29 Oct

Get skinny on good fat in olives

Cook Well, Eat Well
By Dana Carpender,

It’s no secret that I’m unimpressed by low-fat diets. I don’t think they do a dang thing to improve health. Worse, they limit or rule out nutritious foods that happen to be high in fat.

Among them is one of mankind’s oldest and greatest boons: the olive, both as food and oil.

Olives are among the oldest cultivated trees, predating written language.

Despite deriving 70 percent of their calories from fat, five jumbo olives will set you back only 34 calories and 2 grams of carbohydrate, one of which is fiber. That’s a small price to pay for such a big burst of flavor.

Olives aren’t a huge source of vitamins and minerals, though they contribute some calcium, iron and vitamins A, E, and K. So why are olives healthful?

To state the obvious, they’re full of olive oil. I won’t pretend that olive oil is low in calories. Like all pure fats, it’s calorie-dense, with 119 calories per tablespoon. But it’s also incredibly healthful and makes meals richer, more flavorful and more filling, which will keep you satisfied longer.

Olive oil is good for you, and not just because of the monounsaturated fats it contains. Olive oil, and the olives it comes from, are full of polyphenols – compounds that are anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anticoagulant. That’s a heck of a combination for preventing our No. 1 killer, heart disease. Olive polyphenols lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol and lower triglycerides.

Extra-virgin olive oil is not cheap, though it’s certainly worth the price. Seek out 3-liter cans of olive oil at international markets for the best price, assuming you can use it up within a few months. Store it in a cool place.

•Keep a squeeze bottle of extra-virgin olive oil by your stove. Squeeze liberally into your skillet to saute everything from fish to poultry to vegetables.

•I like to chop four or five cloves of garlic, put them in a squeeze bottle and fill it with olive oil. This garlic-infused oil is great on salads, for cooking and drizzled on food as a seasoning.

•Remember that using olive oil on salads instead of low-fat dressings will help your body absorb the nutrients in the vegetables.

•When you’re craving something salty, eat four or five olives. They make a terrifically satisfying snack.

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