting as physical labor. What’s more, it can cause toxin by-products to build up in the brain (fortunately, they can be recycled during down time). 

Study co-author Mathias Pessiglione, PhD, of Pitié-Salpêtrière University in Paris, France, explains: “Our findings show that cognitive work results in a true functional alteration—accumulation of noxious substances—so fatigue would indeed be a signal that makes us stop working…to preserve the integrity of brain functioning.”

To better understand what mental fatigue really is, Dr. Pessiglione and his colleagues used magnetic resonance spectroscopy to monitor brain chemistry over the course of a workday. They looked at two groups of people: those who needed to think hard and those who had relatively easier cognitive tasks.

They saw signs of fatigue only in the group doing hard thinking. Those participants also had higher levels of glutamate in synapses of the brain’s prefrontal cortex. This supports the notion that glutamate accumulation makes further activation of the prefrontal cortex more costly, meaning that cognitive control is more difficult after a mentally tough workday.

Is there some way around this limitation of our brain’s ability to think hard? “Not really, I’m afraid,” Dr. Pessiglione says. “I would employ good old recipes: Rest and sleep! There is good evidence that glutamate is eliminated from synapses during sleep.” He also advises people to avoid making important decisions when they’re tired.

Fitness Flash: The Dangers of Too Much Sitting

Fitness Flash

Weight Training in Daily Spurts

We all know how important weight, or resistance, training is—having strong muscles is essential to staying self-sufficient, especially as we get older. But you may have a hard time getting enthused about going to the gym for heavy-duty pumping iron sessions. New research from Australia’s Edith Cowan University (ECU) found that small amounts of daily activity could well be the most beneficial approach for muscle strength.

For their study, researchers from ECU in collaboration with Niigata University and Nishi Kyushu University in Japan had three groups of participants perform an arm resistance exercise (eccentric bicep contractions) using a weight training machine, and then the researchers measured and compared changes in muscle strength and muscle thickness. 

Each group followed a different training schedule across the four weeks of the study. Two groups performed 30 contractions per week, with one group doing six contractions a day for five days a week (the 6×5 group), while the other crammed all 30 into a single day, once a week (the 30×1 group). The third group only performed six contractions on just one day each week.

After four weeks, the group doing six contractions once a week did not show any changes in muscle strength or muscle thickness. The group doing 30 contractions in a single day did not show any increase in muscle strength, though they had a slight increase in muscle size. The 6×5 group saw an increase of greater than 10 percent in muscle strength along with a slight increase in muscle size.

ECU Exercise and Sports Science Professor Ken Nosaka, PhD, says this and other studies suggest very manageable amounts of exercise done regularly can have a real effect on strength. “People think they have to do a lengthy session of resistance training in the gym, but that’s not the case. Just lowering a heavy dumbbell slowly once six times a day is enough. We only used the bicep curl exercise in this study, but we believe this would be the case for other muscles also, at least to some extent,” explains Dr. Nosaka, adding, “Muscle strength is important to our health. This could help prevent a decrease in muscle mass and strength with ageing. A decrease in muscle mass is a cause of many chronic disease, such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, dementia, plus musculoskeletal problems such as osteoporosis.”

He stresses that it’s also important to include rest in an exercise regimen. “In this study, the 6×5 group had two days off per week,” he points out. “Muscle adaptions occur when we are resting; if someone was able to somehow train 24 hours a day, there would actually be no improvement at all. Muscles need rest to improve their strength and their muscle mass, but muscles appear to like to be stimulated more frequently.”

Dr. Nosaka also believes that there needs to be more emphasis on making exercise a daily activity, rather than hitting a weekly minute goal. “If you’re just going to the gym once a week, it’s not as effective as doing a bit of exercise every day at home,” he says. The study was published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports.

Fitness Flash: The Dangers of Too Much Sitting

A New and Exciting Health Event

Is Your Immune System in Prime Shape?

While we tend to think of the body’s immune system as our first defense against the flu and other viruses, it’s responsible for so much more. That’s why I’m excited to share news about a brand-new online series called The Immunity Solution led by Austin Perlmutter, MD, the internationally recognized educator on the neurobiology of mood and decision-making, and Jeffrey Bland, PhD, the integrative health pioneer.

These well-respected experts know that an imbalance in your immune system can hurt your health, sap your energy, and bring down your mood.  It’s also been linked to poor gut health, painful joints, brain fog, skin problems, and more. But they also know that there’s a lot you can do to improve immunity…and they’ve put together a new 12-episode event to show you how.

Joining Drs. Bland and Perlmutter for this groundbreaking new series are leading experts on health, nutrition, and the immune system. You’ll learn how to beat fatigue and increase energy, improve mood, and optimize your health so that you feel great, all by making some simple diet and lifestyle changes. 

Consider this your personal invitation to attend this incredible event for FREE!

From October 12 to 23 at absolutely no cost to you, you will have the opportunity to learn about the latest discoveries and breakthroughs in immunity and get powerful tools that will work fast and last for the rest of your life. Here are just a few of the featured experts and topics in the 12-episode series:

  • Dr. David Perlmutter: The Brain Immune Connection
  • Dr. Daniel Amen: Mental Health in the Modern Day
  • Dr. Uma Naidoo: Food and Mood Connection
  • Dr. Mark Hyman: The Longevity Immunity Connection 
  • Dr. Austin Perlmutter: Nature, Sleep, Exercise
  • Dr. Jeffrey Bland: Food, Nutrients, Supplements, and Energy Immune Connection
  • JJ Virgin: Women’s Health and Immunity
  • Dr. Tom O’Bryan: The Incredible Gut-Immune Connection
  • Dr. Anna Cabeca: Inflammation: What Is It? And Why Care?

To learn more about this unique series hosted by Dr. Austin Perlmutter and Dr. Jeffrey Bland, go to The Immunity Solution.

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The Olive Oil Hunter News #81

Crab-Stuffed Piquillo Peppers Recipe, Spotlight on Crabmeat, Pickling Peppers, Block Out Light for Better Sleep and the Importance of Moving Now to Be Able to Keep Moving Later

Stuffed peppers are always a huge hit at gatherings. The small ones used in this recipe make a perfect finger food, and the crabmeat filling makes them decadently delicious as well as healthy. Speaking of health, I’m continually amazed at the variety of research published on a near-daily basis. The two articles I’m sharing this week are on topics that often fly under the radar: the underappreciated health consequences of too much light in the bedroom while sleeping and the underappreciated benefits of lifelong leisure activities for muscle function in older age.

Crab-Stuffed Piquillo Peppers

  • Crab-stuffed piquillo peppers Crab-Stuffed Piquillo Peppers

    Piquillo means “little beak” in Spanish, and piquillo peppers get their name from that shape, though, ironically, they don’t have the “bite” of many other pepper varieties. Grown in the Navarra region ofnorthern Spain near the town of Lodosa, they’re very mild.After harvest, they’re fire-roasted for a sweet and smoky flavor, peeled and seeded by hand, then packed in brine. You can purchase them from many online purveyors. For a variation on the crabmeat, try flaked Spanish tuna. 


    • Extra virgin olive oil, about 3 tablespoons in all
    • 6 ounces goat cheese or cream cheese, at room temperature
    • 1 tablespoon dry Spanish sherry
    • 1 cup crabmeat, shredded
    • 3 tablespoons finely chopped pitted black olives, preferably Spanish 
    • 3 tablespoons finely minced scallion tops (green parts only) 
    • Kosher or coarse sea salt 
    • Freshly ground black pepper 
    • 12-ounce jar of brined whole piquillo peppers, drained 


    Step 1

    Preheat your oven to 425°F. Drizzle the bottom of a baking dish with olive oil and set aside. Use a wooden spoon to combine the cheese and sherry in a bowl. Fold in the crabmeat, olives, and scallions, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

    Step 2

    Transfer the cheese-crab mixture to a piping bag fitted with a 1/2-inch donut filler tip, or use a sturdy resealable plastic bag and snip off one of the lower corners to make a 1/2-inch opening. (In a pinch, you can use a small spoon.) Gently pipe about a tablespoon of the cheese-crab mixture into each pepper, being careful not to overstuff and risk tearing the walls of the peppers.

    Step 3

    Arrange the stuffed peppers in a single layer on the bottom of the baking dish. Drizzle a few drops of olive oil over the top of each pepper. Bake until the cheese is bubbling, about 12 minutes. 

    Yields 6 to 8 appetizer servings

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight: Chives

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight

A primer on crabmeat

Buying crabmeat can be confusing, with many different types at many different price points. Here are the varieties you’re most likely to see at stores, according to the experts at Phillips Seafood, the 100-year-old Baltimore, Maryland-based company specializing in high-quality crabmeat.

Jumbo lump crabmeat comes from the two large muscles attached to the crab’s swimming fins. These nuggets have an impressive size, bright white color, and delicious crab taste. Use this crabmeat in recipes when the crabmeat will be visible and you want to make a wow statement. It’s usually the most-expensive option.

Lump crabmeat combines broken pieces of jumbo lump and special crabmeat (see below). It’s ideal for crab cakes, dips, salads, casseroles, and filling the peppers in this week’s recipe. 

Special crabmeat is made from smaller pieces of meat taken from the body of the crab, and it works well in many recipes, from crab balls and dips to salads, wraps, and soups.

Claw meat comes from the swimming fins of the crab. It’s brown in color and has a stronger flavor. Use it in dishes with heavy sauces or in dips and soups—the flavor of the crab will come through without being overpowering. It’s usually the least-expensive option. 

Healthy Kitchen Nugget: Get dedicated kitchen shears

Healthy Kitchen Nugget

Pickling peppers

Pickling your own peppers is quick and easy, and you can do it with almost any peppers you grow yourself or buy at a farmers market. Here’s a simple method: Carefully remove the stems and seeds of the peppers—a grapefruit knife does a neat job—and pack the peppers in a lidded jar. Prepare a pickling solution and bring it to a boil A good starting point is to use equal amounts of vinegar and water, a few smashed garlic cloves, a tablespoon of sugar, and a teaspoon of salt, but have fun experimenting with additional aromatics, like herbs. Pour the hot liquid over the peppers, being sure that they’re completely submerged and that the liquid goes to the top of the jar; this will discourage any mold. Screw on the lid, and once the jar has cooled to room temperature, refrigerate it. You can start to enjoy the peppers in a few days, but the flavors will intensify over time. The peppers will last for a few months in the fridge.

For Your Best Health: Tapping into creativity

For Your Best Health

Tapping into creativity

A famous episode of Seinfeld centered on the havoc wrought on Kramer’s sleep when the neon light of a roasted chicken franchise shined into his apartment. Turns out this is no laughing matter. A new study from Northwestern University found that even moderate light exposure during sleep—whether from streetlights, your own beside lamp, or a TV that stays on—can harm heart health and cause insulin resistance the next morning. Insulin resistance is when cells in your muscles, fat, and liver don’t respond well to insulin and can’t effectively use glucose from your blood for energy. To make up for it, your pancreas makes more insulin. Over time, your blood sugar level rises.

“The results from this study demonstrate that just a single night of exposure to moderate room lighting during sleep can impair glucose and cardiovascular regulation, which are risk factors for heart disease, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome,” says senior study author Dr. Phyllis Zee, chief of sleep medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a Northwestern Medicine physician. “It’s important for people to avoid or minimize the amount of light exposure during sleep.”

“We showed your heart rate increases when you sleep in a moderately lit room,” says Dr. Daniela Grimaldi, study co-first author and research assistant professor of neurology at Feinberg. “Even though you are asleep, your autonomic nervous system is activated. That’s bad. Usually your heart rate together with other cardiovascular parameters are lower at night and higher during the day.”

Here are Dr. Zee’s tips for reducing light during sleep.

Don’t sleep with any lights on. If you need to have a light on for safety, make it a dim light that is close to the floor.

Color counts: Amber or a red/orange light is less stimulating for the brain than white or blue light. Keep it as far away from you as practical.

Blackout shades or eye masks are good if you can’t control the outdoor light even after moving your bed so that the light isn’t shining on your face.

“If you’re able to see things really well, it’s probably too light,” Dr. Zee says.

Fitness Flash: Why “use it or lose it” is real

Fitness Flash

Keep moving now to be able to keep moving later

Ever wonder why it seems that the less exercise you do, the harder it is to exercise at all? New research offers one possible explanation. Doing less exercise could deactivate the body’s vital Piezo1 protein, according to scientists from the UK’s University of Leeds. Piezo1 is a blood flow sensor. Deactivating it reduces the density of capillaries carrying blood to the muscles, and that restricted blood flow means activity becomes more difficult and can limit the amount of exercise you’re able to do.

The research, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, was carried out using mice, but because the Piezo1 protein is also found in people, the same results could occur. As lead author Fiona Bartoli, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher at Leeds’ School of Medicine, says, “Exercise protects against cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, and cancer. Unfortunately, many people fail to exercise enough, for reasons such as injury and computer usage. This puts people at more risk of disease. The less people exercise, the less fit they become, often leading to a downward spiral.

“Although many responses to exercise are known, how the benefits of exercise are initially triggered at a molecular level is mysterious. Our study highlights the crucial link between physical activity and physical performance made at this level by Piezo1. Keeping our Piezo1s active by exercising may be crucial in our physical performance and health.”

During the experiment, mice who had their Piezo1 levels disrupted for 10 weeks showed a dramatic reduction in activities like walking, climbing, and running on a wheel activity. Specifically they did fewer wheel revolutions per exercise session and had slower running speeds. The mice didn’t have less desire to exercise but rather less ability.

Adds David Beech, PhD, the study’s supervising author, “Our work sheds new light on how Piezo1’s role in blood vessels is connected to physical activity. A lot was already known about its role in blood vessel development, but far less was known about its contribution to vessel maintenance in adults. Our discovery also provides an opportunity to think about how loss of muscle function could be treated in new ways: If we activate Piezo1, it might help to maintain exercise capability.”

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The Olive Oil Hunter News #79

Grilled Tuna Steaks with Salmoriglio Recipe, Spotlight on Parsley, How Accurate is Your Calorie-Counting App and Are You Wired for Shorter Sleep? ?

Got your grill primed and ready for the warmer months? Then I’ve got a zesty tuna recipe to start the season with a bang. My tuna primer will cue you into the differences in tuna varieties so you know what to keep an eye out for at the fish counter. If you like to track your meals on an app, you’ll be surprised at the results of a study on their accuracy. Plus, I’m sharing the latest research on how genes influence sleep patterns.

Grilled Tuna Steaks with Salmoriglio

  • Grilled Tuna Steaks with Salmoriglio Grilled Tuna Steaks with Salmoriglio

    With origins in Sicily, this simple yet zesty sauce is also excellent with grilled salmon, beef, poultry, or vegetables. 


    • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for the fish
    • Juice from 1 lemon
    • 2 tablespoons hot water
    • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced 
    • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
    • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried oregano 
    • 1 tablespoon brined capers, drained (optional)
    • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes or more to taste
    • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • 4 tuna steaks, each 6 to 8 ounces and 1-inch thick 


    Step 1

    Make the salmoriglio: Put the 1/2 cup olive oil in a small saucepan and warm over low heat. Whisk in the lemon juice and hot water. Stir in the garlic, parsley, oregano, capers if using, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper to taste (go easy on the salt if you’re using capers). Keep warm. 

    Step 2

    Set up your grill for direct grilling and preheat to medium-high (450ºF). Lightly brush the fish with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Arrange on the grill grate, and grill until the fish is opaque and easily flakes when pressed with a fork—about 12 minutes, turning once with a spatula. (If you prefer your tuna on the rare side, cook the steaks for less time.) 

    Step 3

    Transfer the tuna to a platter or plates, and drizzle with the salmoriglio. Serve the remaining sauce on the side. 

    Yields 4 servings

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight: Tuna

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight

Reeling in the right tuna

According to the National Fisheries Institute, of all the varieties of tuna in the oceans, you’ll most likely find only five at fish stores and on menus:

  • Albacore is the tuna you know best packaged in cans or pouches. It has a mild flavor and white to light pink flesh.
  • Bigeye (ahi in Hawaii) is the favorite for sashimi and is also mild in flavor.
  • Bluefin, used almost exclusively for sushi, is the darkest, fattiest, and arguably the most expensive variety, with a taste that gets more pronounced as the fish reaches adulthood. Overfishing has made it a priority for conservation efforts.
  • Skipjack is the tuna type you’re now most likely to see in cans and pouches. Considered “light tuna,” it’s high in nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Yellowfin, sometimes sold as ahi, has pale pink flesh and is slightly more flavorful than albacore.
Healthy Kitchen Nugget: Flat or Curly parsley

Healthy Kitchen Nugget

Flat or curly: picking parsley

Fresh parsley is a lot more than a plate garnish, especially when you choose flat-leaf, or Italian, parsley over its curly cousin. Flat-leaf parsley has a more herbal taste compared to the crunchy and bland grassy taste of the curly variety, due to different proportions of some of parsley’s natural compounds. Chopped or minced, flat-leaf parsley adds bright color as well as flavor to a dish—people who aren’t fans of cilantro can use it instead. 

For Your Best Health: How accurate is your calorie counting app?

For Your Best Health

How accurate is your calorie-counting app?

That’s the question researchers from Northwestern and Benedictine Universities set out to answer. They compared nutrient data on the 50 most frequently eaten unprocessed or minimally processed foods from four commercial nutrition apps against a leading research-based food database, Nutrition Data System for Research (NDSR). They looked at calorie counts, macronutrients, total sugars, fiber, saturated fat, cholesterol, calcium, sodium, and more. Here’s what they found: “CalorieKing and Lose It! had mostly excellent agreement with NDSR for all investigated nutrients. Fitbit showed the widest variability in agreement with NDSR for most nutrients, which may reflect how well the app can accurately capture diet.” The study also found some flaws with MyFitnessPal, such as fiber accuracy and poor agreement with NDSR on calories in particular. The findings were published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Fitness Flash: Are you wired for shorter sleep?

Fitness Flash

Are you wired for shorter sleep?

According to researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), some people have genes that allow them to thrive on just four to six hours of restorative sleep each night. What’s more, these elite sleepers also have psychological resilience and resistance to neurodegenerative conditions. Of course, not everyone is wired this way, but uncovering what enables some people to stay healthy despite getting little sleep can provide answers for those who need more and can’t seem to get it.

“There’s a dogma in the field that everyone needs eight hours of sleep, but our work to date confirms that the amount of sleep people need differs based on genetics,” says neurologist Louis Ptacek, MD, one of the senior authors of a study published iniScience on March 15, 2022. “Think of it as analogous to height; there’s no perfect amount of height, each person is different. We’ve shown that the case is similar for sleep.”

For more than a decade, Dr. Ptacek and Ying-Hui Fu, PhD, both of the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences, have studied people with Familial Natural Short Sleep (FNSS), the ability to function fully on four to six hours of sleep a night, which runs in families. To date, they’ve identified five of the genes that play a role in FNSS. These genes may help in the development of future drugs to ward off sleep disorders, protect against brain disorders, or slow down their progression. 

“Sleep problems are common in all diseases of the brain,” says Dr. Fu. “This makes sense because sleep is a complex activity. Many parts of your brain have to work together for you to fall asleep and to wake up. When these parts of the brain are damaged, it makes it harder to sleep or get quality sleep.”

Their latest work tested Dr. Fu’s hypothesis that, for people with FNSS, elite sleep can be a shield against neurodegenerative disease rather than speed up its development as it seems to do in people who need closer to seven to nine hours and fail to get it. They bred mice that had both short-sleep genes and genes that predisposed them to Alzheimer’s and found that their brains developed much less of the hallmark signs linked to dementia.

Identifying more special sleep genes will take time, and the researchers liken their work to solving a jigsaw puzzle. “Every mutation we find is another piece,” says Dr. Ptacek. “Right now, we’re working on the edges and the corners, to get to that place where it’s easier to put the pieces together and where the picture really starts to emerge.”

“This work opens the door to a new understanding of how to delay and possibly prevent a lot of diseases,” says Dr. Fu. “Our goal really is to help everyone live healthier and longer through getting optimum sleep.”

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The Olive Oil Hunter News #77

Citrus Pork Rib Roast with Roasted Fennel Recipe, Spotlight on Fennel, How to Marinate Safely, Diversify Proteins for Better Health and Resistance Training for Better Sleep

Springtime celebrations demand a dramatic dish, and a pork rib roast fits the bill. This recipe is a great introduction to fennel for those who have been shying away from this versatile veg. You’ll also read about two pieces of interesting health research, important to anyone who wants to fend off high blood pressure (a top heart health risk) and sleep better (not getting enough is a risk to the heart, brain, and overall well-being).

Citrus Pork Rib Roast with Roasted Fennel

  • Fennel Citrus Pork Rib Roast with Roasted Fennel

    This recipe serves a large crowd. For smaller gatherings, cook just one rib roast and cut all the other ingredients in half. If you can’t get bone-in pork rib roasts locally, substitute pork loin roast or even thick pork chops—adjust the cooking times accordingly. The citrus marinade is also excellent with chicken. 


    • Two 5-bone pork rib roasts, each about 4 pounds 
    • 3 lemons, sliced into eighths and seeded
    • 3 navel oranges, sliced into eighths
    • 1/2 grapefruit, sliced into quarters and seeded 
    • 1/2 sweet onion, peeled and quartered
    • 6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
    • 3 small sprigs fresh oregano
    • 2 tablespoons fennel seeds 
    • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided use
    • 10 whole cloves
    • 10 fresh or 5 dried bay leaves
    • 8 juniper berries, crushed, or 1/4 cup gin
    • Sea salt and coarsely ground fresh black pepper 
    • 3 large fennel bulbs 
    • 15 kumquats
    • Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for serving


    Step 1

    Put the pork roasts in one or two jumbo-sized resealable plastic bags, a large glass bowl, or baking dish. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the lemons, oranges, grapefruit, onion, garlic, oregano, fennel seeds, and 1/4 cup of olive oil and pulse until the mixture is roughly chopped and juicy. Take the bowl off the processor base, remove the blade, and stir in the cloves, bay leaves, and juniper berries or gin. Pour the marinade over the pork roasts. Seal the bags and place them in a roasting pan to contain any leaks or, if marinating in a large container, cover well with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight or up to 24 hours, turning periodically to redistribute the marinade. 

    Step 2

    When ready to cook, preheat your oven to 350°F. Prepare a very large roasting pan by lining it with foil (for an easy cleanup) and placing a roasting rack in it; set aside. Scrape the marinade off the roasts and pat dry with paper towels. Generously season on all sides with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, heat 1/4 cup olive oil over medium heat. Sear one roast until caramelized, turning as needed with tongs, and then transfer it to the roasting pan. Repeat with the other roast. Place the pan in the upper two-thirds of the oven (you’ll need a second oven rack placed in the bottom third for the fennel and kumquats). Set a timer for 40 minutes. 

    Step 3

    While the pork is roasting, prepare the fennel. Cut off the fronds, the feathery green tops of the fennel stalks, chop a few and set aside. Refrigerate the rest of the fronds for other uses. Trim the bottoms of the bulbs and cut off the stalks; reserve the stalks for another dish or the next time you make stock. Cut each bulb vertically through the core into 4 sections. Drizzle the bottom of a rimmed baking sheet with some of the remaining olive oil and arrange the fennel pieces on top. Drizzle more olive oil over the fennel. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange the kumquats among the fennel. Place the baking sheet on the lower rack of your oven when the timer goes off. Roast, turning once, until the fennel is tender and golden brown, about 40 minutes. Transfer the fennel and kumquats to a platter. Dust with the grated cheese and garnish with the reserved fennel fronds. 

    Step 4

    Remove the pork roasts from the oven when the internal temperature in the thickest part is 140°F, about 1 hour and 20 minutes total (this should coincide with the fennel/kumquat cooking time). Let rest for 10 minutes before slicing into chops. Serve with the roasted fennel and kumquats. 

    Yields 10 servings 

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight: Fennel

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight

Get familiar with fennel

For the uninitiated, fennel can look intimidating, but its licorice scent and taste add a lot of appeal to dishes, from soups to seafood—you’ll be pleasantly surprised even if you’re not a fan of black licorice candy.

This member of the carrot family hails from the Mediterranean region but is used, both raw and cooked, in cuisines far and wide. Raw fennel adds crunch to salads, much like celery, when the bulb is quartered and thinly sliced or chopped, depending on the recipe. The feathery fronds at the top of the vegetable can be chopped much like dill and used in many of the same ways, from a garnish to a flavoring. Some people find that the stalks are too fibrous to eat raw, but they soften when cooked—cooking also makes fennel’s licorice flavor milder.  

Healthy Kitchen Nugget: How to Marinate Safely

Healthy Kitchen Nugget

Marinating safely

Marinating food, especially overnight, is a great way to infuse it with flavor. But think “safety first,” according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. When possible, marinate in glass, covering the container fully with plastic wrap, or use disposable food-safe sealable plastic bags. Don’t use a metal container because the acid in a marinade can interact with metal. Refrigerate the marinating food on the bottom shelf of your fridge. If a recipe calls for the marinade liquid to be used as a baste,you mustboil it first to kill bacteria. Even better is to reserve some of the marinade separately or to make a small additional batch for this purpose.

For Your Best Health: Diversify Proteins

For Your Best Health

Pick a variety of proteins

Eating a balanced diet and including protein from a variety of sources may help lower the risk of high blood pressure, according to research published in Hypertension, a journal of the American Heart Association (AHA).

In its 2021 dietary guidance to improve heart health, the AHA recommended eating one to two servings, or 5.5 ounces, of protein daily from healthy sources—plants, seafood, low-fat or fat-free dairy products, and, if desired, lean cuts and unprocessed forms of meat or poultry. The new research looked at the link between specific proteins and new cases of high blood pressure among 12,000 participants whose diet records were analyzed over a six-year period. 

Participants were given scores based on the number of different sources of protein they ate: whole grains, refined grains, processed red meat, unprocessed red meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and legumes. One point was given for each protein source, with a top score of 8. The researchers then compared new cases of hypertension to the scores. In contrast to participants with the lowest score (less than 2), those with a score of 4 or higher had a 66 percent lower risk of developing high blood pressure.

But there can also be too much of a good thing, especially when it comes to processed meat. When the researchers divided the total quantity of protein eaten into five levels (or quintiles) from least to most intake, people who ate the least amount of total protein and those who ate the most protein had the greatest high blood pressure risk.

“The heart health message is that consuming a balanced diet with proteins from various different sources, rather than focusing on a single source of dietary protein, may help to prevent the development of high blood pressure,” says study author Xianhui Qin, MD.

Fitness Flash: Resistance training for better sleep

Fitness Flash

Resistance training for better sleep

Having sleep trouble? Strength training to the rescue! Research done at Iowa State University found that study participants who did 60 minutes of resistance exercise three times a week for a year slept longer and fell asleep faster than participants who did aerobic-only workouts or a combination of aerobic and resistance exercises for 30 minutes each. The resistance exercise regimen consisted of three sets of 12 exercises that targeted all the major muscle groups and included bicep curls, crunches, leg extensions, and triceps dips.

Among participants who were not getting at least seven hours of sleep at the start of the study, sleep duration increased by an average of 40 minutes in the resistance exercise-only group compared to an average increase of 18 minutes in the other groups. People in the resistance exercise-only group also reported falling asleep an average of three minutes faster at the end of the 12 months; there wasn’t any notable change in this regard in the other groups.

“While there’s no definitive answer as to why humans sleep, one theory is that sleep provides the body an opportunity to restore different systems,” says lead author Angelique Brellenthin, PhD, assistant professor of kinesiology at Iowa State. “Because resistance exercise is a powerful stimulus that causes stress to the muscle tissue, that stimulus may send a stronger signal to the brain that this person needs to sleep and to sleep deeply to repair, restore, and adapt the muscle tissue for the next time they need it. Our study shows resistance exercise goes above and beyond the benefits you would see from other types of exercise in terms of sleep quality. If people are concerned about their sleep and have a limited amount of time to exercise, they may want to consider prioritizing resistance workouts.”

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