Celebrate Your Transformation to a Healthier Lifestyle
I’m enthusiastically and gratefully giving you my most cherished spring recipes from my new upcoming Farm-to-Table cookbook FREE, because I appreciate you – my clients and friends – so much. I feel privileged to be part of your life – as your personal guide in your life and health transformation.
I really enjoy hearing from you, getting regular updates about your health, your family, and your life. So, I’m going to take it to the next level and form an online “Diet Simple” community on Facebook. It will be our online space to support each other, share our cooking adventures, and celebrate our ongoing transitions to a healthier lifestyle and body weight. To encourage you to get in the habit of Facebooking with me, I’m running a contest with prizes I think you’ll love! Follow the instructions below…
Click my book (above), and you’ll find my book to download…
Diet Simple Contest
1. Download and/or print my new Diet Simple Farm-to-Table Spring recipes,
2. Try one of the recipes – or more – and share a picture and your impressions on my “Diet Simple by Katherine Tallmadge” Facebook page,
3. Everyone who posts a comment or picture will be entered into the contest,
4. Refer a friend to do the same, they’ll be entered, and you’ll be entered into the drawing twice.
The Winner: Chooses From the Following Prizes
1. A guided, personal shopping trip to the Farmers Market,
2. Private chef-for-a-night (I cook dinner at your home while you provide the ingredients),
3. A 5-session nutrition counseling program,
4. A talk at your (local Washington, DC) workplace or conference, or
5. Come up with your own idea, and I’ll consider it!
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Discover Puglia, Italy with me, and together, experience a rare, personalized, insider tour with local native, Silvestro Conte. Puglia, the source of the Mediterranean Diet and the most delicious food in the world, has amazing landscapes, mesmerizing beaches, 3,000+ years of history, exciting folklore, evocative art, gorgeous culture, and more.
Seven Reasons to Love Puglia
1. The History: 3,000+ years, still alive and part of our 21st century astoni-shingly advanced mindset. It’s alive in the languages, in the culture, in the cuisine, in the traditions and in the art. Unlike other parts of Italy, Puglia is a layercake of history.
2. The Food: “I am very high on Puglia,” says Celebrity Chef, Mario Batali. “It is the next Tuscany for the American traveler…exotic… yet accessible” Puglia’s Cuisine is the original source of the Mediterranean Diet. It’s not easy to summarize the rich simplicity and flavor of Puglia’s cuisine. Cooking is based on the FRESHNESS of the ingredients — from vegetables to seafood. You will taste and feel it at all the unique restaurants we will visit, with Silvestro’s extended family, and at the Epifani family mansion. Our tour base will be Ceglie Messapica, Silvestro’s hometown, and renowned as the Gastronomic Capital of Puglia.
3. The Wines: “This magical wine destination is a thin peninsula packed tight with stunning beauty and surrounded by some of the bluest waters in Europe,” says Wine Enthusiast Magazine, which listed Puglia as a “TOP TEN Wine Travel Destination for 2013.” Primitivo, Negroamaro have been enjoyed for over 2,000 years, and are now familiar to the world and celebrated by wine connoisseurs. We’ll visit some little or at all unknown, yet outstanding wineries. Not neglecting homemade wine….
4. The Olive Oil: Puglia is Italy’s greatest producer of olive oil. Some of the purest and most flavorful olive oil you will taste in Italy comes from here. More than 65 millions olive trees are masterpieces in themselves, contorted yet majestic. Our tour includes olive oil tasting at family mills. The Mediterranean Diet was born here.
5. The Beaches: Puglia boasts 500 miles of coastline (sand, rocks, cliffs), surrounded by turquoise blue waters. Take Pescoluse, for instance : given the kaleidoscopic color of the water and its fine white sand, you’ll be thinking you’re in the Caribbean…or the Maldives.
6. The Architecture: You’ll see structures you won’t find anywhere else in Italy, such as the trulli, the conical, mortarless stone farmhouses started in the 1200s. Historically the target of many invasions, Puglia is filled with fortified farmhouses or masserie. All invaders left their architectural mark, including the mesmerizing baroque style in Lecce (known also as “Florence of Puglia”).
7. The People: the Pugliese people take to the highest level the typical Italian’s warm and welcoming attitude. Guided by Silvestro, you’ll learn about the traditions, languages, wines, olive oil, pasta, bread, cheeses and mozzarella at small old family farms, ceramics, pizzica, an ancient folk dance..
When: September 14 – 22, 2013 (7 full days, 7 nights, arriving in Bari September 15)
The size of the group will be limited to 18, so please book early!
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On CNN: An Egg-A-Day Does Not Increase Heart Disease or High Blood Pressure Risk (Breakthrough Study)
My clients regularly ask me, “Should I be eating eggs? My doctor tells me they’re ‘poison,’ and to avoid eggs because they’ll increase my cholesterol.”
My response? ”That’s OLD NEWS!” Read the updated scientific reports on eggs and find out why…
Most of the studies I’ve seen conclude that eggs are fine – and may even improve your health – as they contain nutrients difficult to find in other foods. Get more facts in my egg article (originally published in The Washington Post)… I also featured eggs in my most recent Washington Post article, “7 So-Called ‘Bad’ Foods That Are Actually Good For You.”
More importantly, a new report published in the British Journal of Medicine in January, which reviewed 17 different egg studies, concluded, “Higher consumption of eggs (up to one egg per day) is not associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease or stroke.” See the details…
The Study: British Medical Journal 2013; 346 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e8539 (Published 7 January 2013)
Study Conclusions: ”Higher consumption of eggs (up to one egg per day) is not associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease or stroke. The increased risk of coronary heart disease among diabetic patients and reduced risk of hemorrhagic stroke associated with higher egg consumption in subgroup analyses warrant further studies.”
Bottom Line: ”Your nutritional needs and food choices should be personalized. You should enjoy food and eating, as it is one of the basic pleasures in life!”
Interesting quotes from the study: “We considered several potential reasons for the lack of an overall association between egg consumption and coronary heart disease or stroke. Although dietary cholesterol influences plasma concentrations of serum cholesterol, the effects are relatively small.10 In addition, epidemiologic studies have found weak or little association between dietary cholesterol intake and cardiovascular disease risk.10Apart from dietary cholesterol, saturated fat and dietary patterns might also influence blood cholesterol levels,44 45 46 suggesting that compliance with general dietary recommendations instead of simply reducing egg consumption could have a greater effect on the risk of cardiovascular disease. Additionally, individual differences in response to dietary cholesterol vary greatly, which could affect the association between egg consumption and risk of coronary heart disease and stroke. Moreover, several studies have shown that egg consumption favors the formation of larger LDL and HDL particles, which might enhance protection against atherosclerosis.47 48
“The associations between egg consumption and risk of coronary heart disease and stroke were similar in subgroup analyses, which were defined by sex, study location, number of cases or participants, duration of follow-up, repeated egg consumption measurements, study quality, and whether diet variables or cholesterol levels were controlled for in models. An increment of one egg consumed per day did not significantly increase risk of coronary heart disease or stroke in any of the categories.”
“However, among diabetic participants, higher egg consumption was associated with a significantly elevated risk of coronary heart disease. On the other hand, higher egg intake was associated with a lower risk of hemorrhagic stroke. These subgroup results should be interpreted with caution, because only a few studies focused on diabetic participants and particular stroke subtypes.”
Other than cholesterol, eggs are a good source of other nutrients such as high quality protein and vitamin D. In the Diet, Obesity, and Gene (Diogenes) Project, increased protein consumption together with a modest reduction in glycemic index was beneficial for weight control.49 Substituting protein for carbohydrate also partly resulted in lower blood pressure, improved lipids levels, and concomitantly reduced cardiovascular risk.50 Higher vitamin D intake might have beneficial effects on the reduction of visceral adipose tissue51 and other cardiovascular risk factors52.”
Another possibility is that lifestyle factors associated with egg consumption might have obscured a positive association between egg consumption and risk of coronary heart disease and stroke. However, regular egg consumption tends to be associated with unhealthy lifestyle factors such as smoking and physical inactivity.34 36 53Higher consumption of eggs is also likely to be associated with increased consumption of red and processed meats.36 These confounding factors tend to exaggerate rather than mask the association between egg consumption and cardiovascular disease risk. One study found that participants with high levels of cholesterol in the blood were more likely to reduce their egg consumption than others.40 However, our subgroup analysis showed that the association between egg consumption and coronary heart disease was similar in the models, with or without adjustment for cholesterol levels.
Recently, a cross sectional study assessed the total plaque area in patients attending Canadian vascular prevention clinics to determine whether the atherosclerosis burden was related to dietary egg intake.54 The study found a strong positive association between the number of egg yolks and the degree of atherosclerosis measured by plaque areas. However, the study did not assess or adjust for other dietary or lifestyle factors and did not examine hard cardiovascular disease endpoints. The cross sectional nature of the study also limited causal interpretation of the data. Therefore, the results from this cross sectional analysis should be interpreted with caution.55 The findings from our meta-analyses of prospective cohort studies do not support a positive association between egg consumption and cardiovascular disease outcomes in the general population.
Subgroup analyses have suggested a positive association between egg consumption and coronary heart disease risk in diabetic patients. Among diabetic populations, decreased plasma levels of apolipoprotein E, together with increased levels of apolipoprotein C-III could lead to abnormal cholesterol transport, which might increase the risk of coronary heart disease.56 57 The adverse effect of egg consumption on lipoprotein profile and glycemic control could contribute to the elevated risk of coronary heart disease in diabetic populations.
Authors: Ying Rong, doctoral student, Li Chen, research fellow, Tingting Zhu, research fellow, Yadong Song, research fellow, Miao Yu, research fellow, Zhilei Shan, research fellow, Amanda Sands, doctoral student, Frank B Hu, professor, Liegang Liu, professor
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A new study comfirmed what I’ve experienced about exercise: Cardiovascular exercise (walking, dancing, skating, rowing, etc) reduces appetite, but, strength training does not.
Objective: To investigate the effect of 12 weeks of aerobic (AER) compared with resistance training (RES) on perceived hunger and fullness, together with appetite-related hormones in both the fasted state and postprandially.
Method: Thirty-three inactive, overweight and obese men (age 49±7 years; BMI 30.8±4.2kg/m2) were allocated to either AER exercise (n=12), RES exercise (n=13) or a control group (CON; n=8). AER and RES completed 12 weeks of training (3 sessions per week), while CON continued their sedentary routine. Perceived hunger and fullness, together with appetite-related hormones (active ghrelin, leptin, insulin, pancreatic polypeptide (PP), and peptide tyrosine tyrosine (PYY)) were assessed pre and post-intervention in the fasted state and in response to oral glucose consumption (1284kJ; 75g carbohydrate).
Results: Both AER and RES training elicited a decrease in fat mass (p<0.05), while CON did not. There was no difference in perceived hunger either in the fasted state (p>0.05) or in response to caloric consumption (p>0.05) following the intervention in any group. In contrast, both fasting and postprandial perceived fullness was higher following AER exercise (p<0.05), but not RES exercise or CON. These observations were not associated with alterations in fasting or postprandial active ghrelin, PP or PYY, although fasting and postprandial leptin was reduced following both AER and RES training (p<0.05).
Conclusion: Aerobic exercise training is associated with an increase in satiety, while an equivalent period of resistance training is not.
For more information about exercise’s physiological benefits…
For the full study…
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Every day I notice that conflict, confusion, and isolation are familiar feelings for so many of us. We are over-scheduled, multi-tasking automatons running from one appointment to another—when not glued to our computers, smartphones, televisions, and cars.
And we are too busy. Too busy to exercise, eat right, sleep enough, relax, or socialize with family and friends. Too busy to spend time enriching our lives with new subjects to study, engaging in creative hobbies, or volunteering in our communities. Too busy for living lives of balance and fulfillment. Our lifestyles are wreaking havoc with our health, happiness and the very fabric of our society. What to do?
I, for one, have turned to the 6th century wisdom of Benedict of Nursia because “Life is a teacher of universal truths” whether you live in the 6th or the 21st century,” writes Joan Chittister, OSB*, a Benedictine nun, in her book, The Rule of Benedict: Insights for the Ages. The hard-won wisdom passed down from Benedict is as alive and applicable today as it was when it was written 1,500 years ago, as evidenced by the scholars who have studied Benedict and his wisdom through the ages.
Benedict—Saint Benedict as we now know him—was living in Italy at a time of chaos, in a society ravaged by war. Tired of the decadent culture surrounding him in Rome where he was studying, he sought meaning and purpose in his life (sound familiar?). He left to live a simple life in the countryside where other spiritual seekers found him. He eventually founded 12 monasteries, which resulted in his Rule of Benedict, a succinct manual (just 93 pages), described by Chittister in her book’s introduction as a guide to “the logic of daily life lived well.”
“Benedictine spirituality is the spirituality of the 21st century because it deals with the issues facing us now—stewardship, relationships, authority, community, balance, work, simplicity, prayer, and spiritual and psychological development,” writes Chittister, who formerly headed a Benedictine monastery. “Its currency lies in the fact that Benedictine spirituality offers more a way of life and an attitude of mind than it does a set of religious prescriptions.”
Embracing this wisdom, Benedictine communities, monastic and non-monastic, have sprung up all over the world. In fact, one such organization, The Friends of Saint Benedict, headquartered in Washington, D.C., is offering its First Annual Symposium on Benedictine Spirituality on November 16 & 17, featuring Sister Joan*, and a roundtable discussion with other Benedictine scholars.
She notes, “The Benedictine way of life is credited with having saved Europe from the ravages of the Dark Ages. In an age bent again on its own destruction, the world could be well served by asking how.”
Join me and learn more about how the ancient wisdom of Benedict can be used to help us to create calm in a world of chaos, offering love and acceptance in a world of hate and violence at the Friends of Saint Benedict’s Symposium on Benedictine Spirituality on November 16 & 17.
*Joan Chittister, OSB, former prioress of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, Pennsylvania and a leader among women monastics, is an internationally known speaker and writer, author of 45 books, and a voice of clarity on spirituality, women’s empowerment, justice and the search for meaning. Her ideas—carried in books, columns, and Internet platforms– have encouraged people inside and outside the church, people in prisons, people in work and out of work, and people facing every conceivable life transition. She serves as Co-Chair of the Global Peace Initiative of Women, a partner organization of the UN, facilitating a worldwide network of women peace-builders.
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“Experts Read the Tea Leaves” is published in the November 1 Washington Post.
A tea timeout is my favorite way to de-stress a day. It feels so civilized to relax with a warm cup of jasmine-scented green tea or perhaps the traditional English treat, black tea with milk – “white,” as they say. No wonder the fathers of our country took up arms for their right to drink it. Still, with all the myths we hear about nutrition, I’ve always wondered, is tea as healthful as many people believe?
Although tea has been enjoyed around the world for some 5,000 years, it wasn’t until relatively recently that scientists started searching for the facts.
From the 1970s to the 1990s, epidemiological studies – the kind following large populations’ eating and disease patterns – found tea drinking might be associated with better health. But no clear cause-and-effect relationship between health and tea was established.
Recent studies have been promising. What did they find? Just about every cell in the body could potentially benefit from tea – with virtually no downsides. Read more about the health benefits of tea and my “7 Tips for Tea Drinkers” in the November 1 Washington Post…
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The holidays – starting with Halloween – can trip up even the most conscientious dieter. This happened to a client who had lost and kept off 20 pounds successfully. The Halloween trap caught her by surprise. She bought several bags of Snickers, her favorite candy bar, and began a binge that didn’t end until the candy was gone – long before Trick or Treat even began! That brought her up a couple of pounds. The holidays came and before you know it, she had gained almost ten pounds before winter was out.
With Halloween and the holidays looming, it’s important to determine your strategy for dealing with the temptation of sweets: what you eat, what you bring in your home, and what you serve others. My philosophy is that all foods can be enjoyed in moderation. But there are special challenges posed with some foods, particularly sweets, which have been confirmed by solid science – it’s not just in our heads! Understanding the science behind sweet craving and overeating can help us eat in a more moderate and healthy way.
People have an inborn attraction to sweets. If you don’t believe it, simply watch an infant’s response to something sweet versus, say, a vegetable. There’s an automatic acceptance, even joy, after eating something sweet. On the other hand, vegetables are an acquired taste, which may take 10 – 20 tries before acceptance. This is partly explained by evolution. We’ve been eating naturally sweet foods such as breast milk and fruit for millions of years. They contain life-sustaining nutrients, and a love for those foods helped keep us alive. Also, during evolution, an attraction to scarce calorie-dense foods, such as sweets and fats, improved our chances for survival.
But there are other explanations. The research surrounding our attraction to sweets has stepped up in recent decades. Scientists are grappling with understanding the calorie imbalances causing the obesity epidemic, which is partly fueled by eating too many sweets.
Our brain chemistry holds an important clue. Research shows that sweets, like many antidepressants, increase the brain chemical, serotonin, which helps regulate mood and appetite. Without carbohydrates, your brain stops regulating serotonin. Eating carbohydrates profoundly improves mood; which is why a handful of candy corn will make you feel better.
When we’re stressed, anxious or depressed, serotonin levels can drop, and one way people modify their moods is by eating carbohydrates. But, Halloween and holiday sweet cravings may be uniquely influenced by seasonal changes, too. Studies show that as days get shorter and we are exposed to less sunshine, serotonin levels drop and this leads to increased carbohydrate cravings in susceptible people. Women are particularly vulnerable to sweet cravings because their brains have less serotonin than men.
There have been other explanations for women’s reported increased sweet craving and indulging. Some researchers attribute the difference to the female hormone, estrogen. It’s been reported that sweet cravings change according to where a woman is in her menstrual cycle, circumstantial evidence that estrogen may play a role. But the findings are inconsistent, as some report increased cravings during menstruation, while others report higher cravings as a premenstrual symptom, a time when serotonin levels may be low.
But the bottom line is clear: Females overeat sweets compared to males. A study of female rats found they even ate more rat chow when it was sweetened, compared with males, according to a study in the American Journal of Physiology. In animals, having high levels of estrogen is associated with eating more sweets. This theory has yet to be proven in humans.
Cravings and overeating are difficult to study because they can be so subjective and multifactorial. Other researchers stipulate sweet cravings are mainly determined by culture or by psychological and behavioral factors, rather than physiology.
In some cultures, people don’t crave sweets because they haven’t been exposed to them as regularly as Americans. A study of chocolate, for instance, found that American women crave chocolate significantly more than Spanish women. And while a large percentage of American women reported increased chocolate cravings surrounding their menstrual period, Spanish women did not.
Other studies confirm that exposure during childhood is the major determinant of what we crave and are susceptible to overeating.
- I copied my mother’s love for sweets and love of baking; it was a fun activity we did together. In college, to combat loneliness, and heck just for fun, I over-indulged my love for sweets (as the pounds went up and up). I would regularly bake my favorite chocolate chip bars and caramel popcorn, both of which I made in childhood. Study after study shows the importance of parental modeling on a child’s preferences.
Availability and proximity are two of the most important factors science has found influences what we crave and overeat and they probably trump all of the other reasons combined. When tasty foods, such as sweets, are around, we simply eat more of them.
Chances are, a combination of factors is responsible for cravings and overeating sweets at Halloween and the holidays. Holiday sweets are novel, they only comes around once a year. It comes in small pieces so you fool yourself into thinking you’re not eating as much. You put it in bowls around the house and eat it mindlessly.
If you have a strong desire for sweets, it may be a sign that you’re depressed, anxious or stressed. But you don’t have to indulge in sweets to raise your serotonin levels or to feel good. Physical activity, stress management, spending time with loved ones are activities which will also help reduce depression, anxiety and stress. (My client discovered a psychological basis for her binges, which she is successfully averting these days).
Using candy to feel better is not a great solution for your waist line. It is so high calorie, it doesn’t take much to overeat and forget your weight loss plans. For the same calories in a candy bar, you could eat four apples, or maybe you couldn’t – and that’s the point!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not urging you to be a Halloween Scrooge. I believe it’s possible to have fun with Halloween, and even eat Halloween candy, but still avoid some of the excesses that many of us have fallen victim to in the past. Here are a few suggestions:
- To reduce the possibility of seasonal cravings, make sure you’re getting 30 minutes to one hour of sunlight each day by taking a walk in the mornings or at lunch. You may be able to “catch up” on the weekend, if you didn’t get enough rays during the week,
- Eat plenty of healthy carbohydrates, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes, to keep serotonin at optimum levels and reduce cravings of less healthy carbohydrates, such as refined sugar,
- If you feel driven to eat sweets, it may be a signal that you’re depressed, anxious or stressed. Reduce tension and anxiety by exercising, meditating or talking with loved ones. It’s important to understand the core of the problem and for that, you may need to seek help from a professional,
- If you want to lose weight, keep your candy – or other “extra” calories – to no more than 10% of your daily calories (that’s 200 calories for the average 2,000 calorie intake, or 150 for 1,500 calories). You may even get away with one big splurge on Halloween. But if you splurge for two or more days, it will probably effect your waist line negatively,
- If you can’t resist eating too much candy, wait to buy it on the day of the party or event (or, don’t buy it). This way, the candy won’t be sitting around as a constant temptation,
- Buy only what you need for the event and buy your least favorite candy. Give away the remaining candy at the end of the evening so that there’s nothing left,
- Try fun and healthier alternatives to sweets to have around your home and serve to family and guests, such as popcorn, roasted pumpkin seeds, sliced apples and fruit with nice dips,
- Most importantly, if you do find you overeat, lighten up, don’t dwell on the negative and get over it! Analyze objectively what you can do differently next time,
With awareness and good planning, you can have your sweets and eat them, too!
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“This poem reminds me of how Autumn is a threshold—in the midst of the abundant autumn landscape of color and light, there is also a sense that the grey bare days of winter are just around the corner,” says Terri Lynn Simpson, Consultant for Contemplative Programming, Washington National Cathedral Center for Prayer and Pilgrimage.
“These liminal times are like open doorways that invite us to a particular kind of mindfulness where we are aware that we’re moving from one way of being to another. One foot is in the past and one foot is in the future, and in the midst of the two is the present. We can put our weight on one foot or another, superficially living in the past or the future, but true balance comes only when we live deeply in the moment.” Learn more about the health benefits of mindfulness…
Song for Autumn
by Mary Oliver from New and Selected Poems: Volume II (Beacon press)
In the deep fall
don’t you imagine the leaves think how
comfortable it will be to touch
the earth instead of the
nothingness of air and the endless
freshets of wind? And don’t you think
the trees themselves, especially those with mossy,
warm caves, begin to think
of the birds that will come — six, a dozen — to sleep
inside their bodies? And don’t you hear
the goldenrod whispering goodbye,
the everlasting being crowned with the first
tuffets of snow? The pond
vanishes, and the white field over which
the fox runs so quickly brings out
its blue shadows. And the wind pumps its
bellows. And at evening especially,
the piled firewood shifts a little,
longing to be on its way.
In Spring, 2013, Ms. Simpson is leading a religious pilgrimage to Wales focusing on poetry, in the Welsh tradition, which she says is “an exhalation of an experience of the holy, the primary language of spirituality. As we explore the history and sacred sites of this thread of the Celtic tradition, the words of Welsh poets will guide us on our pilgrimage together and encourage us to reflect upon the ways our personal stories and landscapes shape our individual journeys.”
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My niece, Madeleine, is a phenomenon – brains, beauty, and brawn. Just watch her figure skating at age 5 in 2004/5… The costumes were designed and executed by her mother, my sister-in-law, Suzanne, a huge talent herself. Madeleine is now very active in 4-H.
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The expensive olive oil in your kitchen cabinet is likely not as fresh, nutritious, or high in quality as you assume.
Does that mean you won’t receive the expected health benefits when using olive oil bought on America’s grocery shelves? Probably not.
This issue first came to my attention at a Mediterranean Diet Conference I attended in Florence, Italy, co-sponsored by New York University’s Department of Dietetics and the James Beard Foundation. The following story was originally published on September 13 in The Washington Post…
Olive Oil Gets Worse with Age
You feel good about using olive oil, right? You know it’s good for you, tasty and easy to use. Still, to get the most benefits — and the best bang for your buck – there’s more you should know.
“The health benefits of olive oil are 99 percent related to the presence of the phenolic compounds, not the oil itself,” says Nasir Malik, research plant physiologist at the U.S. Agriculture Department’s Agricultural Research Service.
Malik is referring to the polyphenols in olive oil, nutrients also found in wine, tea, cocoa and many fruits and vegetables that have been discovered over the past decade to be the substances responsible for the bulk of olive oil’s health benefits, without which “you might as well use canola oil,” Malik says.
And when tested, polyphenols were surprisingly low in most commercially available olive oils, according to a recently published study conducted by the Agricultural Research Service, co-authored by Malik.
The good stuff
Polyphenols decrease heart disease risk factors by lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, reducing blood clotting and improving the health of artery linings.
Researchers have discovered genes that, when activated, either increase or reduce your chances for metabolic syndrome, the name for a group of risk factors (high blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose) that together increase the risk for heart disease, America’s No. 1 killer. Fresh, high-polyphenol olive oil affects these genes in a positive way, reducing your risk for metabolic syndrome and heart disease. But low-polyphenol olive oil does not have the same effects, according to a recent study.
Polyphenols also reduce cancer risk by lowering inflammation and cellular proliferation. They act as antioxidants, reducing oxidation and cell damage, which leads to many degenerative diseases. They even reduce microbial activity and infections.
These biological benefits explain, in part, why the Mediterranean diet, high in olive oil, has been linked with superior health. But there is an advantage even the poorest of the poor in Mediterranean countries have enjoyed since at least 4,000 B.C.: freshly harvested olive oil. That’s because olives were growing on trees in their own back yards; it was plentiful and cheap. But its freshness had been taken for granted.
Studies show that as days, weeks and months go by after harvest, the polyphenol content and health benefits of the oil diminish.
“Think of olive oil as olive juice with a maximum two-year shelf life,” says Selina Wang, research director at the U.C.-Davis Olive Center.
Several factors are responsible for the polyphenol content of olive oil, according to the experts:
●Harvesting method: Rougher treatment and exposure to the elements reduces polyphenols.
●The age of the trees: Older trees contain significantly more.
●Olive maturation: Green olives contain more polyphenols than ripe olives, though it’s easier to extract more oil from riper olives.
●Processing: The less processing the better. “Extra virgin” olive oil, which is cold-pressed only once, has the highest polyphenol levels. Two presses (“virgin” olive oil), reduces polyphenol content further, and oil with three extractions contains only about half the value of “virgin” olive oil. Highly refined or “light” olive oils, which use heat or chemicals in the refining process, have significantly lower polyphenol levels.
●Storage: Any exposure of the harvested olives or the oil to heat, light or air will reduce polyphenol content. (If you’re using extreme heat in cooking, you’ll most likely lose the polyphenols anyway, so you might as well use canola oil, which contains more heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.)
Marcia Horting and her husband, Marc Marzullo, who visit Italy regularly, are on a constant quest for great olive oil. “We look for oils produced by single vineyards, co-ops in small towns like Volpaia, or high-quality Tuscan producers that are grassy and spicy,” says Horting, a consultant in Gaithersburg. She has noticed that in the bigger stores in Paris and Rome serving tourists, “older olive oils are sold at the same prices as the more recent harvest.”
Luckily, you no longer have to travel to Italy for high-quality extra virgin olive oil, as they are now being produced in the United States. They’re more likely to be fresh — and with a price you can afford. California is the leader of the olive oil-producing states, but Texas, Oregon, Arizona and Georgia are producing a small amount.
It’s tricky knowing the olive oil you’re buying is high-quality, fresh extra virgin olive oil. In most U.S. stores, I have found olive oil with harvest dates on perhaps one out of 20 bottles. Some have “sell-by” dates, which are usually two years after harvest (already too old!), though there are no standards for a sell-by date, so there is no guarantee how old your olive oil is unless there is a harvest date. Olives are harvested once annually, usually in the fall/winter, depending on the region. Look for a harvest date within the past year.
Even if it has a harvest date, you still won’t know whether it has been harvested and handled to maximize polyphenol content.
The way I handle this is by going to a specialty shop where the owners are familiar with the olive farm from which the olives were harvested and the oil processed, or somewhere that I know sells California or Texas olive oil. I make sure the container is opaque. It has to have a harvest date within the past year. I keep it in a cool, dark cabinet at home, and use it up quickly. I save expensive olive oil for drizzling on salads and use canola oil for cooking, especially with high heat.
The more consumers demand harvest dates and proper handling, the more these products will become available.
What to look for
Advice from Dan Flynn, executive director of the UC-Davis Olive Center:
●Look for a harvest date on the label (it should be no more than one year old). Freshness is important for quality and nutrition. Some retailers are becoming more savvy about this.
●Color is not an indicator of freshness. Some people think a strong green tint means better quality, but some olive varieties are just greener than others. Some high-quality olive oils are a golden color.
●Buy olive oil in a container that protects the oil from light. That could be dark glass or a tin.
●People need to taste truly fresh oil. I believe most people are used to an oil that is not fresh, and that’s what they think it should taste like. There’s a high-quality product available at the same price. Extra virgin olive oil has a special flavor and freshness. Once people taste fresh extra virgin olive oil, they’ll want to continue choosing it.
●Olive oil should smell fruity and taste and smell like olives. Some describe high-quality olive oil as “grassy” or “peppery.”
For maximum nutrition, quality and flavor, ideally, the olive oil you buy should not be more than one year old. It should say “extra virgin.” It should be harvested carefully, processed quickly and minimally, stored in a cool dark environment, and opened and used without too much exposure to air.
Recently, I’ve been approached by local Washington, D.C. shops who say they specialize in selling fresh olive oils and have been advising their customers all along of the importance of these factors. These are Secolari and Ah Love Oil and Vinegar.