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Many people overindulge on holiday foods. A small change to your recipes could result in healthier foods. Consider the change to healthier oils as a “better than” change. The food is healthier than it would have otherwise been but it doesn’t mean that it’s your best choice.
Oils are not a food group but they add essential fatty acids and vitamin E to our diets. Some examples of healthy oils include olive, peanut, canola and safflower oil. Noticeably absent is coconut oil that is promoted by some people as a healthy choice. A recent review of research on coconut oil suggests that more studies are needed and results have been inconclusive. Nutrition isn’t an exact science and recommendations do change.
Healthier oils such as those mentioned above can lower both LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol. These oils reduce the risk of heart disease including the risk of atherosclerosis (a condition in which fatty material collects along the walls of arteries) that can lead to coronary artery disease. Healthy oils may also protect against some types of cancers by protecting cells from damage by free radicals.
Consider these tips for increasing use of healthy oil in your meals.
• Use soft margarine with zero trans fats made from liquid vegetable oils instead of stick margarine or butter. Trans fats will soon be discontinued from all foods made in the U.S.
• Add at least one good source of omega-3 fatty acids, found in tuna, salmon, walnuts and flax seed to your diet each day.
• Use vegetable oils or non-fat cooking sprays instead of solid fats when cooking.
• Use canola, corn, olive, peanut, safflower, soybean or sunflower oils in cooking rather than solid fats like butter, stick margarine, shortening and lard.
• Use reduced-fat, low-fat, light or fat-free salad dressings on salads.
The USDA Nutritive Value of Foods, also known as Home and Garden Bulletin Number 7, is the official report on fatty acids in foods. Safflower oil is the best oil to use since it is lowest in saturated fat (13.5 g) and highest in mono-saturated fat (162.7g) per 1 cup. Olive oil and canola are second best. Olive oil (29.2g) has twice as much saturated fat as canola oil (15.5 g). Olive oil (159.2 g) has more mono-saturated fat than canola oil (128.4 g) but the difference isn’t as dramatic as the saturated fat.
Herbed Pasta with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
Makes six, 1 cup servings
1/2 pound pasta
6 T. chopped fresh basil or 2 T. dried basil
3 T. olive, canola or safflower oil
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 pint cherry tomatoes
2 tsp. dried oregano
1 medium onion, chopped
1 T. chopped fresh parsley or 1 tsp. dried parsley
4 chopped garlic cloves
1/2 tsp. salt
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
1 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)
1. Cook pasta according to package directions.
2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
3. Score each cherry tomato with a small X. Toss the tomatoes with 1 T. and roast in oven for 10 – 15 minutes, until they burst.
4. Saute onion in 2 T. oil for 5 minutes.
5. Add garlic and red bell peppers. Saute for an additional 5 minutes.
6. Add fresh and dried herbs, salt and oven roasted cherry tomatoes.
7. Toss with drained pasta.
Nutrition analysis: 230 calories, 8 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 210 mg sodium, 35 g carbohydrate, 5 g fat, 5 g sugar, 6 g protein.
Joan Martin is a consumer and family sciences agent with the Anderson County Extension, located in the county park.