For decades, grains and other high carbohydrate foods formed the base of the food pyramid and the foundation for a "healthy diet". All the while, fats were demonized.
Unfortunately, these recommendations couldn't be further from the ideal path to a flat belly. A diet high in wheat and other grain products inevitably leads to high blood sugar and poor sensitivity to the hormone insulin. In turn, poor insulin sensitivity has been shown to be a major cause of abdominal fat accumulation. Even worse, the more abdominal fat you gain, the worse your insulin sensitivity becomes...and thus the vicious cycle repeats, often leading to out-of-control belly fat storage over time.
Fats, on the other hand, are instrumental in the regulation of your overall hormonal balance, including many fat-burning hormones. When you understand how to choose the right fats, replacing high-carb items in your diet such as bread, bagels, muffins, baked goods, and pasta with more of these fat-burning, healthful "fatty foods", you'll be on your way to a flatter belly.
Here are 7 of the top "fatty foods" for a flat belly and overall better health: Whole eggs, Nuts (such as almonds, pecans, walnuts, and cashews), Seeds (such as sunflower seeds and flaxseeds), Avocado, Olive Oil, Fatty Fish (for example, mackerel, tuna, salmon, and trout), and Coconut Oil.
All of these "fattening" foods help to improve your overall fat-burning hormone balance, satiety and feelings of fullness after a meal, and also possess an array of other unique fat-burning and health benefits.
For example, egg yolks are loaded with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants (making the myth about only eating egg whites for a flat belly completely false); avocados and olive oil are rich in heart-healthy, health-boosting fatty acids; many species of fish are a great source of inflammation-reducing omega-3s; and coconut oil is a prime source of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), well known for their appetite regulation, energy, and immune benefits.
Here is a little science lesson for you about your "belly fat" hormone, also known as cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that your body releases to deal with stress, and unfortunately high levels of cortisol have been linked to increased levels of abdominal fat. Want to reduce cortisol and burn more belly flab? Here are 3 things that you can do starting today:
1. Work less--New research shows that if you work more than 48 hours per week, the likelihood of consuming excess alcohol goes up dramatically. Alcohol consumption increases cortisol, and together they both increase belly fat. If you're looking to shrink your belly, trimming back your working hours while choosing calorie-burning exercise for stress relief (in lieu of alcohol) will do wonders for your waistline.
2. Don't consume caffeine after 6 P.M.-- Although caffeinated beverages can enhance fat-burning when consumed around exercise, caffeine can be a double whammy on cortisol levels, especially if consumed at night when it's very likely to negatively affect the quality of your sleep. Getting quality, uninterrupted sleep each night is critical to reducing cortisol, so you'll want to avoid caffeine in the evening hours.
3. Take time to "unplug"-- A recent Canadian study showed that those who were constantly "plugged in" to technology all throughout the day (TV, smart phones, computers) were significantly more stressed than those who took time to "unplug" during designated time blocks each day. More stress=more belly fat, so if you want a trim belly, start planning some device-free time each day.
When it comes to the leafy greens you put in your salads, some are a rank above the rest. So which should you pick to justify croutons, bacon, and other yummy toppings in your salad? Using ranking from the CDC's 2014 list of "powerhouse foods," as well as the nutritional breakdowns of the veggies, here are the best, most nutritional greens for your salads, ranked from worst to best.
No. 10 Iceberg Lettuce
It's no surprise that iceberg lettuce is among the least nutritious greens you could put in a salad. In fact, Chick-fil-A has even banned the veggie from its stores, allegedly because of its low nutritional content. Iceberg lettuce has about only 7% of your daily vitamin A per cup, as well as only 3% of daily vitamin C, among the lowest on the list
Calories per cup: 10
No. 9 Arugula
Arugula's distinct taste doesn't quite correlate with high nutritional content. It's a solid source of vitamins A and K, but is lacking in other nutrients that other greens boast.
Calories per cup: 6
No. 8 Kale
Trendy for a reason, kale kills it in vitamin content, especially A, C, and K. Vitamin K is especially important in helping blood clots. But kale has one tiny downside, it's a tad higher in calories than other greens--though it's still very low!--which means that technically it has a lower nutrient density, the amount of nutrients packed into each bite.
Calories per cup: 33
No. 7 Radicchio
Radicchio is a member of the chicory family. It packs in the vitamin K as well, containing more than 100% of your daily value.
Calories per cup: 9
No. 6 Endive
Endive, also a a kind of chicory, has its fill of vitamin K as well, and a cup has 20% of your daily vitamin A intake.
Calories per cup: 8
No. 5 Romaine
Romaine ranked among the top 10 "powerhouse foods," by the CDC, which are classified based on their associations with reduced risk for chronic diseases. It's an especially great source of vitamin A--one cup has 81% of your daily intake--as well as some B vitamins.
Calories per cup: 8
No. 4 Leaf Lettuce
The most nutritious of the lettuce family, leaf lettuce is low in calories and high in potassium and vitamins A and K.
Calories per cup: 5
No. 3 Spinach
Spinach, the staple of any good fruity salad, is on of the top-ranking greens for its all-around nutrition content. It's packed with vitamins and nutrients, particularly potassium and iron, which are important for regulating your blood cells and blood pressure.
Calories per cup: 7
No. 2 Chard
With its defining red stems, chard is among the top powerhouse foods because of its low-calorie, high-nutrient content. It had the most vitamin K of any leafy green on this list, at nearly 300% of your daily value per cup. Chard contains a fair amount of magnesium, which is important for things like muscle and nerve function, blood-glucose control, and blood-pressure regulation.
Calories per cup: 7
No. 1 Watercress
Watercress, with its little round leaves, was considered the top powerhouse food in the CDC study. It's high in vitamins A, C, and K and incredibly low in calories. It's linked to a lower risk of type-2 diabetes and it's not too hard to grow.
Calories per cup: 4
Do you enjoy adding flavor to your food with condiments and sauces? They can make your food delicious, but many of them are full of unhealthy ingredients. Maybe you think it's okay, as long as you use them sparingly? Unfortunately even a small amount can be bad for you.
Some of the most popular brands have been investigated to see what's lurking inside them. Take a look at the list below and see which of these things you are putting into your body on a regular basis:
Most commercially produced mayonnaise ( even many of the brands claiming to be organic) contains the following ingredients: Soybean oil, or Canola oil; food starch-modified; sugar; phosphoric acid;
Calcium Disodium; EDTA.
They also admit to containing less than 2% egg yolk and lemon juice. So the healthiest ingredients make up less than 2% of the product!
The main ingredient in mayonnaise is oil. Take a look at the label on your mayonnaise. You will find that even the "olive oil" and "organic" varieties (like Spectrum organic Olive oil mayonnaise) are made with soybean oil and canola oil. These oils consist almost entirely of poly-unsaturated fats.
Mass produced mayonnaise is loaded with sugar and corn syrup. You might wonder why a savory food is full of sweeteners? The truth is mayonnaise is just one of many foods that has been pumped full of sugar to make you want to eat more.
Like mayonnaise, you may be surprised to find out how little of the "real" ingredients are in barbecue sauce. Most Barbecue sauces are primarily made up of sugar in the form of corn syrup. The average bottle of Barbecue sauce contains the following ingredients: High fructose corn syrup; tomato puree; salt; modified food starch; water, distilled vinegar; soybean oil; hydrolyzed corn and soy protein; spice; onion powder; dehydrated garlic; artificial tomato flavor (chemicals); natural and artificial flavor; Yellow No. 6 dye; Red No. 40; Blue No. 1; titanium dioxide; caramel color.
What stands out in the Barbecue sauce, besides the soybean oil, is the amount of food dyes that go into it. The CSPI (Center for Science in Public Interest) reports that many common food dyes are linked to cancer, hyperactivity in children and behavioral problems. So, if you're wondering why the kids misbehave at barbecues, you might want to take a look at what's inside the barbecue sauce.
In Europe the law dictates that foods that contain dyes need to carry a warning label. In Britain the government had demanded that most artificial colors be removed from foods. Unfortunately, the US still allows most of them to be added to your foods and condiments.
If you are hoping that ketchup is a safe bet in the condiment aisle then you are going to think again after reading this. Even Hunt's 100% natural tomato ketchup is a culprit. They claim to be preservative free and low in high fructose corn syryp. However, if you take a look at the ingredients, you will see that it is full of things that are bad for you:
Tomato concentrate; distilled vinegar; High Fructose Corn Syrup; Corn Syrup; Salt Spice; Onion Powder; Natural Flavoring.
Hunt's claims to be "low" in High Fructose Corn Syrup and Corn Syrup, yet Hunt's has both regular and High Fructose Corn Syrup in their ketchup. High Fructose Corn Syrup is an artificial sweetener that is in all kinds of foods. It is corn syrup which has been processed with enzymes. They convert some of the glucose in corn syrup into fructose. What that means is that your ketchup is not just full of sugar, it's full of all kinds of sugars.
Be wary of any ketchup labels that contain fructose, corn syrup, glucose, high fructose corn syrup, sugar and sweeteners. The average ketchup contains four grams of fructose sugar per tablespoon. That makes up about a fifth of the recommended daily dietary allowance for fructose sugars.
Ranch dressing is the most popular dressing in the US according to Mintel International Group. Long ago it was made with using buttermilk and a few other natural ingredients like garlic and spices. Take a look at what's in the average bottle of Dean's Ranch dressing today:
Soybean Pasteurized "blend" of skim milk; reduced minerals whey; partially hydrogenated soybean oil; salt; sour cream flavor (cream, nonfat milk, whey, whey protein concentrate); maltodextrin, cultured nonfat buttermilk (skim milk, cultures); maltodextrin; salt; autolyzed yeast extract; dehydrated onion; natural flavors; monosodium glutamate; sodium citrate; sour cream cultures; lactic acid; food starch-modified; gelatin; dextrose; dehydrated garlic; vinegar powder (corn starch modified; white distilled vinegar); monosodium glutamate; citric acid; sodium hexametaphosphate; locust bean gum; propylene glycol alginate; lecithin; spices; potassium sorbate; guar gum; whey; whey protein concentrate; carrageenan; acetic acid; artificial colors (FD & C Yellow No. 5 (Tartrazine) and FD & C Yellow No. 6).
Tartrazine is well known for hyperactivity and behavioral problems in children. It can trigger an allergic reaction in many people. This can cause shortness of breath and in severe cases trigger asthma attacks in those who are prone to them.
MSG in dressings and sauces is also a real problem. MSG can be linked to depression, headaches, migraines, asthma, brain damage and weight gain. The reason why MSG makes you gain weight is that it is actually addictive! MSG will make you feel compelled to keep eating more and more of the food it contains, even though you aren't hungry anymore.
Commercial Blue Cheese sauce/dressing contains almost exactly the same ingredients as Ranch Dressing, with the exception of a few different flavorings.
Sour Cream should be one of the most healthy and nutritious condiments you can eat-if it was only kept true to natural sour cream. Unfortunately the sour cream you buy commercially is so far from the original thing that they shouldn't even be allowed to call it sour cream.
Take a look at the ingredients on a popular, commercial sour cream label:
Cultured Pasteurized Cream and Milk, Whey, Modified Corn Starch, Sodium Phosphate, Guar Gum, Carrageenan, Calcium Sulfate, Cultured Dextrose, Locust Bean Gum, Potassium Sorbate (as a preservative).
The commercial sour cream you buy is made up almost half and half of fillers and preservatives. The real ingredients like milk and cream are often not much better.
For one thing, unless they specify organic, they aren't. Non-organic dairy ususally comes from cows given genetically engineered rBGH (Bovine Growth Hormone). RBGH is banned in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and 27 other countries because it is so dangerous to human health. Unfortunately it remains the biggest selling dairy animal drug in the U.S. It increases your chances of breast cancer by causing normal breast tissue cells to convert into cancerous ones.
When you are buying any dairy based product you should look for labels that say "rBGH-free".
Even supposedly healthy brands often hide behind clever naming conventions. The best you can do is buy products which are certified as organic and healthy, or make your own condiments from scratch! Many of the additives and processed ingredients in our foods harm our digestive system, causing inflammation.
Have you ever stared at the sticker on your beautiful fuji apple and wondered what the numbers meant? Turns out, they really do matter! There are many different meanings depending on the first one of those numbers...
Any number that starts with a "9" means that piece of produce is an organic good. You may be wondering what exactly it means for something to be organic. Organic basically means that the soil that the product is grown in has been untouched by pesticides, chemically contaminated fertilizers, pesticides and antibiotics. Organic food not only tastes better, but it has been scientifically proven to have healthier benefits inside the body. Remember, you actually are what you eat, so fuel up on good stuff!! Here are a few produce items to buy organic whenever possible:
* Bell Peppers
Anything starting with a "3" or "4" means that it is grown conventionally. Conventional farming is when chemicals and pesticides are used in different methods to allow for bigger, faster and longer lasting crops. If you are shopping on a budget, here are a few items that are ok to buy conventionally grown:
* Sweet Potatoes
Finally, that dreaded number starting with an "8" means your food has been genetically engineered. This means that the food you are buying has been created by a person or machine in order to maximize productivity. Try to stay away from this produce at all costs.
Remember to support your local farmers by visiting farmers markets and local food stores, and you can also join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) exchange to ensure that you know where your food is coming from. It is one thing to buy organic items at the grocery store, but it's another thing to get the opportunity to shake the hand of the farmer who just grew you dinner!
Knowledge is power, and now that you know what you are buying, you can feel comfortable and informed on your next grocery store stop. Eat, cook and be healthy!!!
Known scientifically as Cucumis sativus, cucumbers are related to watermelons, zucchini and pumpkins. Cucumbers grow on vines that sprawl along the ground. They usually grow to around 9 to 12 inches long and are cylindrical in shape. Hothouse grown cucumbers come in a seedless variety and can grow to 20 inches in length.
There are two types of cucumbers: slicing cucumbers, which are eaten fresh, and pickling cucumbers. Cucumbers are also known as gherkins when they are pickled.
Long green slicing cucumbers come in several varieties;
* Burpless are so named because they are easier to digest. They mature in 62 days and are a hybrid of the Chinese cucumber which train well on a trellis.
* Marketmore 76 mature to a dark shiny green in 68 days.
* Straight 8 are the most popular for their dark green, plump and straighter shape.
Recent hybrids have been developed that cluster on the vine. They are:
* Bush Crop which take 55 days to harves. They grow in clusters of 6-8 inch fruit on dwarf, bushy plants instead of trellis vines.
* Fanfare are a popular hybrid that will mature in 63 days and are known for their great taste. They are bred to be a high yield, extended harvest, disease resistant cucumber plant.
* Salad Bush is another award winning hybrid that is ready for pickling in 57 days. It produces uniform 8 inch fruit on compact plants and is quite disease tolerant as well.
Pickling cucumbers are smaller than slicing ones. Both the Bush and the Carolina varieties are ready to harvest in about 48 days. The Carolina has a white spine and is more blocky in shape.
Plant cucumber seeds about 1/2 inch deep in rows every 12 inches, or three per 36 inches in a hill system style. If you grow them indoors then transplant them, make sure the soil is warm. Cucumbers have shallow roots so they need to be irrigated regularly during their growth cycle. Compost or well rotted manure mix in with the soil will be beneficial..
Once the plants begin to vine, side dress them with a nitrate fertilizer for a greater crop yield. If you live in a windy area, wire cages can be used to train the vines., Try not to harvest them when wet.
CUCUMBER NUTRITIONAL CONTENT
One medium slicing cucumber
Vitamin C: 5.5 mcg
Molybdenum: 5.6 mcg
Vitamin A: 223.60 UI
Folate: 12.52 mcg
Magnesium: 11.44 mg
Fiber: 0.83 g
CUCUMBER HEALTH BENEFITS
Because cucumbers, like watermelons, are 95% water, they keep the body hydrated and help regulate the body's inner temperature. They also help the body flush out toxins.
Leave the skin on. The skin contains a good amount of vitamin C, about 10% of the daily recommended allowance. If you do like your cucumbers peeled, the skin can be used to relieve sunburn and mild skin irritations, similar to aloe vera. There is some research indications that cucumbers can stimulate hair growth. Herbalists recommend cucumber juice to reduce puffiness around the eyes and to calm down acne.
Cucumbers can either relieve acid indigestion and heartburn or cause it, depending on the individual. They are a good source of dietary fiber.
Because it is rich in potassium and magnesium, it may help to lower blood pressure. Studies by DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) show eating cucumbers can help lower blood pressure by 5.5 points in some hypertension prone individuals when coupled with a diet of low starch and lean proteins.
Other studies have shown that cucumbers, when eaten regularly, help to regulate uric acid, so it is great for prevention of certain kidney or bladder stones.
Drinking Golden Milk Every Day Could Keep the Doctor Away...
Try enjoying a hot cup of Golden Milk instead of coffee. Who wouldn't enjoy something that's delicious, creamy and satisfying, and also so good for you?
Golden Milk is an ancient Ayurvedic drink made using turmeric and milk-and it's one of the best ways to incorporate turmeric into one's diet. Turmeric is known to have so many health benefits due to curcumin, a powerful polyphenol antioxidant that also gives turmeric its beautiful golden color.
Turmeric has been widely studied for its health benefits such as: antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, aids in digestion, anti-parasitic, anti-cancer, blood purifier, clears the skin and aids memory and brain function.
Making Golden Milk is so easy, and by making a Golden paste ahead of time, you can enjoy a nice hot cup of Golden Milk in minutes! Because turmeric is fat-soluble, using virgin coconut oil not only increases turmeric's health benefits, but it adds one more way to use this healthy fat every day? Any milk can be used. Black pepper's piperine has also been shown to increase curcumin's bioavailability by 200%, and the taste is undetectable in the Golden Milk.
Here's how to make Golden Paste and Golden Milk:
1/2 cup organic turmeric powder
1 cup water
1.5 teaspoons black pepper
5 tablespoons virgin coconut oil
In a stainless steel pot, cook the water, turmeric and black pepper until it forms a thick paste, stirring and cooking for about 7-10 minutes. Remove from heat and add virgin coconut oil, using a whisk to fully mix in the coconut oil. Transfer the Golden paste into a glass jar with a lid, and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. You will use this paste to make your Golden Milk below.
1 teaspoon golden paste
2 cups milk
1/8 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
Honey to taste (optional)
pinch of cinnamon (optional)
In a stainless steel pot, gently heat, but do not boil, 2 cups of milk with 1 teaspoon of golden paste. A whisk is helpful to fully mix the paste into the milk. Add optional vanilla, honey and/or cinnamon.
Next time you think about having a cup of coffee, try some Golden Milk instead. Drinking a cup of Golden Milk every day could keep the doctor away! Golden paste can also be used in smoothies, to make salad dressings, in curries, or any way your heart desires, and pets love golden paste too!!!!
Some foods are important, and others you can definitely get by with the regular stuff. For example, you should choose organic meats to avoid being exposed to the synthetic hormones that non-organic livestock is generally treated with throughout their life cycle. Sure it's a little more expensive, but some things are just worth paying for--protecting the health of our family is definitely one of them!
That said, I am sure we are all about saving cash where it makes sense, and that's why there are certain foods we NEVER should buy organic. Why? Because for some foods, there is no additional benefit to the organic vs. the non-organic version. Here's why.
When it comes to produce, the benefit of buying organic is to avoid ingesting pesticides and chemicals that are generally used on non-organic fruits and vegetables. That said, foods like bananas, avocados, oranges, melons, and grapefruits have a thick skin barrier between the outside world and the fruit itself so the pesticides actually never come in contact with the fruit that you eat, and of course these are fruits where the outer layer is typically discarded.
Contrast that with apples, tomatoes, pears and other fruits and veggies where you eat the skin, and you'll see why it's important to choose organic for some and not for others.
So rule #1, if a fruit has a thick skin that you discard and don't eat, save some cash and go with the non-organic version.
Next up, there are other veggies that pests simply aren't attracted to due to their high sulfur content, such as onions and garlic. Don't bother spending the extra cash here either as these veggies aren't typically treated with pesticides in the first place.
In the end, spend the money where there's benefit, and pinch those pennies when there is not!
If you want to defy each passing year while promoting more youthful hair, nails and skin, the below 7 foods will help you stock up on some of the most powerful anti-aging nutrients around.
1. Olive Oil- Not only do the monounsaturated fats contained in olive oil support healthy arteries and a healthy heart, but olive oil also contains polyphenols, a potent anti-oxidant that may help prevent a number of age-related diseases. What is recommended is organic extra virgin olive oil for the most anti-aging bang for your buck.
2. Red Wine- That's right, a glass of wine daily may indeed have a positive effect on your health due to its resveratrol content, a unique anti-oxidant that can help fight against diabetes, heart disease, and age-related memory loss.
3. Beans- The unique proteins in beans thicken and strengthen your hair cells, so you can enjoy a full head of hair as you lengthen your years.
4. Brazil Nuts- Brazil nuts are rich in selenium, a mineral which aids in the production of the anti-oxidant glutathione to help slow down the skin aging process. Just 2 nuts a day will provide you with enough selenium to reap its anti-aging benefits.
5. Tomatoes- Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, which has been shown to support heart health and healthy cholesterol levels as you age. Lycopene also acts as a natural sun block to keep skin youthful and protected from harmful UV rays.
6. Raspberries and Blueberries- These two berries contain important anti-oxidants to help offset inflammation and oxidative stress that contribute to skin aging and wrinkles. Just one serving of either of these berries contains more anti-oxidants than 10 servings of most other fruits and vegetables.
7. Organic Eggs- Despite the bad rap eggs get because of their cholesterol content, which is based on completely erroneous science, eggs are rich in biotin and iron which help to promote healthy, youthful skin and hair.
So there you have it, not only are these foods good for a healthy body inside, they also are healthy for the outside as well.
Olive oil is one of the oldest (and most revered!) edible oils out there, with culinary uses dating back to at least 1000 BC, and other uses scrolling back even further (such as anointing priests and kings). Not to mention, it's versatile and delicious (olive oil ice cream, anyone?). Combined with mounting research suggesting olive oil is cardioprotective, it's no wonder that is one of the least controversial fats out there--given the green light by the paleo community, vegans, vegetarians, low-carbers, the Harvard School of Public Health, and even the USDA. Not many foods can claim such widespread acceptance!
But, there is one area of ongoing debate when it come to olive oil: cooking. Because it's composed of mostly unsaturated fat, which is less likely chemically stable than saturated fat, ;many voices in the health community are claiming olive oil can become damaged when heated and lose its famed health benefits. In fact, some of the more extreme claims are that heated olive oil becomes legitimately toxic and can contribute to heart disease and cancer. So, should we reserve olive oil for cold dishes only and nix it for cooking? As always, let's look past the gossip and go straight to the science to find out!
WHAT'S THE PROBLEM??
Along with its high monounsaturated fat content, olive oil contains 1.4 g of polyunsaturated fat (PUFA) per tablespoon (mostly in the form of linoleic acid), which is about 10% of its total fat content. Like all polyunsaturated fats, linoleic acid has multiple double bonds that are vulnerable to oxidation, especially when exposed to high temperatures. Likewise, monounsaturated fat contains a single double bond, which makes it less heat-stable than saturated fats (though a definite step up from PUFAs) on the oxidation front.
So, in theory, we might expect olive oil to get pretty damaged when we expose it to heat on the stove. And with some reports of an olive oil smoke point as low as 250 degrees F, this would seem to provide corroborating evidence that olive oil should never be heated. The molecular damage from heating olive oil would erase many, if not all of its beneficial properties and even make it somewhat hazardous to consume (since oxidized lipids in your diet can contribute to oxidized lipids in your blood--a big factor in heart disease). Scary, right? Luckily for olive oil fans, the science shows something quite different!!
WHAT THE RESEARCH SHOWS
A number of studies have been conducted on olive oil to assess the effects of cooking on its structure and nutritional content, as well as what happens in humans after olive oil is ingested.
Across the board, the research shows that even with a fair amount of heat exposure, extra virgin olive oil resists oxidation better than many other cooking oils. In one study, it took over 24 hours of frying before olive oil generated enough polar compounds to be considered harmful. In another study, even after 36 hours of cooking, olive oil had retained most of its beneficial vitamin E content.
In fact, high quality, low acidity, extra virgin olive oil can have a smoke point as high as 410 F. That's higher than most cooking applications and makes olive oil (at least, the good stuff) more heat stable than many of our other go-to cooking fats!
The magic words here, though, are "extra virgin", refined olive oils start to degrade in heat faster than their unrefined counterparts, and are overall more susceptible to oxidation (those are the ones with the low smoke point). The reason is due to extra virgin olive oil's high content of antioxidants that protect the oil from damage in the face of heat or other oxidants. High-quality olive oils are very rich in at least 30 phenolic compounds with antioxidant activity--particularly oleuropein, hydroxytyrosol, tyrosol--as well as alpha-toccopherol, an important form of vitamin E in the presence of heat, explaining why even sustained cooking times don't obliterate the oil's nutritional value.
In fact, those same beneficial compounds that protect olive oil from oxidation also help protect human LDL particles from damage. A number of trials have shown that after consuming olive oil, LDL from people's serum takes longer to oxidize and is more resistant to oxidation, suggesting a major benefit for heart disease risk. So, whatever potential harm could come from olive oil's relatively less-stable structure, compared to saturated fats like ghee and coconut oil, it appears to be more than compensated by its awesome phytonutrient content!
GETTING THE MOST OUT OF YOUR OLIVE OIL
In order to get olive oil's powerful antioxidant properties, and therefore avoid some of the hazards of its more delicate chemical structure, quality is key! And unfortunately, obtaining high-quality olive oil isn't always straightforward. Even brands labeled "extra virgin" can vary wildly in freshness, phenol content, and linoleic acid level, and the olive oil industry is notorious for deceptive labeling (the book Extra Virginity by Tom Mueller chronicles the whole saga).
So, how do you choose the best olive oil? A few simple tips can help:
* Look for brands that list a harvest date on the bottle, which will tell you when the olives themselves were picked. The more recent the date, the better (no more than 12-18 mo)!
* Always choose oils in dark glass bottles--never plastic or clear ones.
* Oils that were imported from other countries are more likely to be deceptively labeled and even cut with non-olive vegetable oils, so look for more local oils, especially ones from California, or domestic companies that are transparent with their Mediterranean sources and production practices,
* When tasting the oil, it should be pungent and peppery, even stinging the back of your throat a bit--that's a sign of a high polyphenol content.
* Make sure the label says "extra virgin" and not refined.
* Fresher is better. Unlike vinegars or wines, olive oil does not get better with age.
Equally important is taking care of your olive oil so that it doesn't oxidize before you even get to use it! For best results, store you olive oil in a cool, dark place away from heat and light. Even high-quality, properly stored olive oils can start to degrade after four to six months, so purchase your oils in smaller bottles o make sure you finish each one up while it's still fresh. And, even though olive oil may be relatively stable when heated, keep in mind that any fat will eventually get damaged from high temperatures and that high-temperature cooking can destroy some nutrients in the other ingredients you're using--so limit frying in favor of gentler cooking methods, like sauteing.