Tag Archives: Polyphenols

Superfoods – Olive Oil

Olive Oil Is The Healthy Choice

Olive Oil is not only delicious, it’s good for your heart and helps to keep your cholesterol levels healthy. Studies show that the monounsaturated fat content of Olive Oil can ‘lower your risk of heart disease’ by reducing the total LDL’s, or ‘bad’ cholesterol levels in your blood. In contrast, saturated and trans fats — such as butter, tropical oils and hydrogenated margarines — increase your risk of heart disease by increasing your total and LDL cholesterol levels. Studies also state, despite the fact that all forms of Olive Oil contain desirable levels of monounsaturated fat; it is the ‘virgin’ and ‘extra-virgin’ Olive Oils that contain the highest levels of polyphenols, a powerful antioxidant.

Demographic research argues that the high consumption of Olive Oil in the Mediterranean is the very reason that cancers such as breast, ovarian, colon and prostate seem to occur with less frequency than in the countries of Northern Europe and the USA where polyunsaturated fats (PUFA’s) are preferred over Olive Oil. It appears that Olive Oil does indeed provide a fat with the capacity to maintain a healthy body balance.

The coronary arteries provide blood to your heart muscle. The monounsaturated fats help to keep those arteries clear so that your heart can get enough oxygen and nutrients to keep pumping. Whilst you can get this health benefit by substituting other less-healthy fats with two tablespoons (23 grams) of Olive Oil, it is important not to increase the total number of calories you eat in a day. Virgin Olive Oil is better than more refined oil because it contains polyphenols that work as antioxidants to keep your heart healthy. Extra virgin Olive Oil contains polyphenols that can reduce inflammation and may help to prevent some forms of cancer.

Ideas To Include In Your Diet:

  • Mix Olive Oil with vinegar on  salad.
  • Choose Olive Oil over butter or margarine.
  • Add flavour to Olive Oil by infusing with garlic or other herbs.
  • Add Olive Oil to your smoothie.
  • Use Olive Oil spray instead of traditional cooking sprays.

More Health Benefits Of Consuming Olive Oil:

Studies have shown:

Countries where people who’s main source of fat is Olive Oil had the lowest levels of heart disease related deaths.

Increasing Olive Oil consumption in Northern Europeans reduced waste by-products of oxidative damage to cells, a precursor to cancer. Within 3 weeks of consuming 25 ml of olive oil a day by-product levels has dropped significantly.

Consuming Olive Oil instead of saturated fats significantly reduced the required dosage of antihypertensive medication required by hypertensive patients.

Consuming Olive Oil high in phenols actually reduces the expression of genes associated with atherosclerosis (the thickening of artery walls due to a a build-up of fatty materials such as cholesterol).

Consuming phenol-rich Olive Oil alters the expression of genes associated with inflammation, cardiovascular disease and Type 2 Diabetes.

Despite being high in calories, Olive Oil is without doubt a superfood if it is consumed instead of saturated fat. It has a high level of vitamin E, antioxidants and is rich in both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Olive Oil is even thought to improve the ratio of Omega-3s to Omega-6s. High levels of Omega-3s have been extensively linked to a healthier heart and lower risk of stroke.

In A Nutshell:

Olive Oil should be part of a balanced diet and the phenol-rich extra virgin oil, with its proven health benefits, is a definite superfood. Please note that well over 50% of imported Olive Oils labelled as extra virgin did not meet the required legal standards, so choose carefully.

Olive Oil has its maximum health benefits when consumed in its natural state. Heating olive oil, especially to frying temperatures destroys many of its beneficial compounds.

Superfoods – Walnuts


Walnuts are superfoods for many reasons.  Eating walnuts regularly provides the body with essential omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants.  Walnuts have the highest antioxidant content of the tree nuts.

Research suggests that walnuts can be a healthy part of the diet for the prevention of not only breast and other cancers, but also diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Walnuts – “The King of Nuts”

Walnuts are considered by many as the “king of nuts” from a nutritional perspective.  Walnuts, like other nuts are high in monounsaturated fats.  These are the same type of health-promoting fats that are found in olive oil, which have been associated with reduced risk of heart disease.  Therefore, to get the health benefits of walnuts, a moderate handful is sufficient.

Other health benefits of walnuts include:

  • Prevent Gallstones – as little as 1 ounce per week has been shown to reduce the risk of gallstones.
  • Source of Bioavailable Melatonin – improves the quality of sleep.
  • Prevents Atherosclerosis – lowers LDL’s (bad cholesterol).
  • Controls High Blood Pressure – omega 3 fatty acids help to regulate the blood pressure.
  • Antioxidant King – one of the highest antioxidant levels of all superfoods.
  • Promotes Heart Health – reduces overall cholesterol, reduces LDL’s (bad cholesterol), increases artery elasticity, antioxidant activity reduces heart disease risk by protecting the blood vessels from free radical damage.
  • Regulates Type II Diabetes – improved overall cholesterol profile, which helps to regulate the effects of the disease.
  • Protects Bone Health – supports bone health and prevents excessive bone turnover with the bioactivity of alpha linolenic acid, an omega 3 fatty acid found specifically in walnuts.
  • Enhances Brain Activity – omega 3 fatty acid  content helps to sustain a clear, healthy brain by supporting the cellular function via the fatty brain cell membranes.

Walnuts are a fantastic source of omega-3 essential fatty acids, which have been found to not only protect the heart and promote better cognitive function, but also provide anti-inflammatory benefits for asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, eczema and psoriasis.

Walnuts also contain the antioxidant compound ellagic acid, which is known to fight cancer and support the immune system.  Studies have shown approximately 16 polyphenols in walnuts, including three new tannins, with antioxidant activity so powerful it was described as “remarkable.”

So ‘in a nutshell’, walnuts are incredibly healthy for many different parts of the body.  Try incorporating them into main meals like ‘spinach roasted pumpkin and walnut salad‘ or treats like ‘walnut raisin cookies‘ in the following video:

Superfoods – Almonds

Almonds in the Raw

As you can see by my past blog posts, I am passionate about the superfoods I write about.  Another one of my regular favourites is Almonds.  I carry a little almond tin with me in my handbag, and have them almost daily.  So whether I am in the office or out and about, they are a very nutritious snack and are packed with health benefits.

You know the expression, “You are what you eat” – well then, “I must be nuts!”  There are several other nuts with health benefits, but the ones I eat most are almonds.  Walnuts are a very close second in my book.

As a health professional, I feel confident in recommending a daily handful of almonds to my patients. A daily one ounce handful (about 20-24) of almonds can help to achieve an adequate intake of essential nutrients, reduce hunger, and is a heart-healthy habit.  A handful is better than reaching for things that are nutrient deficient.  Almonds are packed with the following health benefits and are very satisfying.

Almonds are heart smart and can help to lower cholesterol as part of a diet low in saturated fat. Almonds (as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol) may reduce the risk of heart disease.  Because people love to eat almonds, they are an ideal way for cholesterol-conscious patients to maintain healthy numbers. Of the 14 grams of fat found in one ounce of almonds, nine grams are monounsaturated (good fat). When choosing, organic raw almonds are best – not salted, sugared, smoked or chocolate covered!
Almonds are also very satisfying.  They may help to stave off hunger, so can be used as a healthy snack.  This makes almonds a good choice for weight loss or to maintain ideal weight. This is mainly due to the protein content (approximately 6 grams per ounce).  They also contain dietary fibre, potassium, copper, zinc, iron and vitamin E .  Almonds are the only good source of protein that is also an excellent source of vitamin E.

Almonds are also unique in that they provide various minerals that are essential for bone health, namely calcium, magnesium, manganese, and phosphorus have been implicated in maintaining bone mineral density. Almonds are comparable to skim milk and cheddar cheese in the quantity of these bone-building minerals provided in one serving. Other protein sources like chicken, beef, peanut butter, and eggs don’t offer the same.  This is a great alternative for those that are lactose intolerant.

Another health benefit of almonds is as an antioxidant source.  They are one of the leading food sources of alpha-tocopherol vitamin E. Alpha-tocopherol is the kind of vitamin E the human body absorbs best.
A one-ounce serving of almonds contains a similar amount of total polyphenols as one cup of green tea and 1/2 cup of steamed broccoli.

To receive the health benefits of almonds in other ways, they can be:

  • Added to cooking – savoury dishes such as Almond Chicken.
  • Salads – sprinkling slivered almonds on top, in various recipes.
  • Sweets such as cakes, cookies, muffins (not ideal for weight loss or maintaining ideal weight) but for that special treat.
  • Don’t forget almond butter!  Great on a cracker or biscuit!

Is Wine Healthy?

Are there any health benefits of wine?

Enjoying a Glass of Red

Enjoying a Glass of Red

Red or white? – that is the question!  Red has greater positive health benefits than white wine.  Wines with higher tannin levels carry more of the protective polyphenols that are good for blood vessel protection.  The polyphenols in wine have a specific interaction with the lining of the blood vessels and that interaction is able to dilate the blood vessels, relax them, and have anti-clotting and anti-inflammatory effects.

Red wine adds more health benefits.  Only certain types of red – preferably with a style that allows enough time for the extraction of the beneficial polyphenols.  Look for wines that are described as having firm tannins.  Cooler temperature regions with older vines and slow ripening grapes are preferred.  (For those of us in Western Australia, the Margaret River Region is ideal!)

How much?   Moderation is always the key.  A good rule of thumb is no more than 1-2 glasses (125ml) per day for women and no more than 2-3 glasses (125ml) per day for males.  It is actually important that the wine be consumed with food.  This helps to get the benefits of the polyphenols as the alcohol levels are kept down while it is being absorbed.  Alcohol absorption is slowed down when it is being consumed with food, so that there is less damage being caused to the liver.  The small amount of alcohol that is good for you helps prevent excess clotting.