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The One Fat You Should Be Eating In Your Diet

Drizzle olive oil over just about everything, for flavor and your health.

One of the most common diet mistakes made is passing on full-fat vinaigrette in favor of fat-free salad dressing. Fat helps your body absorb the nutrients from lettuce and other vegetables and also improves satiety (which means having a salad for lunch really will keep you full until dinner). But you’ll do your body the biggest favor if you opt for a dressing made with olive oil. Yes, it’s high in calories and fat (120 calories and 14 grams of fat per tablespoon), but studies found it protects against heart disease. And no one is saying you should pour with abandon. Drizzling on salads, steamed vegetables, pasta, and even meats-is the appropriate method. Here’s a quick lesson on which olive oil to choose and how to work it into your diet without packing on the pounds.

Opt for extra virgin this is the best quality and most flavorful type of olive oil. It contains more polyphenols-antioxidents that help protect against heart disease and cancer-than other kinds of olive oil and other oils high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, such as canola oil. A recent report in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that people whose diet included one to two tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil a day showed a 1.74 mg/dl increase in their good (HDL) cholesterol levels. (Other studies show that every one-point rise in HDL reduces heart-disease risk by 2 to 3 percent.)

Experiment to find your favorite. As with wine, the flavor of olive oil depends on several factors-the areas where the olives are grown, the variety of the olive, and the stage of ripeness when the olives are picked. They can be fruity, peppery, or smooth and buttery. Try brands from a few different locations-Tuscany, Spain, Greece, California, France, and even Chile-to find the kind you prefer.

Buy small amounts. Those big cans do seem like a bargain, but olive oil can go rancid in a few months, even if it’s properly stored. Olive oil has three enemies: heat, light, and oxygen. Choose a brand that comes in a dark bottle or a can, and store it in a cool, dry place.

Limit your intake: Research shows that one-tablespoon a day is enough to improve your health. Use olive oil in place of other fats, like butter or mayonnaise, and try it in recipes where it plays a starring role.

Decoding the name game: Cold pressed: means no heat is used to extract the oil from the olives; heat breaks down the flavor. Extra virgin, has the most antioxidants and a low acidity level. Fino, is a blend of extra-virgin and virgin oils. Light, refers to flavor, not calories or fat. Unfiltered, contains small particles of olives. Virgin has a slightly higher acidity level than extra virgin.

Yes, there is such a thing as good and healthy fats. Fats are very important for your body, skin, and heart. Olive oil is a great source of heart healthy fat fighting nutrients for your body.