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View Diary: Tales from the Larder: Olive, the Empress of Oil (part 1) (131 comments)

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  •  Substitute for whiskey (3+ / 0-)

    My great grandmother insisted that it also worked against premature senility (she lived to a very old age)

    I substituted my great grandmother's propensity for  a daily shot of whiskey with olive oil and she lived to be 96. She had no idea as to the secret of her long life. I do everything with olive olye.

    •  Loved your diary (1+ / 0-)
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      Patric Juillet

      Loved you more for "getting it". I sent this off to Spain to share with my daughter. Our family knows the benefits and great taste of olive oil and a good balsamic. She is now an olive nut and marinating her own at this time. I can hardly wait for my first heart healthy martini.

      I look forward to next week.

      Everytime I look in the mirror I one else gets me.

    •  A bit of oil health background (1+ / 0-)
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      Patric Juillet

      A lot of people get confused by the various terms related to oils and what that means for human health, so I thought I'd help.

      Natural oils most commonly come in three main categories:

      * Saturated fats (those lacking double bonds, and thus "saturated" with hydrogen atoms) * Polyunsaturated fats (those with at least one double bond) * Monounsaturated fats (those with only double bonds)

      First, though, about heat stability and rancidity: Different oils are more prone to heat (or even light) breakdown than others.  This is called going rancid.  Rancidity not only ruins the taste, but it creates free radicals, which are damaging to the body.

      That said, on with the breakdown.

      Saturated fats often tend to have higher melting points, and many are solid at room temperature.  They tend to be heat-stable.  Animal fats are almost all high in saturated fat, whether from dairy, eggs, or meat.  Vegetable oils normally have only very small amounts of saturated fat.  There are really only two commonly available exceptions: palm oil to a lesser degree, and coconut oil to a greater degree.  Intake of saturated fats is associated with coronary artery disease and raise HDL (bad) cholesterol.

      Monounsaturated fats tend to be liquid at room temperature.  They tend to be relatively heat stable.  Vegetable oils generally have more monounsaturated fats than animal fats.  All have at least some monounsaturated fat, but olive oil is a real standout in its own class, at almost 3/4ths monounsaturated fat.  Canola oil isn't bad, at about 60%.  Monounsaturated fats are most famous for their ability to raise LDL (good) cholesterol.

      Polyunsaturated fats need to be broken out by type.  The most common types are omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids.

      Omega-6 fatty acids are very common, especially in vegetable oils.  Some are very heat stable, as in peanut oil, and are thus good for high-heat frying.  While not as harmful as saturated fats, they are generally considered to be a negative toward health because they compete with omega-3 fatty acids.  When you're eating omega-6 fatty acids, the best choice is lineolic acid, which seems to be the best for health and is an essential fatty acid.

      Omega-3 fatty acids are both a blessing and a curse.  On one side, they're delicious and very good for you -- anti-inflammatory, cancer fighting, anti-dementia, and a host of other studied effects.  On the other side, they have very poor heat stability, to the point that very high omega-3 oils should be stored in dark bottles in the refrigerator.  You should never fry in high omega-3 oils, as they break down and release free radicals (although cooking with some spices -- most notably rosemary -- can reduce the breakdown).  Frying oils such as peanut oil tend to be extremely low in omega-3.    Most omega-3 sources are in plant oils, but some animal sources, such as fish oil and snake oil, are very high in them.  Oils high in omega-3, such as flax oil and walnut oil, and to a lesser extent hemp oil, have a delicious nutty flavor to them.  The less processed the source of an omega-3 rich oil, the longer the oil's shelf-life and the greater its heat stability: that is, to say, flax seed is more stable than coarse-ground flax meal, which is more stable than highly milled flax meal, which is more stable than flax oil.

      In addition to the fats, which make up the overwhelming majority of the oil, there are also various dissolved compounds, including fat-soluble vitamins and other chemicals.  For example, olive oil is rich in polyphenol antioxidants, which when studied on their own, seem to produce the same sort of health effects that olive oil as a whole is credited for.

      In general: if you want to use oils that are best for your health but don't want to change your diet:

      * If you're frying something very hot, use peanut oil to reduce free-radical formation, due to its very low omega-3 content and high smoke point. * For all other frying or lower-heat cooking, use olive oil.  Cold-pressed and extra-virgin has the highest polyphenol content and is preferable. * If you have a dish that has little to no heating, by all means use an omega-3 rich oil, such as flax oil or walnut oil.  Just remember to store it in the refrigerator.

      •  Ack (1+ / 0-)
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        Patric Juillet

        Just realized I wrote my cholesterols wrong.  Monounsaturated oils increase HDL, which is good cholesterol, not LDL.   And vice versa for saturated fats.  Bleh, it's late.  :P

        For those looking for ideas for dishes with oils but no heating of them so they can get more omega-3s in their diet, here's a handful:

        * Pesto * Couscous * Tabouleh * As a butter substitute or dip for bread, esp. with parmesian cheese and fresh-ground black pepper * Vinaigrette dressing

        As a species, we evolved without cooking, and so we got a lot more omega-3s in our diet.  Our bodies are adapted to a higher ratio of omega-3s to omega-6s than almost all of us get.

        But if your oil has to be heated any significant amount, go with olive oil.  Delicious and great for your circulatory system.  :)

      •  Excellent post. (0+ / 0-)

        And that is why I use olive oil mainly, except for frying which is rare.

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