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    Archive for the ‘olive oil’ Category

    The Handy Dandy Cooking Oil Comparison Chart

    A few weeks ago, Andrew Wilder of the Eating Rules blog asked me if I wanted to help build a cooking oil comparison chart that would help people make sense of the wide array of choices. The topic of cooking oils is one I am very passionate about, so I gladly jumped at the chance.

    The chart — a real visual treat! — can be downloaded here, but I encourage you to read this blog post first, as it explains the science behind the results (and contains some very important FYIs).

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    The Ultimate Olive Oil Guide

    The various health benefits of extra virgin olive oil are no secret, but many Americans don’t know they are very likely purchasing ‘faux’ olive oil, or olive oil which offers very few of those well-publicized healthful compounds. I absolutely despise nutritional and food rip-offs, consider this the ultimate olive oil guide — or what you can no longer afford to NOT know.

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    8 Cooking Oil Facts Everyone Must Know

    Over the past few weeks, I have received an increasing number of questions about cooking oils.  Given the apparent confusion and misinformation out there, I’ve constructed this list of facts, FYIs, and tidbits I consider absolutely crucial.

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    Numbers Game: Answer

    PecanHeart_E2A heart-healthy diet gets approximately 16 percent of its calories from monounsaturated fats and roughly 10 percent from polyunsaturated fats (including omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids).

    Although all foods contain a combination of different fats, you definitely want to give priority to those highest in monounsaturated fats:

    • Almonds
    • Avocados
    • Cashews
    • Peanuts
    • Pecans
    • Pine nuts
    • Olives/Olive oil
    • Sunflower seeds

    How, then, do you figure out what these percentages mean in terms of grams of fat?

    Let’s assume you consume, on average, 1,800 calories a day.

    Sixteen percent of 1,800 calories = 288 calories.

    Each gram of fat contains nine calories.  Therefore, to figure out how many grams of fat are in 288 calories, divide by 9.

    In this case, 288 divided by 9 = 32 grams.

    Therefore, someone who consumes 1,800 calories should aim to get 32 grams of fat from monounsaturated fats.

    Following these percentage, roughly 18 grams (10 percent) should come from polyunsaturated sources (this includes Omega-3 fats, like those found in walnuts, flaxseeds, and fatty fish), and no more than 16 grams from saturated fats.

    (Note: I abide by Mediterranean diet guidelines that recommend 30 to 35 percent of calories from fat)

    A whole small avocado,  for example, adds the following to your day:

    • 15 grams monounsaturated fat
    • 2 grams polyunsaturated fat
    • 3 grams saturated fat

    A small order of cheesecake ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery breaks down like this:

    • 2.5 grams monounsaturated fat
    • 3.9 grams polyunsaturated fat
    • 13.7 grams saturated fat

    That said, there is no need for you to do multiple-step math calculations in your head.  Simply know your different fat sources and choose the healthiest ones, keeping appropriate portions in mind, whenever possible (i.e.: guacamole, rather than nacho cheese dip, at a Mexican restaurant).

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    You Ask, I Answer: Nuts & Cholesterol

    nuts1240705690Are there any nuts that help lower cholesterol, or are they all bad?

    They are high in fat, right?

    — Greg (Last name withheld)
    Los Angeles, CA

    When it comes to lowering cholesterol with food, there are three particular nutrients to keep in mind:

    • Soluble fiber
    • Omega-3 fatty acids
    • Monounsaturated fats

    The above nutrients are ones you want to consume more of.  Ideally, you don’t want to simply add them to what you are already eating, but rather eat them in place of less-healthy foods (i.e.: refined carbohydrates, foods made with corn and cottonseed oil, etc.).

    In regards to your question: nuts are an absolutely wonderful food that I encourage everyone to have a serving of every single day.

    Almonds and Brazil nuts are the nuts with highest amounts of soluble fiber per ounce.  Walnuts, meanwhile, have more omega-3 fatty acids (in the form of Alpha-Linolenic Acid) than any other nut.  The monounsaturated fat category is dominated by peanuts.

    This is not to say other nuts are inferior; others have certain phytonutrients and compounds that have been shown to help lower cholesterol levels.

    While we’re discussing these three nutrients, check out this list of best sources (which includes some foods not mentioned above):

    • Soluble fiber: barley, figs, kidney beans, oat bran, oatmeal, pears, psyllium husk
    • Omega-3 fatty acids: chia seeds, hemp seeds, flaxseeds, halibut, sea vegetables, scallops, walnuts, wild-caught salmon
    • Monounsaturated fatty acids: almonds, avocado, macadamia nuts, peanuts olive oil

    Great news about soluble fiber — every gram of soluble fiber (when consumed in a consistent, daily basis) is linked to a 1 or 2 point reduction in total and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.

    Above all, please undo the “fat is bad” mantra that has pervaded the American dietary landscape for the past two decades.  Omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats not only lower total and LDL cholesterol, they also increase HDL (“good”) cholesterol.

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    Quick & Healthy Recipe: “Spicerack Special” Salad Dressing

    olive_oil_pour_spoutI came up with this recipe when I wanted more than just olive oil and vinegar but didn’t feel like chopping, slicing, or even getting the food processor dirty.

    This unique combination of ingredients hits the spot!

    The recipe calls for nutritional yeast, which can be purchased at local health food stores (or Whole Foods’ baking aisle).  I am partial to the Red-Star brand, which retails for $4.49 for a 5-ounce jar.  I use quite a bit of nutritional yeast in my cooking, and a jar lasts me approximately three or four months.

    In case the name turns you off, nutritional yeast has a unique and very tasty cheesy/nutty flavor profile.

    YIELDS: 4 servings

    INGREDIENTS:

    4 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon paprika
    3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
    1 Tablespoon lemon juice
    Ground black pepper, to taste

    INSTRUCTIONS:

    Mix all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until evenly mixed.

    NUTRITION INFORMATION (per serving):

    140 calories
    2 grams saturated fat
    150 milligrams sodium

    Excellent Source of: Folic acid, monounsaturated fat, riboflavin, thiamin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12

    Good Source of: Selenium, vitamin E, zinc

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    Numbers Game: Answer

    olive-oil2A recent study conducted by the agricultural department at the University of Foggia in Puglia, Italy, discovered that antioxidant levels in olive oil decreased by 40 percent after six months of storage.

    Interestingly, there was no decrease in those levels during the first three months of storage.

    This information can be difficult to apply for the average consumer since most olive oil containers do not provide a production date.

    If you are able to find a container of olive oil that specifies such a date, purchase whatever is most recent.

    If you can’t, here are a few tips:

    • To ensure faster replacement times, buy olive oil in small containers
    • Time is just one factor that reduces antioxidants.  Light, heat, and air have the same effect.  Store your olive oil in cool-temperature locations (NOT directly above your stovetop!), away from light, and be sure to tightly cap the container immediately after use (i.e.: do not leave a bottle of olive oil unopened for long periods of time)

    While this is certainly an interesting statistic, please don’t think that olive oil with reduced antioxidants is worthless.

    Yes, the retention of these compounds is wonderful, but aside from that, olive oil is a great source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.

    PS: In the same way that eating grapes provides very similar health benefits to drinking red wine, the same goes with olives and olive oil.

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    Numbers Game: Tick Tock

    heart_healthy_secrets_olive_oil_V-708152A recent study conducted by the agricultural department at the University of Foggia in Puglia, Italy, discovered that antioxidant levels in olive oil decreased by _______ percent after six months of storage.

    a) 18
    b) 29
    c) 40
    d) 65

    Leave your guess in the “comments” section and come back on Wednesday for the answer.

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    Numbers Game: Answer

    olive_oilReplacing two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil with two tablespoons of light olive oil in your cooking saves you zero calories.

    Although “light” has become associated with reduced — or no — calories, it does not apply to olive oil.

    From a caloric standpoint, light olive oil and extra virgin olive oil are identical.

    In this situation, “light” refers to taste; specifically, a much less pronounced flavor than that of extra virgin olive oil.

    Light olive oil is also processed slightly different than extra virgin varieties, making it more suitable to high-heat cooking methods.

    It’s obvious, though, that some light olive oil manufacturers are hoping to confuse consumers.

    Many of these bottles have the word “light” in large capital letters, with the word “tasting” right underneath in significantly smaller size.  Tisk tisk…

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    Numbers Game: A Light Difference

    extra light ooReplacing two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil with two tablespoons of light olive oil in your cooking saves you ____________ calories.

    a) 0
    b) 20
    c) 35
    d) 50

    Leave your guess in the “comments” section and come back on Monday for the answer.

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    Three Useless "Facts"

    Bite-size nutrition trivia is not limited to Registered Dietitian Jeopardy!

    Magazines of all sorts (rom Us Weekly to Details to Forbes) occasionally pepper sidebars or “Did You Know…?” features with short bursts of “diet-friendly” tips.

    Television shows, e-mail chain letters, news broadcasts, and even advertising campaigns often rely on nutrition “facts” to captivate their audiences.

    Alas, here are three often-mentioned facts I consider useless, irrelevant, and better off erased from the collective consciousness.

    “If you put a nail in a glass of Coke for four days, it dissolves because of all the acids!”

    The “logic” here is that if Coke can corrode metal, just imagine what it does to our stomachs!

    Although all soda is nutrition-void sugar water (and the phosphoric acid in it can contribute to osteoporosis in individuals with insufficient calcium intake), it is not corroding our gastrointestinal system — particularly when you keep in mind that stomach acids are more acidic than anything in Coke.

    If you put a nail in a glass of our stomach acids, that sucker would probably disintegrate in just TWO days.

    Initially shocking fact? Check.
    Completely irrelevant? Check.
    Absolutely useless? Double check

    “I lost weight by cooking with olive oil instead of butter and choosing healthy fats, like avocado.”

    It seems like every other “celebrity who lost weight shares diet secrets!” (it seems to me that celebrity magazine editors think the only two secrets are to eat lots of fish and hire a personal trainer) article I read contains this quote.

    Yes, olive oil and avocados are heart-healthy fats that, if consumed regularly, can benefit cardiovascular health. However, all fats — regardless of how heart-healthy — contain nine calories per gram.

    I suppose I can somehow “vouch” for the avocado logic since they also offer a good deal of fiber (contributing to a quicker feeling of fullness and lowering total caloric intake).

    However, a tablespoon of butter actually contains approximately twenty fewer calories than a tablespoon of olive oil.

    From a weight loss standpoint, replacing two tablespoons of butter with two tablespoons of olive oil in a dish serves no purpose.

    “Twinkies are so processed they have a shelf life of 20 years!”

    You need the exclamation mark at the end of that one for complete pearl-clutching effect.

    Twinkies are by no means a health food, but they will not outlast a nuclear explosion (that honor only belongs to cockroaches and Cher).

    While Twinkies have a longer shelf life than many other mass-produced baked goods (mainly thanks to their dairy-free ingredient list), expect them to start spoiling after a month.

    PS: although foods with long shelf lives are usually highly processed and offer plenty of sodium, sugar, trans fats, and/or artificial preservatives, they do not take that same amount of time to be digested.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Popular Healthy Foods

    Why is it that there is much talk about eating olive oil, wine, and tomato products and not simply olives, grapes, and tomatoes?

    Surely the benefits of the processed forms are even more present in the whole form of the food.

    Or is that not the case?

    — Corey Clark
    (Location withheld)

    I love this “thinking cap turned on” question!

    Here is my take on each of the pairings:

    Olive oil vs. olives: Everyone cooks with some sort of fat; not everyone eats olives.

    So, in order to have as many people as possible reap the benefits of olives, it makes more sense to suggest they use olive oil in their cooking/salad dressings rather than eat olives.

    Also, olives have a much stronger flavor than olive oil. Many people who enjoy olive oil do not find olives palatable.

    Although olives offer more vitamins and minerals than olive oil, 120 calories of olives (equal to 1 tablespoon of olive oil) offers almost half of the daily recommended limit of sodium!

    Tomato products vs. whole tomatoes: Cooked tomatoes offer higher levels of lycopene than their raw counterparts.

    Wine vs. grapes: This is one I never understood. Grapes offer the same healthy compounds as wine. This is why I always tell people that if they regularly eat grapes but do not drink wine, they are not missing out on any health benefits!

    I personally think this comes back to the “reaching as many people as possible” goal that applies to olive oil.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Olive Oil Regulations

    Your post on the adulteration of olive oil freaks me out as I had no idea about this.

    I recently mentioned this to a friend who told me that she didn’t quite buy into this.

    [She said] food was tested and regulated by the government.

    [Since that] post is from a year ago, [do you have] any updates, Andy?

    — Dennise O’Grady
    Bay Head, NJ

    I’m afraid there aren’t many updates to that posting.

    The United States still has not joined the International Olive Oil Council, and olive oil adulteration is alive and well throughout the world.

    I’m not too sure what your friend isn’t buying into. After all, The Food & Drug Administration performs random tests on olive oil entering the United States.

    Adulterated oils making their way in from abroad — and being produced nationally! — is not a far-fetched idea.

    There simply are not enough resources to test every single bottle. Hence, high-profile cases of olive oil adulteration come to light once these products are on supermarket shelves — NOT when they arrive to US shores.

    Additionally, dishonest manufacturers know how to play the game.

    They know how to make these lower-quality oils pass as genuine olive oil in the administered tests. That is precisely why many olive oil experts are calling for more detailed biochemical examination of samples.

    Olive oil adulteration is not an undocumented urban legend.

    Your friend might be interested in reading this. Or this. And this.

    In the meantime, if this is a concern for you, I recommend purchasing your olive oil from any of the California Olive Oil Council’s approved producers.

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    Quick & Healthy Recipes: Vegan Sweet Potato Mash

    Here’s a super quick, tasty, and healthy recipe perfect for Thanksgiving dinner!

    I made this last year for my guests and it received wonderful reviews.

    YIELDS: 5 servings

    INGREDIENTS

    4 medium sweet potatoes
    ½ cup orange juice (ideally freshly squeezed from two whole oranges; if not, store-bought works)
    ½ tsp. kosher salt
    ¼ tsp. cinnamon
    ¼ tsp. ground ginger
    ¼ tsp. nutmeg
    ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

    INSTRUCTIONS

    Rinse sweet potatoes and cut into medium to large cubes. Leave the skins on!

    Steam until soft (approximately 30 – 40 minutes. You can also boil them, but steaming retains more nutrients)

    Transfer steamed sweet potatoes to a medium bowl and mash with fork.

    In a pot over medium heat, mix together the sweet potato mash with the orange juice, salt, and spices.

    Once well mixed, transfer to bowl, top with extra virgin olive oil.

    Mix lightly with spatula. Enjoy!

    NUTRITION INFORMATION (per serving):

    190 calories
    1.4 grams saturated fat

    273 milligrams sodium

    3 grams fiber

    Excellent source of: Vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C, manganese, potassium, monounsaturated fat

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    You Ask, I Answer: Olive Oil Potato Chips

    What are your thoughts on potato chips fried in olive oil?

    I saw some at the store and wondered if you thought they were a better snack than regular potato chips.

    What oil are regular potato chips fried in, anyway?

    — Richard Faenza
    Los Angeles, CA

    Most commercial potato chips are fried in cottonseed, sunflower, safflower, or peanut oil.

    The reason behind that is simple — they have high smoke points. This means they can be heated at a higher temperature than other oils without their flavor being affected. Music to a cook’s ears!

    Regardless of the type of oil potato chips are cooked in, you usually get 10 grams of fat per 1 ounce serving.

    Potato chips fried in olive oil aren’t as great as they may sound.

    Sure, olive oil contains a higher percentage of monounsaturated fat than cottonseed oil, but you should not be looking to potato chips to increase your heart-healthy fat intake.

    Besides, from a caloric standpoint, they are identical to any other potato chip.

    If you enjoy the taste of these chips, enjoy them as a treat.

    Don’t, however, think of them as a “healthy” potato chip alternative. Extreme heat takes away a good percentage of olive oil’s antioxidant and healthful properties.

    This is not to say olive oil transforms into a “bad” oil, but rather that using olive oil for deep frying is not a heart-healthy move.

    If you are looking to incorporate more monounsaturated fats into your diet, I would much rather you chomp on some peanuts, add some avocados to your sandwich, or simply dress your salad with olive oil.

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