Monday, October 4, 2010


I love oils, but recently have been limiting myself to the unsaturated ones, and just a few tablespoons a day. I use them to flavor salads -- which are quickly becoming the mainstays of my diet.

Of course, the most famous one is olive oil. The South Beach diet website recently posted some information about some unsaturated oils -- most which I use all the time, but one -- pumpkin seed -- I have never tried and added to my shopping list the next time I drop by Whole Foods. To me, it screams fall.

What follows are some of the more unusual heart-healthy oils South Beach suggests, and ways to use each:

Avocado oil: Pressed from the fleshy pulp surrounding the avocado pit, this nutty-flavored oil, like olive oil, is rich in monounsaturated fats. It has a high smoke point, which makes it good for sautéing or stir-frying fish, chicken, or vegetables. It's also delicious in vinaigrette dressings or drizzled over vegetables.

Grapeseed oil: Extracted from the seeds of grapes, and typically imported from France, Italy or Switzerland, this oil also has a high smoke point, which makes it good for sautéing or stir-frying. It is equally delicious in salad dressings. Some of the imported oils have a rather grape-y flavor, but many are quite bland or even nutty tasting. Try a few to see what you like best.

Nut oils: The good thing about nut oils, such as almond, hazelnut, macadamia, peanut, pecan, pistachio and walnut, is that they provide the same monounsaturated fats that are found in the nuts themselves (but they don't contain the fiber). Since overheating will diminish the flavor of nut oils, avoid sautéing and use them instead in salad dressings or drizzled over cooked pasta or vegetables. Nut oils can go rancid quickly, so store them in the refrigerator to keep them fresh.

Pumpkin seed oil:
Made from roasted pumpkin seeds, this very flavorful, dark green, opaque oil is best used in combination with lighter oils for sautéing or in salad dressings. It can also be used undiluted to add a distinctive flavor to fish or steamed vegetables.

Safflower oil: Relatively flavorless safflower oil contains more polyunsaturated fats than any other oil and also has a high smoke point, which makes it fine for sautéing or stir-frying. You can mix it with more flavorful oils for heart-healthy salad dressings, too.

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