Friday, January 22, 2010

Ask Mary...What oil should I buy?

How bad is canola oil? I know olive oil is better, but they're still both oil.

Thanks, Alex

Olive Oil, Canola Oil, Peanut Oil, Or Sesame Oil? Which should you choose?


First of all, let’s talk about what oils are and then which one you should use. Oils are pressed legumes (peanuts), seeds (canola seed), grains (corn) and fruits (olives and grape seeds). Through a series of stages, their oils are extracted and refined to make the oil that we eat.

Canola isn’t bad but, it isn’t my first choice. It really depends on what you’re using it for. When in doubt, always go with Olive Oil. There are some questions, however, you should consider before choosing one because even though they’re all oils, they taste very different.

What are you using it for?

What temperature are you cooking at?

What type of flavor do you want?

Which is healthier?

Oil is an extract.

Olive oil has such a rich beautiful flavor that it heightens and layers any dish when used to finish it off. Examples include salads, pastas and even a pureed soup. However, if you’re trying to create an emulsion (a perfectly blended mixture of oil and vinegar) in your salad dressing you need to use canola oil or grape seed oil. Olive oil is to heavy and may not mix as well as canola oil or grape seed oil. Plus, if you’re using an expensive vinegar or mustard, olive oil will lessen the flavors.

If you’re cooking at a high temperature, always make sure you use oil like peanut, grape seed or canola. They do not burn as quickly as olive oil, and olive oil loses its flavor at a high temperature.

All of these oils have monosaturated fats (an oil that stays liquid at room temperature); your body needs these fats to help break down vitamins in your body. These fats are better than saturated fat because, unlike monosaturated fat, saturated fats are solid at room temperature. This makes saturated fats harder to pass through your body.

“The more unsaturated a fat, the more liquid it is at room temperature. In contrast, the more saturated fat (the more hydrogen it has), the firmer it is. Thus, of the three- beef fat, chicken fat, and corn oil- beef fat is the most saturated and the hardest; chicken is less saturated and somewhat soft and corn oil is the most unsaturated, is a liquid at room temperature.”

Personal Nutrition, Sixth Edition pg 110-111

Heart disease is caused by the narrowing of the arteries and the buildup of plaque. By eating monosaturated fats, the oil runs through the arteries fluidly without sticking to the walls preventing a blockage, whereas eating saturated fats can add to the blockage.

There’s research to support that small amounts of good olive oil can help reduce coronary heart disease.

“Oils from plant sources (vegetable and nut oils) do not contain any cholesterol. In fact, no foods from plants sources contain cholesterol.”

My Pyramid

It’s important not to overdue any oil because they are significantly high in calories. One tablespoon is equal to about 100-120 calories. (Men should have anywhere from 1600-2000 calories a day and women around 1200 calories a day.)

If all else fails, just go with what tastes good. But remember, everything in moderation.

I hope this is helpful!


For more information on oils, check out My Pyramid Web site at

White Bean Recipes

10 Recipes with white beans; 5 ingredients or less…

These recipes are based on 1-2 people eating. If salt is not added to a recipe, you can always incorporate it..

White Beans with Artichoke Hearts

Ingredients- 1 cup white beans, 2 tbsp good olive oil, 1 can artichoke hearts, ½ half of a lemon/juiced, ½ cup parmesan cheese and salt

Directions- Sauté drained white beans in 1 tbsp olive oil. Add artichokes, lemon juice and Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

White Beans with Papradalle Pasta and Broccoli Rabe

Ingredients- 1 cup white beans, 2 tbsp good olive oil, 1 cup tomato sauce, 1 bunch broccoli rabe, salt and pepper to taste

Directions- In a sauté pan, heat 2 tbsp olive oil and add the broccoli rabe. Cook for a few minutes and season with salt and pepper. Add the white beans and tomato sauce. Simmer for a few more minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

White Beans, Pancetta, Parmesan and Asparagus with Whole Wheat Penne Pasta

Ingredients- 1 cup white beans, 3 slices pancetta, ¼ cup parmesan, 1 bunch asparagus, 2 cups penne pasta, 2 tbsp olive oil

Directions- Boil off penne pasta, strain and set aside. Slice asparagus into 2 inch pieces. In a large sauté pan heat with 1 tbsp olive oil and add the pancetta. Cook for a few minutes and then add the asparagus. Cook until the asparagus is bright green and then add the white beans. Add the rest of the olive oil and toss in the penne pasta and Parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper (remember pancetta is very salty)

White Bean and Bibb Lettuce Salad

Ingredients- ½ cup of white beans, ¼ good olive oil, juice from 1 lemon, 1 head of Bibb lettuce, ½ bunch of chives cut into ¼ in strips.

Directions- Toss the white beans with ½ the amount of olive oil and lemon. Toss the lettuce with the rest of the olive oil and chives. Season with salt and pepper. Place the lettuce on the salad plates and garnish with white beans.

White Bean and Fried Egg

Ingredients-1/2 cup white beans, 2 tbsps olive oil, 1 cup spinach, 4 eggs, 2 pieces wheat toast, and ¼ cup parmesan

Directions- In a sauté pan heat 1 tbsp olive oil and cook the beans for 4-5 minutes add spinach and cook for a few more minutes remove and set aside. Add 1 tbsp olive oil to a non-stick pan and add all four eggs. Place a lid over top, turn down to medium high and cook for 2 minutes. In the meantime (one word) toast bread and place on a plate and top with the white beans and spinach mix. Cut the egg whites to separate the eggs and slide two on each toast. Top with Parmesan. Add salt and pepper to taste.

White Bean and Olive Tapenade Salsa

Ingredients-1 cup white beans, ½ cup olive tapenade, ½ cup diced seeded tomatoes, ½ cup good olive oil, and 2 tbsp chopped parsley. Salt and pepper to taste.

Directions- In a large bowl toss with all ingredients from above. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with rustic grain bread.

Artichokes Stuffed with White Bean and Olive Tapenade Salsa

Ingredients- 1cup white beans, ½ cup olive tapenade, ½ cup diced seeded tomatoes, ½ cup good olive oil and 1 globe artichoke. Salt and pepper to taste.

Directions- Boil your artichoke with lemon juice and water. Bring water to a rolling boil and then submerge your artichoke in it. Turn down to simmer. Cook for an hour to an hour and half. Once cooked, remove choke and place the White Bean and Olive Tapenade Salsa inside. Serve.

Roasted Garlic and White Bean Compote

Ingredients- 1-cup white beans, 1 head of garlic, 2 tbsp olive oil, and ¼ bunch chives minced and rustic whole grain bread. Season with salt and pepper.

Directions- cut off the top (pointed end) of the garlic and place in enough foil to seal completely. Before sealing it add 1 tbsp olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast for 1 hour on 350 degrees Fahrenheit. After it has cooked, set aside (save the oil). In a sauté pan, sauté the beans for a few minutes then squeeze in the garlic and add the oil from the foil. Next add the chives and season with salt and pepper. Spoon over sliced rustic bread.

White Bean and Pesto over Seared Tofu

Ingredients- ½ cup white beans, 1 package firm tofu, ½ cup pesto*, 2 tbsp olive oil

Directions- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a sauté pan (that can go in the oven) add 1 tbsp olive oil. Season the tofu with salt and pepper and place in the pan. Sear for a few minutes and then turn. Place in the oven for 12-15 minutes. In another sauté pan, add the rest of the olive oil and sauté the beans adding in the pesto. Season with salt and pepper. Remove the tofu from the oven and top with the white bean pesto mix.

BLT with White Bean Puree

Ingredients- ¼ cup white bean puree, ½ Roma tomato, 2 lettuce leaves, 2 strips of bacon, 2 pieces whole wheat toast

Directions- Toast the whole wheat bread. Smear with white bean puree, top with lettuce, tomato and cooked bacon. Place the bread on top and cut into four triangles.

White Bean Puree-In a saucepot cook ¼ cup of beans with salt, pepper and garlic powder (as needed). Blend with olive oil in a blender. When the puree seems to be thick and not combining add more olive oil.

White Pea Bean on FoodistaWhite Pea Bean