11 Dec

Replacing the butter with olive oil when baking

By Julia Cameron,
Photo Peter Monsees,

This holiday season, your goal to keep a healthful diet and lifestyle might be forgotten easily when the temptation from cookies and cakes wields more power than the call of your treadmill.

But you can have your cake and eat it too, said Lisa A. Sheldon, a nutritionist and cookbook author whose new cookbook, “Olive Oil Baking” (Cumberland House, 2007), showcases olive oil as a substitute fat for butter and less healthful oils in baking recipes.

“I don’t want people to get the impression I’m a dietary saint,” Sheldon said. “It’s about everything in moderation.”

Her book includes more than 120 recipes, including cookies, cakes and breakfast treats, all containing olive oil — some with additional healthful substitutions or additions as well, such as whole-wheat pastry flour in morning glory muffins and wheat germ in chocolate chip cookies.

Unlike butter, olive oil is a monounsaturated — or “good” — fat with benefits that include a reduced risk of heart disease, breast cancer and osteoporosis. Olive oil also increases the body’s good HDL cholesterol levels. Perhaps that’s why Mediterranean cultures have been following olive oil baking principles for centuries. While the diets in Greece and Italy consist of significantly more fat than recommended by the American Heart Association, most of their fat is from olive oil.

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