Wednesday, March 30, 2011

FUEL Better: Olive Oil

Since ancient times, the olive tree has provided food, fuel, timber and medicine for many civilizations, and has been regarded as a symbol of peace and wisdom. The venerable oil of the olive has been consumed since as early as 3,000 B.C.
The Spanish and Portuguese explorers brought Olives to the Americas during the 15th and 16th centuries. Mediterranean countries consider olive oil a staple. Since the discovery of the link between a Mediterranean diet and a reduced risk of heart disease and other health conditions has made olive oil even more popular in the American diet.
Olive oil is made from the crushing and then subsequent pressing of olives. Extra virgin olive oil is derived from the first pressing of the olives and has the most delicate flavor and most antioxidant benefits. Cold-pressed oil means that less heat was used in the extracting process. It is suggested that cold-pressed oil offers more health benefits due to the lack of heat exposure. Heat tends to denature or destroy vital nutrients.
Although olive oil is a good source of monounsaturated fats (discussed in detail previous blog) it is the Polyphenols in olive oil is responsible for its health benefits not the fat as some may expect.
This rich supply of polyphenols, are known to have anit-inflammatory, antioxidant and anticoagulant actions. Research is also showing that these polyphenols are protective against colon cancer and osteoporosis or bone loss.
Other health benefits of the polyphenols in Olive Oil:
·          Protection against chronic degenerative disease
·          Protective against Heart Disease
·          Better Blood Sugar Control
·          Helps Prevent Belly Fat and Improve Insulin Sensitivity
·          Protect DNA from Free Radical Damage
·          Supports Gastrointestinal Health and Protective against Helicobacter pylori

Tips to increase olive oil in your daily diet:
1.     Instead of butter, fill a small condiment dish with extra virgin olive oil for use on bread, rolls, potatoes or other vegetables.
2.     For more flavors, add a few drops of balsamic vinegar or a sprinkle spices into the olive oil.
3.     Consume olive oil based salad dressing
4.     Toss any vegetable in 1-2 Tbsp. olive oil and bake on 450F for 30-45 minutes (until tender) and salt and pepper to taste!
5.     Cook favorite greens, mustards, cabbage or turnips with a ¼ cup olive oil to a large pot and substitute low sodium vegetable broth from water.

Tips to purchasing and storing olive oil:
Olive oil can become rancid from exposure to light and heat. Look for olive oils that are sold in dark tinted bottles and oil is displayed in a cool area, away from direct or indirect light or heat.
The same should apply for storing olive oil at home. Olive oil should be stored properly and used within a few months to ensure its healthy phytonutrients remain intact and available. It is idle to use and replace olive oil within in 6 months of purchase date.
Choosing the right olive oil for you:
To make matters more complicated there a variety of different grades of olive oil, including extra-virgin, fine/light virgin, refined and pure.
Extra-virgin is the unrefined oil made from the first pressing of the olives and has the most delicate flavor. Cold-pressed extra virgin is the same process but minimal heat is involved in the process.  
Virgin is also derived from the first pressing of the olives but has a higher acidity level than extra virgin olive oil (has less phytonutrients and a less delicate taste).
Do not be fooled by the term “pure” on the label! It means the oil is made from a blend of refined and virgin olive oils. Pure oil is a bit of a contradiction and a marketing hoax! It’s not bad but it isn’t any better!
Cooking with the right oil olive:
The many varieties of olive oil also offer a range of taste, from a milder-taste to a strong olive flavor. Some are better for salad dressings, while others are better for cooking. Choosing the right olive oil can make an impact on your dish!  
All olive oils offer health benefits in their own right. When it comes to cooking ask how much olive flavor do I want in my dish?
If you answered: Tons of Olive Flavor
Use: Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Extra Virgin Olive Oil provides the richest olive flavor. Extra Virgin Olive Oil tends to be golden-green with an intense fruitiness and a light, peppery finish that makes it the obvious choice when you want to really taste that olive flavor as an ingredient in your dish. All Extra Virgin Olive Oils are good for using straight up or in cooking and even baking where olive flavor is desired.
  • Salads Dressings
  • Drizzle over steamed or roasted vegetables.
  • Use for sautéing vegetables or meats.
  • Drizzle over finished roasted or grilled meats.
  • Use in Italian breads like pizza crust, focaccia and olive bread.
  • Drizzle over fresh vegetables.
  • Use for dipping crusty bread.
  • Adding a touch of oil over a hot dish just before serving: soup or pasta. 

If you answered: A little olive flavor but not an overkill
Use: Pure Olive Oil
Pure Olive Oil provides a more neutral flavor and lighter golden color than Extra Virgin, ideal for cooking and baking where you want a touch of olive flavor but not a primary flavor in the dish. Pure Olive Oil is also good for grilling, frying, roasting and sautéing vegetables and meats. Use in marinades for grilled meats and vegetables.
If you answered: No olive flavor, please
USE: Extra Light Olive Oil
Extra Light Olive Oil is extra light in olive flavor, not in calories - all olive oil has the same calorie count. This light olive oil is perfect for baking sweets and breads where the classic olive oil flavor might be undesirable. Extra Light Olive Oil also works well for sautéing, grilling and frying.
  • Substitute for butter in cakes, cookies, muffins and pancakes.
  • Use in breads or pizza crust.
  • Extra light oil has a high smoke point and can be used for high –heat frying.
  • Grease grills, griddles or pans before cooking.

To ensure you get all the health benefits from olive oil consume a variety or stick to extra virgin oil olive as the staple in your pantry. Although olive oil is a super star fat it is still a fat and high in calorie use responsibly!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Fat-Tastic Food Group

Fat-tastic Food Group
In general fat gets a bad rap. Fatphobia is the residual effects of the low-fat craze of the 1990s, causing many people to believe that less is more when it comes to fat.  This resulted in a wide spread marketing campaign that all things fat was bad and clogged your arteries. As a result, fat-free products flooded the grocery store shelves and people became afraid to eat any form of fat consuming virtual no fat diets!!  While you should avoid trans fats and limit saturated it is vital that your body receives a certain amount of “good fats” daily to function properly.
Some of the traditional Fat Myths are:
Fat Myth #1:  Low Fat or No Fat is the only way to lose weight!
Fat Myth #2:  All fat contributes to the development of heart disease, increases cholesterol, and LDL!
Fat Myth #3: Fat has no effect on my running performance!
Some truth about Dietary Fat…
·          60% of the human brain comprise of fat
·          Fat manufactures cell membranes or lining, regulate blood pressure, heart rate, blood vessel constriction, blood clotting, and the nervous system.
·          Every Neuron in the body is protected by a layer of fat.
·          Helps slow digestion increasing satiety or lengthens the time between meals you get hungry.
·          Slows the release of blood sugar which helps control blood sugar.
·          Increase the absorption of fat soluble Vitamins A,D,E, & K
·          Improves skin, hair, nails and over all attitude
·          Extreme low fat diets below 20% of your daily intake increases your risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer!
According to Harvard School of Public Health:  Results from large, long Women's Health Initiative Dietary Modification Trial shows no effect on heart disease, breast cancer, colorectal cancer, or weight.
The low-fat, high-starch diet that was the focus of dietary advice during the 1990s-is finally dying out. A growing body of evidence has been pointing to its inadequacy for weight loss or prevention of heart disease and several cancers. The final nail in the coffin comes from an eight-year trial that included almost 49,000 women.  Results from this large, long Women’s Health Initiative Dietary Modification Trail showed no effect on heart disease and some cancers.
However, All Fats are Not Created Equal
The 2010 Dietary Guidelines recommend Americans consume less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fatty acids by replacing them with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Consume less than 300 mg per day of dietary cholesterol and keep trans fatty acid consumption as low as possible, especially by limiting foods that contain synthetic sources of trans fats, such as partially hydrogenated oils, and by limiting other solid fats.  Reduce the intake of calories from solid fats and added sugars.
You have heard enough about the fats not to consume to scare the daylights out of you but with the recommendation of 25-35% of your daily intake should come from dietary fat you may be wondering which fats are fabulous??
When choosing a fabulous fat stick to a few key words:
 Monounsaturated (MUFAs) and Omega-3s.
According to the American Heart Association monounsaturated fats can have a beneficial effect on your health when eaten in moderation and when used to replace saturated fats or trans fats.  Monounsaturated fats can help reduce bad cholesterol levels in your blood and lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.  They also provide nutrients to help develop and maintain your body’s cells.  Monounsaturated fats are also typically high in vitamin E.
Foods High in Monounsaturated Fat

Almond Butter
1 Tablespoon
2 Tablespoons
Avocado (Hass)
¼ cup
Avocado, Florida
¼ cup
Black Olive Tapenade
2 Tablespoon
Brazil Nuts
2 Tablespoon
Canola Oil
1 teaspoon
Cashew Butter
1 Tablespoon
2 Tablespoon
Flaxseed Oil
1 teaspoon
Green or Black Olives
10 large
2 Tablespoons
Macadamia Nuts
2 Tablespoons
Natural Peanut Butter
1 Tablespoon
Olive Oil
1 teaspoon
Peanut Oil
1 teaspoon
2 Tablespoons
2 Tablespoons
Pesto Sauce
Pine Nuts
2 Tablespoons
2 Tablespoons
Pumpkin Seeds
1 Tablespoons
Safflower Oil
1 teaspoon
Semisweet Chocolate Chip
1/8th  cup
Sesame or Soybean Oil
1 teaspoon
Edamame - shelled
½ cup
Sunflower Oil
1 teaspoon
Sunflower Seed Butter
1 Tablespoons
Sunflower Seeds
2 Tablespoons
Tahini, sesame seed paste
2 Tablespoons
Walnut Oil
1 teaspoon
2 Tablespoons

The American Heart Association also recommends daily intake of Omega-3 fatty acids.  Omega-3s benefit the heart of healthy people, and those at high risk of — or who have — cardiovascular disease. Research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids decrease risk of arrhythmias (abnormal heartbeats), which can lead to sudden death.  Omega-3 fatty acids also decrease triglyceride levels, slow growth rate of atherosclerotic plaque, and lower blood pressure (slightly).
Omega-3 fatty acids are considered essential fatty acids (EFA). An EFA is a long chain- polyunsaturated fatty acid that your body cannot produce on its own yet needs for survival. The only way to get EFAs into your system is through daily dietary consumption or supplementation.  
EFAs (including Omega-3 and 6) support the healthy function of your body’s critical systems. The cardiovascular, immune and nervous systems all rely on EFAs. EFAs play a crucial role in your health at the cellular level—EFAs help your cells repair and regenerate, receive nutrition and eliminate waste—all key to vitality at any stage of life.
New research suggest that EFAs nourish your nervous system and may help combat depression, low-energy and stress, while improving mental clarity and attention span.  A diet rich in EFAs also has a visible effect on the outside.  A balance of Omega-3 and Omega-6 reduces wrinkles and gives you healthy skin, hair and nails. They also promote better joint health because they help reduce inflammation and keep joints lubricated.
Where will you find these amazing EFAs?
Increasing omega-3 fatty acid consumption through foods is preferable. However, those with coronary artery disease may not get enough omega-3 by diet alone. These people may want to talk to their doctor about supplements. And for those with high triglycerides, even larger doses could help.
The American Heart Association recommends eating fish (fatty fish) at least two times (two servings) a week. Each serving is 3.5 ounce cooked, or about ¾ cup of flaked fish. Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines and albacore tuna are high in omega-3 fatty acids. 
Other dietary sources of EFAs:
  • Nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans and most other nuts)
  • Seeds (hemp, flax, pumpkin, chia)
  • Cold-pressed oils (Extra virgin olive oil, Flaxseed oil, Sesame oil, Grapeseed oil, Avocado oil, Pumpkin oil, Walnut oil, and Cod liver oil)
  • All hemp-based products (oil, protein, flour and seed)

Salad dressings are the perfect vehicle for getting more plant-based EFAs into your diet—as long as your base consists of cold-pressed oil.
Try this basic, EFA-rich salad dressing recipe:
2 Tbsp cold pressed oil of choice
2 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
2 Tsp Honey Mustard
Dash of Black Pepper
Whisk all ingredients together and serve cold.
Myths About Omega-6
Omega-3s have been a hot topic in the last few years—but what about Omega-6 and the other EFAs? Omega-3s are not the only EFA you need to reap the full benefits of healthy fats in your diet. The other include:
    • Omega-5 (found in pomegranate seeds)
    • Omega-9 (found in olives, olive oil and nuts)
    • Monounsaturated fats (found in cold-pressed olive oil and avocados)
    • Polyunsaturated fats (found in grapeseed oil)
    • Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs, found in coconut oil)
    • Gamma Linolenic Acid

Omega-6 have been deemed a “bad fat” because studies showed the over consumption lead to heart disease and cancer. From those findings a generalization was made that all Omega-6s are the devil and we should eliminate them from our diets. Why this is not entirely incorrect it is a poor representation of the Omega-6 story.  The standard American diet is significantly unbalanced with a large portion of our daily fats coming from Omega-6s and few from Omega-3s. The problem comes from the source of the Omega-6s. American primarily get their fats from heated, denatured sources, like corn, safflower, sunflower, soybean and cotton seed oils, in the form of deep-frying or high temperature cooking.
Clearly, you want to remove those food choices from your diet. But that does not mean you should cut all Omega-6s from your diet. The same argument holds true with carbohydrates- we have to have them to survive and must be educated and consume wholesome verses crappy carbs.  Choose wholesome dietary fats from fresh, natural sources and be smart think of your heart before consuming processed crappy fats.