Olive oil has been the staple fat in my diet for years now. It’s so versatile and great for its flavor as well as for its health benefits. When buying olive oil, it is best to look for extra-virgin which is highest in quality. It comes from the first pressing of olives and has been processed without heat so it retains much of its flavor and aroma. Much like wine, olive oil’s taste and color is impacted by the region in which it is grown, when it is harvested and how the it is processed. Look for oil that varies in shades of golden to green but never clear or white. When storing your oil it is best to keep in mind that light, heat and time are your worst enemies. Don’t keep your bottle of oil on top of the stove or on a counter top in a bright kitchen, and try to buy an amount that you’ll use within a few months. Keep this in mind while shopping and look for packaging and storage that is kind to olive oil (such as dark bottles or cans). You can also wrap your bottle of oil in aluminum foil to keep out light (probably sounds tacky but it’s effective).

Olive oil has a number of healthy benefits: it can help lower the LDL or “bad” cholesterol levels in your blood, thereby reducing your risk of heart disease and it also contains polyphenols, antioxidants that can help fight some types of cancer and reduce the signs of aging. But to achieve the potential heart-healthy benefits the FDA suggests replacing a similar amount of saturated fat with olive oil, not increasing your overall fat intake by adding olive oil to it. As a beauty product, olive oil has long been used as a moisturizer for skin, nails and hair.

Grapeseed oil is extracted from the seeds of grapes and is a by-product of winemaking. Because of its neutral taste, grapeseed oil is often used in cooking because it will retain the flavor of the food. It is a good alternative to olive oil because it has a higher smoke point (the point at which the oil begins to smoke and releases harmful fumes and free radicals), has a neutral flavor and, like olive oil, has potential good-for-you benefits. It is safe for sautéing, stir-frying and baking.

Grapeseed oil also contains omega-6 fatty acid, which is broken down by the body into AA (arachadonic acid) and GLA (gamma linoleic acid). Because of linoleic acid’s potential health benefits related to cancer, cardiovascular disease and other disorders, as well as anti-inflammatory properties you will find grapeseed oil in many cosmetic products. A quick Internet search will deliver many testimonials to grapeseed oil’s multiple uses for skin issues such as eczema and acne.

When it comes to cooking, there is a variety of oils from which to choose, all for different reasons. Though research suggests that certain oils can provide some healthy benefits, I don’t think anyone would recommend increasing your intake of oil (fat) in the hopes of reaping those benefits (unless your diet is dangerously low in fat). But when you do use oil, it is a good idea to choose the healthiest options available. When I am pre-planning a meal, I try to think about types of fats, flavors, smoke points, etc. that will work best with my recipe and go from there.

~Christina

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