To read my May 30th article about the benefits of olive oil, Trends Come and Go, but Olive Oil is Here to Stay, click here or keep reading below!
You’d have to be living under a rock to have missed the new trend in oil. From Costco to Bulk Barn, health food forums to baking blogs, coconut oil is the healthy-fat du jour. Cook with it, bake with it, slather it on your skin — heck, I’ve even heard of people bathing their dogs in it. Coconut oil, without question, is the hot new panacea on the scene.
It most certainly is good for you. It may not, however, be good for your wallet. Trends come at a price, and due at least in part to its skyrocketing popularity, coconut oil can cost you a pretty penny.
Is all the hype worth it?
Well, if you have money to burn, buy as much coconut oil as your heart desires. But if not, you’re quite justified to think twice. And while coconut oil is indeed good for you, it truly isn’t any better for you than other healthy oils; namely good, old-fashioned olive oil.
Old-fashioned isn’t just a phrase in this case. Olive oil, or the fat taken from the olive, dates back as far as the Neolithic era. Ancient Greeks picked wild olives for oil as early as 8,000 BC, and the first major cultivation took place around 4,500 years ago in Crete. Olive oil was considered essential to food, cosmetics, and even religious rituals. In fact, it was so important to the Athenians that they named their city for the olive-loving goddess, Athena.
At various points in history, olive oil has been worth its weight in gold, and with its plethora of health benefits, you can see why.
Full of polyphenols, antioxidants and, most importantly, monounsaturated fatty acids, olive oil is a rare healthy fat. More specifically, it has the highest proportion of monounsaturated fats (i.e., the good kind) than any other plant oil. Exceedingly good for the heart, research published in The Journal for Clinical Nutrition also shows olive oil to lower bad cholesterol levels and reduce blood pressure. It helps with avoiding blood clots and benefits insulin levels, and as if that weren’t enough, it also lowers risk for diabetes, stroke, breast cancer, obesity, osteoporosis, and rheumatoid arthritis. Many cardiologists recommend at least two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil a day to optimize health.
That’s all well and good, but how much salad dressing can a person possibly be expected to eat?! How else can you incorporate olive oil into your diet?
As I’ve been asked this question more times than I can count, I’m going to give you a few easy ways to make olive oil an enjoyable part of your every day routine.
First off, and though it is an obvious one, make your salad dressing at home. It’s shockingly easy, void of the chemicals and preservatives that many store-bought versions include, and can help you reach your daily olive oil goals. My go-to dressing is a simple oil and vinegar; mix together equal parts extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, add a dash of salt and sweetener (sugar, honey, agave, or splenda will do), and stir. Use it on anything from a simple spinach salad to a fancier beet and avocado side dish.
Now that barbecue season is here, olive oil makes a fantastic marinade for everything from pork to beef to fish — even tofu. Mix the oil with diced garlic, some salt, and whatever spices or juices you prefer, and you’re on your way to a moist, delicious summer meal.
If you’re sitting down to a family meal, consider olive oil as an alternative to butter for a healthy mash that everyone will love. Use it with the traditional potatoes or sweet potatoes, or consider my favourite healthy mash; carrot and turnip. When the carrots come out of the garden this summer, boil and mash them with some turnips. Add olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt to the mix, and everyone will be asking for seconds.
When thinking of healthy eating, pizza night doesn’t usually come to mind. But, with a little bit of extra effort, you can make a healthy at home pizza that will be even more satisfying than the box brought by the delivery man. Use olive oil instead of butter or shortening in your dough, and when it comes to the toppings, go easy on the cheese. Use loads of fresh veggies and sprinkle with olive oil to create a rich-tasting, healthy pizza at home.
As a general rule, when using butter, margarine, or shortening, ask yourself if olive oil may be a good substitute. Simply adding it to already unhealthy meals won’t magically transform them into healthy ones, but remember that small substitutions in your diet can make a big difference.
Now, as with everything else, don’t go on an all-olive-oil-all-the-time diet. Guzzling an extra large bottle of olive oil isn’t going to do you any good. Though it’s full of health benefits, olive oil is also high in calories, so be sure to enjoy it in moderation.
Finally, I’ll leave you with a surprising use for this fantastic oil — cake. This healthier dessert option is as satisfying as it is easy to make. Enjoy.
Molly Daley is a nutritionist and runs the healthy cooking, fitness, and wellness website, Diary of a Formerly Fat Girl. Find her at www.DiaryofaFormerlyFatGirl.com, or follow her on Twitter, @DOAFFG
Molly’s Skinny Lemon Blueberry Olive Oil Cake
three-quarters of a cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large lemon (or lemon juice, if you’re feeling lazy)
half a cup oat flour
half a cup cake flour
4 eggs, separated
three-quarters of a cup Splenda
half a teaspoon salt
1 cup blueberries
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and grease a springform pan. Grate your lemon, and whisk together 2 teaspoons of lemon zest with your flour. Set aside. Beat your egg yolks with half cup of Splenda until thick, and then add olive oil and two and a half tablespoons of lemon juice. Carefully add your flour mixture — you don’t want to overmix. Gently add blueberries, and set aside. Now, beat your egg whites with the salt until they begin to foam. Add the remaining Splenda (quarter cup) and continue beating until soft peaks begin to form. This shouldn’t take longer than five minutes, in my experience. Fold your egg white mixture into your yolk mixture. Pour batter into pan, and bake for 45-50 minutes. Let fully cool before serving, and feel free to top with extra blueberries.
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