When you think of superbrains, you're more likely to imagine Microsoft founder Bill Gates and physicist Stephen Hawking with their 160 IQs than Sophia Loren or Italy's ex-prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. But if you want to protect your mental powers as you get older, it makes more sense to emulate the food-loving Italians than the math geniuses!
You know about the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet (low in saturated fats, high in vegetables and healthy oils). Its heart-loving, waist-trimming effects help keep skin wrinkle-free, the liver and immune system humming and your sex life lively.
Well, research has now pinpointed an additional Mamma Mia! advantage. One of the components of extra-virgin olive oil, called oleocanthal, ups the production of proteins and enzymes that KO amyloid tangles - those thought-scattering nerve blockers that characterize Alzheimer's disease. And get a load of this: Like ibuprofen, oleocanthal is a COX-1 and COX-2 inhibitor (it cools inflammation and pain), and milligram for milligram, ibuprofen and oleocanthal have about equal potency.
So when you dress your salad, flavor your Brussels sprouts (don't forget garlic and lemon, too) or marinate your fish, think extra-virgin olive oil or "EVOO," as Rachael Ray likes to say. (Stick with EVOO from California: Studies show that only 14 percent of imported extra-virgins meet international standards; but 90 percent of California's do.) Remember: When you cook with EVOO, don't overheat; keep it below 365 F or so - above that, chemical changes make it unhealthy. Buon appetito!