Thursday, October 22, 2009
Although olive oil is touted as a wonder food for your cholesterol, don't think you have to use it exclusively. After all, there are instances -- for example, when baking -- where olive oil won't do.
The best choice in those cases is canola oil. It's the lowest in saturated fat, with a favorable ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids, and although it doesn't get nearly as much publicity, it's just as good as olive oil when it comes to lowering your cholesterol.
Studies have shown the many potential heart-healthy benefits of canola oil. At a 2000 meeting of the American Heart Association, scientist Dr. Lawrence L. Rudel presented evidence that canola oil can reduce atherosclerosis (otherwise known as the hardening of the arteries). This cholesterol-friendly oil is also a significant source of vitamin E, an antioxidant that has been shown to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD).
Canola oil is also cheaper than olive oil and has very little flavor, making it more versatile. Keep a bottle in your cupboard for any recipe that calls for vegetable oil.
Factor In the Good Fat
Talk about a great job. Chris Ortiz Temnitzer, president of Oliveoil.com, spends most of the year in Europe, touring the olive groves in the countrysides of France, Italy, Spain, and Greece in search of the ideal olive oils for import to the United States.
He conducts about 200 tastings a year, swirling the fragrant oil in a small blue glass, sniffing, swallowing, and rating. You can bet his cholesterol levels are low.
The generous amount of olive oil consumed by people who live in Mediterranean countries forms the core of the so-called Mediterranean diet, one high in vegetables, fruits, and grains, but also fat -- about 40 percent of total calories. People who follow this diet have much lower levels of heart disease than those following the typical Western diet. And the benefits come quickly. One study found that adults who consumed about 2 tablespoons of virgin olive oil daily for just one week had lower LDL and higher levels of antioxidants in their blood. Numerous other studies conducted over the past 40 years attest to the oil's heart benefits, including studies finding that olive oil not only lowers LDL but also raises HDL. An added benefit: Studies suggest that olive oil may slow stomach contractions, helping you feel full longer. And when olive oil was offered for bread-dipping in place of butter, people who dipped consumed 52 fewer calories than those who spread the butter.
Don't let this classic oil intimidate you. Here's what you need to know.