When health issues made it unsafe for Nicola Sambazis to work as a server during the pandemic, family friend, Chef Maria Loi, stepped in. She prepared all Nicola’s meals and suggested daily olive oil shots.
Deeply touched by Chef Loi’s kindness, Nicola still hesitated to take olive oil straight. “She said I could mix it in a smoothie, so that’s how I started,” recalls the New York native, 55. “My hunger was significantly reduced, so I ate less without feeling deprived.” Soon, Nicola was down three sizes, and her meds for diabetes, cholesterol, and blood pressure were all reduced. “My doctors are excited and I feel amazing — more energy, less pain. I even smile more!”
Looking for an ultra-easy way to jump-start weight loss and improve health ? “Just take two tablespoons of olive oil every morning,” suggests Chef Maria Loi, a nutrition expert and host of PBS’ new program Secrets of the Mediterranean. She recently made headlines by urging employees of her New York City restaurant, Loi Estiatorio, to test this simple hack from her native Greece. “I wanted to boost their immunity during the pandemic,” explains Loi, who also provided them three free Mediterranean meals a day.
Folks promptly shed up to 50 pounds, got off prescription meds and reversed type 2 diabetes. “People were skeptical until they saw the results!” Loi says her grandfather insisted his entire family take doses of olive oil like vitamins, and she’s done it her entire life — save for one hectic period. “When I stopped, I gained 40 pounds. But I went back to my roots, and the weight fell off like magic. Now I’m over 60, and my doctor says I’m as healthy as a 25-year-old!”
Experts have long touted the benefits of a Mediterranean diet. Indeed, a prestigious panel of experts assembled by U.S. News & World Report has named it the best overall diet for the fourth year running.
And a new multi-university study found that Mediterranean dieters lose four times more weight than other healthy dieters. Yet many of us feel unsure of how to start. The great thing about Loi’s olive oil strategy: There’s nothing to figure out, and it goes a long way toward making any diet much more Mediterranean! That’s because consumption of olive oil in Greece is 19 times higher than it is in the U.S. And there’s compelling evidence that even a little extra olive oil can have a big impact.
How does olive oil help you lose weight?
Olive oil is made up of about 75 percent oleic acid, a fatty acid proven to work like a strong appetite suppressant. On top of that, research by Brown University’s Mary Flynn, R.D., Ph.D., shows that women on an olive oil–rich diet can actually consume hundreds more calories a day and still lose significantly more weight.
How is that possible? A mountain of studies suggests that both oleic acid and potent polyphenol antioxidants in olive oil help block fat absorption, speed metabolism, improve blood sugar control, soothe internal inflammation linked to countless diseases, and much more.
How do you get started?
Chef Loi recommends starting the day with two tablespoons of olive oil on an empty stomach. After that, “aim for natural foods, with vegetables, beans, seafood, herbs and more olive oil as main staples,” she says. Make sure to get a doctor’s okay to try a new plan.
The science behind olive oil is so compelling, even doctors load up on the stuff. “After the release of a study that linked four tablespoons of olive oil to weight loss, some of my colleagues and I actually added four tablespoons of olive oil a day and not only had weight reduction but also lost inches from our waists,” says University of Connecticut cardiologist Stephen Sinatra, M.D. “It’s something I still do every day. Incorporating more olive oil into your diet really can make a big difference.”
That’s particularly true, notes Loi, if you use it as a tool to shift to a healthier way of eating. “Just make simple dishes with lots of vegetables, beans, seafood, fresh herbs, and, of course, olive oil,” suggests the Greek Diet author. You can then add moderate amounts of virtually any unprocessed food — like cheese, nuts, meat, red wine — and still expect to slim down at a nice clip.
Here’s how to use the healthy pantry staple and Mediterranean-style meals to see amazing weight loss results.
BREAKFAST: Enjoy Greek yogurt with sliced fruit, chopped nuts, and an optional drizzle of honey.
LUNCH: Top a big mixed salad with grilled chicken, chopped nuts, and olive oil vinaigrette.
DINNER: Toss fish and veggies with olive oil and seasoning. Bake at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20 minutes.
The article originally appeared in our print magazine.