Judy E. Buss
Since ancient times the act of extending an olive branch has been considered a symbol of peace. For the health-minded it can also mean a symbol of good health! Olive trees which originated in the Mediterranean basin eventually spread to other parts of the world. From the beginning, various elements of the trees were used for medicinal and culinary purposes. References to the benefits of the olive leaf, oil, and fruit can be found even in the Old Testament.
Not all fats are created equal. The body needs certain amounts and types of fat to support numerous biochemical processes. Olives are high in monounsaturated fat which is particularly beneficial. Their oil has been shown to help protect against heart disease, stroke, cancer, arthritis and other chronic diseases. Olive oil also contains valuable antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
Several different grades of olive oil are most commonly found in U.S. supermarkets: Cold-pressed EXTRA VIRGIN, which was not heated or chemically treated during extraction, retains its magnificent taste and aroma, and is the purest and most nutritious form of the oil. REFINED olive oil, sometimes labeled as “cooking” or “pure” olive oil, was chemically and heat-treated, in part, to eliminate the strong olive taste. EXTRA LIGHT olive oil is further processed and is far removed from its original wholesome state. Some especially high grade olive oils are produced by small, private growers. This oil is often more expensive and harder to find, but is well worth the cost because of its high quality, flavor, and nutritional content.
For all your cooking needs stock up on just two oils: extra virgin, and cooking (or pure) olive oil. Since heat during the cooking process destroys some of the oil’s nutrition, it is best to use the extra virgin kind for cold dishes, such as vegetable and pasta salads, or grain pilafs. If olive flavor is undesirable in a particular (cold) dish, then the cooking olive oil version can be used. For cooking and some baking use the cooking (pure) oil version.
Green, black, and purple olives come in different shades, shapes, and sizes. Canned ones tend to be overprocessed, mushy, and tasteless. The fruit is best bought in jars. Olives are included in hundreds of dishes because of their unique, tangy-salty taste, and meaty texture. The fruit and its oil are used around the world in pasta, meat, fish, grain and lentil recipes, as well as in salads, appetizers, and in baking. They are also a staple of the healthful Mediterranean-style cuisine.
Most recipes can be altered to include olive oil instead of butter, mayonnaise, or margarine. Chopped or whole olives may be added to dishes to enliven them and increase their nutritional value. Please note: a doughnut does not morph into a health-food by bathing it with olive oil…Roll out the red carpet for the olive tree!
TOMATO- CUCUMBER SALAD
1 large ripe tomato, chopped
1 large cucumber, peeled, chopped
6 – 8 pimento stuffed green olives, finely chopped
1 green onion, thinly sliced
2 – 3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon dried dill weed
Salt and pepper
In a medium bowl mix all the dressing ingredients. Add the other ingredients.
“Mission Nutrition” Tips and Recipe from Judy E. Buss, Health Columnist, Nutritional Cooking Instructor.
Excerpted from Judy E. Buss’ article, first published in the “Feeling Fit” Magazine, Sun Coast Media Group newspapers, Florida.
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