Tag Archives: olive oil

Easily Make Your Own Vinaigrettes and You Won’t Have to Wonder What’s In Them

Our new cruet

Our new $8 cruet

If you’re trying to lose weight or keep from getting fat, salads are helpful. I recommend them in my Advanced Mediterranean Diet, Low-Carb Mediterranean Diet, Paleobetic Diet, and Ketogenic Mediterranean Diet.

My favorite salad dressings are vinaigrettes. They can be as simple as olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. The problem with most commercial vinaigrettes is the label says “_____ Vinaigrette with olive oil,”but the first listed ingredient is soybean oil (or some other industrial seed oil) and olive oil is somewhere down the line.

Get around that by making your own. Here’s a recipe and a salad to try it on. Also, if you’re watching your carb consumption, the commercial dressings  may sneak in more than you want. Again, avoid that by making your own.

Cruet label

Cruet label

You can make a vinaigrette in a jar with a lid. Add the ingredients then shake to create an emulsion. Or do it in a bowl with a whisk. My wife found us a cruet at the supermarket that I’m hoping will allow mixing, storing, and pouring all from the same attractive container. I’ll let you know if it doesn’t work out; I’m afraid it will leak when I shake it.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Update January 28: As feared, it leaks when you shake liquid contents. Anyway, it makes an attractive container for olive oil, especially if you buy it by the gallon.

An Easy Way to Roast Brussels Sprouts and Asparagus

paleo diet, Steve Parker MD, how to cook asparagus and Brussels sprouts

The finished product: 14 oz of asparagus and 7 oz of Brussels sprouts yields 5 or 6 servings

Easy peasy.  This works also with potatoes cut into bite-sized chunks.

Cooking asparagus is a little tricky. Allrecipes.com has a short video you may find helpful. The thick end of the stalks can be woody, especially on the larger spears, so you need to cut them off or use a potato peeler to shave off some of the “wood.” Or just buy the smaller spears.

how to roast asparagus and Brussels sprouts, paleo diet, Steve Parker MD

The disposable foil just makes clean-up easier

Preheat the oven to 425° F (220° C).

Rinse off the veggies then let them dry. Brush with extra virgin olive oil then salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with other herbs or spices if you wish. Layer them on a baking sheet covered with aluminum foil. Cook in the oven for 10–12 minutes.

It’s not fair to the other vegetables that we capitalize Brussels sprouts.

Have you noticed that asparagus alters your urine’s odor?

This rubber-tipped brush coated the vegetables with olive oil (a little more that a tablespoon for the whole batch)

This rubber-tipped brush coated the vegetables with olive oil (a little more than a tablespoon for the whole batch)

Extra Virginity: About Olive Oil and the Olive Oil Industry

EcoSalon has an interview with Tom Mueller, author of a new book on olive oil, Extra Virginity.   Regarding olive oil…

Consumption is rising swiftly, quality olive oil shops are springing up nationwide. BUT, there’s zero government control of olive oil quality (the FDA has openly abdicated its legal role), and ignorance of what quality olive oil means is still rampant. Lots of bad oil, sometimes adulterated, is being sold as ” extra virgin olive oil” throughout America.

Here are Tom’s top three tips for choosing an olive oil:

1) Harvest date: must be fresh (within the current harvest year).
2) Who made this, and where? Specific producer and specific location of trees as well as oil-bottling.
3) Mention of specific cultivars (though by no means a guarantee of quality, I’ve found mention of specific olive varieties on the label tends to indicate a more professional/serious oil-maker.

Read the rest.

Book Review: Shangri-La Diet

I wrote this in 2008 for the old Advanced Mediterranean Diet blog.  It’s still pertinent today, judging from sales at Amazon.com.

A while back, I was listening to “talk radio” in my car and heard Dennis Prager say that olive oil helps to suppress appetite, leading to loss of excess weight.  I only caught the tail end of it, and let it go.  Evelyn Tribole, M.S., R.D. brought to my attention recently an article regarding hunger suppression by fatty foods, such as olive oil.  I found the time to research Prager’s statement.

The olive oil/appetite suppression link seems to emanate from Seth Roberts, Ph.D., who was (and still is?) a psychology professor at the University of California – Berkeley.  He self-experimented with the theory that sugar water or olive oil taken on an empty stomach suppresses appetite naturally.  He stumbled upon his theory on a trip to France when he noticed that soft drinks unfamiliar to him seemed to suppress his appetite.  His theoretical underpinnings are based on rat studies, and on the idea – not his own – that our bodies have a weight set-point that mostly determines our weight.

The set-point is like a thermostat that can be reset.  Set-point theory explains that after a spell of weight loss, we usually return to our previous heavy weight because that’s where the thermostat (set-point) is set.  We need to reset the thermostat.   How do you do that?  Drink either 1) one tbsp (15 ml) of extra light olive oil, or 2) one or two tbsp  (15–30 ml) of fructose or sucrose (table sugar) in water, and do this not at mealtimes but at least one hour after meals, one to four times daily.  Don’t eat anything else at the time of the supplement, nor for one hour thereafter.  Total calorie content of these supplements is 100-400 calories per day.  You experiment to find the dose that suppresses your appetite.  And eat healthy meals of your choice.  Dr. Roberts says the extra light olive oil is better than the sugar.  Not extra virgin olive oil, which has too much flavor.

The pure, unadulterated sweetness of sugar, and the near-tastelessness of the olive oil are important, according to Dr. Roberts.  They trick your weight set-point into resetting.  At least this is the theoretical framework he gave to Prager and TheDietChannel.com in 2006.  ABC News in 2005 reported he “suggests it works by suppressing a basic ‘caveman’ instinct from days when access to food was intermittent. The diet tricks the body from thinking it needs to eat every last bit of food before an impending famine.”  My sense is: If it works, it works, and the underlying mechanism is less important.

Dr. Roberts easily lost 50 pounds with his method and wrote The Shangri-La Diet: The No Hunger Eat Anything Weight-Loss Plan to share with the world.  The blogosphere and the authors of Freakonomics helped spread the word rapidly.  In 2006, Dennis Prager allocated an entire hour of his show to Dr. Roberts, and volunteered that the olive oil indeed was suppressing his (Prager’s) appetite.  According to the book reviewers at Amazon.com, the Shangri-La Diet clearly works miraculously well for some, not at all for others.  You can find much more information and testimonials at www.sethroberts.net., perhaps enough that you don’t need to purchase the book if you want to give it a go.  Last I checked (2008), the paperback was $3.99 plus shipping at Amazon.com.

I’m not sure if this diet is a hoax or not.  It’s possible it is a social psychology experiment.  Maybe Dr. Roberts had a bet with someone that “anyone can write a popular diet book if they just use the formula.”  You can find the formula at www.sethroberts.net under “Reviews and Media.”   Listen to Dr. Roberts’ interview with Dennis Prager and decide for yourself.  He sounds earnest.

I suspect it’s a hoax but, then again, Dr. Roberts may himself be a true believer.   What’s the evidence for hoaxiness?  The subtitle was my first clue: The No Hunger Eat Anything Weight-Loss Plan.  Legitimate, scrupulous doctors would be embarrassed to use that phrase.  The second clue is that Dr. Roberts seems to be a former contributor to Spy magazine.  This is precisely the sort of hoax the editors of Spy would concoct.  The third clue is that he uses just enough quasi-legitimate scientific theory and jargon to rope in many readers.

[I know “hoaxiness” isn’t a word.  Neither was truthiness until Stephen Colbert coined it in 2006.]

I was particularly interested in the olive oil aspect of the Shangri-La Diet since olive oil is the predominant form of fat in the traditional healthy Mediterranean diet.  I searched PubMed.gov for scientific clinical studies in overweight humans showing that olive oil suppresses appetite and leads to weight loss.  I found none as of October 12, 2008.  Note that extra light olive oil is refined oil and has less of the healthy phytonutrients found in extra virgin olive oil.

Dr. Roberts’ program, and its apparent success in some users, exemplifies the idea that losing excess weight is, in part, a matter of trial and error.  For example, the Atkins diet may work great for you, but not your next-door neighbor, who lost with Shangri-La, which didn’t work for your mother-in-law.  To some extent, weight-loss efforts are “an experiment of one.”  What works for you is partially based on genetics (idiosyncratic metabolic processes), personal preferences, early childhood experiences, financial resources, preparedness for change, personality type, etc.   However, two themes unify most people who have lost a significant amount of weight and kept it off long-term: 1) they don’t eat as much as in the past, and 2) they exercise more.  Look for these when you search for effective weight-loss programs.

The aforementioned article brought to my attention by Evelyn Tribole suggests how olive oil and other unsaturated fats could curb hunger.  Oleic acid, a prominent monounsaturated fatty acid in olive oil, is transformed into oleoylethanolamide (OEA) in the small intestine.  OEA then activates a brain circuit that gives you a feeling of fullness, reducing appetite, and potentially promoting weight loss.

A 2007 article in the Journal of Molecular Medicine exposes a genetic variation that seems to prevent high fat consumption from contributing to overweight.  Read about it at FuturePundit.com.  The gene variant may be found in 10-15% of the U.S. population.  Consumption of monounsaturated fats, as in olive and canola oil, almost seems to protect against overweight in people who carry this genetic variation.  I’m talking about single nucleotide polymorphisms of the apolipoprotein A5 gene, specifically, -1131T>C.  But you knew that, right?  Nutritional genomics may eventually allow us to customize our food intake to work best with our personal genetic make-up.

A number of people, including Dr. Roberts, swear by the Shangri-La Diet.  It works for them.  I don’t think most of them are lying.  Maybe they are in the subset of the population with the appropriate genetic variant.

It would be easy to design and execute an experiment on 100 subjects to test the efficacy of the Shangri-La Diet.  Until that’s done – and it probably never will be – you could inexpensively try the Shangri-La “experiment of one” on yourself.  From what I’ve read, you’ll know within the first week if you achieve the natural appetite suppression that substitutes for the willpower and discipline required by effective diets.  As always, get your personal physician’s OK first.

If it is a hoax, I complement Dr. Roberts on his ingenuity.  His book was a bestseller in 2006.  For those he may have duped, it didn’t cost them much and probably caused no harm.

Steve Parker, M.D.


Corella, Dolores, et al.  APOA5 gene variation modulates the effects of dietary fat intake on body mass index and obesity risk in the Framingham Heart Study.  Journal of Molecular Medicine, 85 (2007): 119-128.

Schwartz, Gary, et al.  The Lipid Messenger OEA Links Dietary Fat to Satiety, Cell Metabolism, 8 (2008): 281-288.  doi: 10.1016/j.cmet2008.08.005

Olive Oil Protects Against Death and Heart Disease

Olive oil consumption is linked to lower risk of death and heart disease in a Spanish population, according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Olive oil figures prominently in my Ketogenic Mediterranean Diet and Low-Carb Mediterranean Diet.


Does Olive Oil Protect Against Stroke?

Older adults with high olive oil consumption have a lower risk of stroke, according to French investigators.

Caprese salad: mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, basil, extra virgin olive oil

The Mediterranean diet, rich in olive oil, has long been linked to lower rates of stroke.  The French researchers wondered if that might be attibutable to higher olive oil consumption.  Triglyceride esters of oleic acid comprise the majority of olive oil, and oleic acid blood levels reflect olive oil consumption.

Have you heard of monounsaturated fatty acids?  Oleic acid is one.


Over 7,000 older adults without history of stroke were surveyed with regards to olive oil consumption.  Oleic acid plasma levels were measured in over a thousand of the study participants.  Over the course of five years, 175 strokes occurred.

Compared with those who never used olive oil, those with the highest consumption had a 41% lower risk of stroke.  The researchers made adjustments for other dietary variables, age, physical activity, and body mass index.

In looking at the plasma oleic acid levels, those in the highest third of levels had 73% lower risk of stroke compared to those in the lowest third.


Results suggest that the olive oil in the Mediterranean diet  may help explain the diet’s protection against stroke.  They also support my inclusion of olive oil in the Low-Carb Mediterranean Diet and Advanced Mediterranean Diet.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Reference:  Samieri, C. et al.  Olive oil consumption, plasma oleic acid, and stroke incidence: the Three-City StudyNeurology, Published online before print June 15, 2011, doi: 10.1212/WNL.0b013e318220abeb