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December 5, 2020. If you can’t spring for that trip to the south of France, here’s a gift that’s practical, surprising, healthy, cheap and delicious. Walnuts and olive oil. Really.

Add these to your diet to dramatically lower risk of heart attack, diabetes and overeating. And improve your holiday party snack repertoire.

Wrap a tin or bottle of good olive oil and a bag of good walnuts, tie the ribbon and send along this easy BCS recipe. They’ll be talking about this gift for a while. And enjoying it and its health benefits.

The Benefits
The latest and greatest version of the Mediterranean diet is supercharged with a daily dose of nuts (mostly walnuts) and extra olive oil. People at high risk for “major cardiovascular events” who adopted the diet had 30% fewer heart attacks, strokes and related deaths.

The Journal of Nutrition tells us “higher walnut consumption is associated with a significantly lower risk of type 2 diabetes in women.”

Olive oil itself – separate from the Mediterranean diet in which it is a principal ingredient -reduces the risk of stroke. Significantly. This study published in Neurology compares “intensive olive oil users” with non-users.

Compared to those who never used olive oil, those with intensive use had a 41% lower risk of stroke.

41%. Sounds like an over-the-counter wonder drug. In a separate, smaller population sample, the risk reduction was even greater: 73%.

The Olive Oil Trick
This study shows a weight management benefit from the mere scent of olive oil. Seriously. Just inhaling, no swallowing. In the experiment, people who added a serving of yogurt to a daily diet gained weight from the added calories. People who added olive oil-scented yogurt to the diet reduced their intake of other foods and lost a little weight. They reported the subjective feeling of greater satiety and had “a higher concentration of the satiety hormone serotonin in their blood”.

The Skinny Dip

Two steps to the eating ritual: dip bread into olive oil to moisten it, then dip that into this dry mixture of crushed walnuts, chopped sun-dried tomatoes and a fresh herb like thyme or basil. Or both. In Australia they call this “dukkah“.

Nutty, herbaceous, bright and aromatic. Just slightly crunchy. That magic scent of olive oil may help you control the urge to dip uncontrollably. But slice the bread very thin just in case.

Although nuts are high in fats, most of the fats are MUFAs and PUFAs [the good-for-you mono- and poly-unsaturated fatty acids]. Nuts also contain other bioactive compounds that appear to exert favorable effects on type 2 diabetes, including vegetable proteins, plant sterols, dietary fiber, and antioxidants … compared with other tree nuts, walnuts are uniquely high in PUFAs (47% in weight).” The Journal of Nutrition

Your Brain on Olive Oil
The studysupports the assumption that within the Mediterranean Diet, olive oil may be a major protective component independently of other dietary components. It may also partly explain the protective association of olive oil with cognitive decline … The demonstrated vascular beneficial effects of olive oil include blood pressure reduction, improvement of blood lipid profile, reduction of low-density lipoprotein susceptibility to oxidation …

For a 1-cup offering:
1 cup of walnut pieces
2 tablespoons of sun-dried tomatoes
1 tablespoon of fresh thyme or basil leaves
sea salt, to taste
Separately: 4 tablespoons of good olive oil

Crush the nuts. Finely chop the tomatoes. Pluck the thyme leaves from their stems – or finely chop the basil leaves. Toss them together. Put them in a small bowl. Right next to the smaller bowl of olive oil. Near your sliced whole-grain bread. Dip!

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