Isn’t it fabulous when good health intersects with good taste? Such is the case with extra virgin olive oil (EVOO). Health experts once thought that boring, zero-fat eating was the way to go, but more research points to the advantages of cooking with a drizzle of delicious EVOO. Increasingly, research shows that foods rich in healthy fats—namely olives—are good for you in so many ways.
A body of science backs up the health benefits of eating a Mediterranean diet, which includes a generous dose of extra virgin olive oil, in addition to a diet filled with minimally processed plant foods, such as grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, herbs, and nuts. The PREDIMED Study found that each increase of 10 grams per day of EVOO in the diets of people who followed a Mediterranean diet was associated with a 10% reduction in risk of cardiovascular events. Now, that’s impressive!
What’s so special about the golden nectar that is extra virgin olive oil? Because EVOO is minimally processed, it still retains many of those phenolic compounds present in the olive. And it is rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. No wonder that EVOO has been linked with many health bonuses, including reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, improving the management of type 2 diabetes, and even breast cancer prevention.
Almost all (99 percent) of the olive oil produced within the U.S. is made in California, my home state. In fact, this photo is of an olive oil ranch up in Paso Robles which I visited recently. Recent news profiles have highlighted controversies surrounding the purity of olive oil produced overseas, thus bringing locally-sourced and manufactured olive oil to the forefront. I recommend using extra virgin olive oil because it’s one of the least refined plant oils, still retaining its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Here are my best tips for getting started with the Mediterranean diet by making simple substitutions and swaps.
My Top 5 Mediterranean Diet Swaps
• Swap out butter and margarine for EVOO more often, such as in cooking and serving with bread. The Mediterranean diet calls for more veggies, and the addition of olive oil can make vegetables tastier. Next time, toss your greens in EVOO before serving—studies show the addition of EVOO helps nutrients to be absorbed better.
• Don’t want foods, such as vegetables and grains to stick to your cooking pan? Buy an olive oil mister and fill with EVOO— a healthier alternative to cooking sprays.
• Boost whole grains in your diet—another key principle of the Mediterranean diet. Simmer farro, bulgur, and whole grain pasta with a drizzle of EVOO and herbs for a flavorful side-dish.
• Beans and lentils—from rustic bean stews to hummus—are a common feature in the Mediterranean diet. Add a bit of EVOO to these simple dishes to let them shine.
• Did you know you can even bake with EVOO? This healthy fat is delicious in breads, crusts, desserts, and even pies.
Lovely California Olive Oil products at a recent event in Los Angeles where I was the guest nutrition expert!
Plant-Powered Giveaway with California Olive Ranch
I’m really excited to be hosting a plant-powered giveaway with California Olive Ranch this month! I am in love with this olive oil produced in my own home state. Founded in 1998, California Olive Ranch is the largest domestic producer of extra virgin olive oil. The brand’s olives are grown by family farmers throughout Northern California and milled within hours of picking to create a fresher product. California Olive Ranch olive oils are regularly used by James Beard Award winning chefs nationwide. All products are certified OU Kosher, Non-GMO, and California Olive Oil Council (COOC) certified extra virgin. For more information, visit www.californiaoliveranch.com.
For this giveaway, California Olive Ranch is offering an assortment of some of their most popular olive oils. You will also have the opportunity to win my book, Plant-Powered for Life. This giveaway is so easy to enter; just complete the Rafflecopter entry below and follow the instructions. It starts today and ends on July 15, 2016. Good luck!