Back in the nineties, I think I ate more salads for meals than anything else. That seemed noble and ultra-health conscious at the time and I was supremely proud of myself to have such fortitude and vigilance in the face of university parties and family dinners. However, looking back there was one big issue I wasn’t even aware of that makes me cringe a little now. Most of those salads were adorned with store-bought dressings which were pretty imbalanced in the Omega 3 to Omega 6 ratio department. It’s best to have about a 1:2 ratio for the most effective anti-inflammatory effect on the body (1) Many of those dressings contained grapeseed oil which has a ratio of about 1:700 and would certainly cause inflammation in the body (2); a lot had canola oil which, again, is inflammatory; and still others had cottonseed, sunflower seed, corn or soy–once again inflammatory disasters waiting to happen. Many thanks to the author of Genius Foods, Max Lugavere for providing inspiration for some of the research for this blog article.
Probably my saving grace in using these dressings was how little I used of them. I was falsely under the impression that fats make you gain weight but more about that in a future blog. When eating vegetables and salads without healthy oils your body is not able to absorb those lovely nutrients very well. We need oil/fat to make the salad palatable to our mouths and our cells. All that salad prep and I probably didn’t absorb many of those fantastic antioxidants or phytochemicals. I did, however, have awesome “evacuation” from all the fiber!
Well, if we’re going to make a healthy salad dressing, we need to start with a great source of fat which will usher in all those nutrients so your cells can use them. To begin: we need a healthy oil! Extra Virgin Olive Oil…
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) is a star in my books. It’s a monounsaturated fat and therefore very stable compared to polyunsaturated fats which oxidize in the presence of heat, light and oxygen. Although EVOO is a fairly sturdy/stable oil and retains its nutritional value when heated according to an article in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, try to reserve saturated fats like butter, ghee and coconut oil for high-heat cooking.(3) I try to avoid cooking with EVOO but if I do it’s in an oven 350 degrees or less. Monounsaturated fat is also found in avocados, avocado oil, macadamia nuts, and wild salmon. What surprised me was that wild salmon touted as so healthy because of it’s Omega-3 content also contains around 50% monounsaturated fats. A double whammy!!
Monounsaturated fats actually make up part of our brain too. Myelin sheath, the protective coating surrounding the neurons is partially made from monounsaturated fats. So it’s not surprising when we hear of Mediterranean countries using EVOO to smother and sometimes even drown their foods in as having very low rates of Alzheimers and Parkinsons–neurogenerative diseases. Essentially they are fortifying the neurons in the brain with Monounsaturated fats.
In epidemiological studies (taking data and observations to make associations) the Mediterranean way of eating can even lead to bigger brains.(4) Yet another of these studies showed that participants consuming a full litre of EVOO per week for 6 years had improved cognitive function.(5) And many many others of these studies link the high intake of EVOO with better cardiovascular protection.(6,7,8,9,10)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil also contains a type of phenol called Oleocanthal that helps to prevent inflammation by working in a similar way to ibuprofen.(11,12,13) It has even been shown to have anti-cancer activity as well as the ability to clear amyloid plaque implicated in Alzheimers.(12) So what are we waiting for? Let’s do some cognitive crunches and build a bigger brain with my Honey Miso Vinaigrette.
As far as the best ratio of oil to vinegar, try using 2:1 for a milder taste or 1:1 for some zing. Happy brain building.*
Honey Miso Vinaigrette
If Extra Virgin Olive Oil can actually help build a bigger brain, then I'll be using this miracle oil everyday, thank you! Besides tasting fantastic with apple cider vinegar, there are some other ingredients that will take the ordinary and blast it into outerspace--namely, honey, miso and dijon for starters
- 2 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 T Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
- 1/4 tsp grated fresh ginger
- 1 tsp raw honey
- 2 tsp Miso
- 1 tsp coconut aminos or tamari
- Step 1 In a small mason jar add all ingredients and shake shake shake!
- Step 2 Serve with love, veggies or a salad and enjoy!
- Lugavere, Max. Genius Foods: Become Smarter, Happier, and More Productive, While Protecting Your Brain for Life. Harper Collins Books, 2018.p. 39
*Much of the research for this article was taken from the book Genius Foods by Max Lugavere.