If you are watching your cholesterol intake, looking for ways to cut down on saturated fats or just searching for new ways to cook old foods, try cooking without the addition of butter. It’s not that I am an enemy of butter; it’s just that I can find so many ways to cook without it that it’s really a non-issue with me. Living in the South, most of my friends and neighbors look at me as if I am crazy. I have not overlooked the fact that butter is a flavor carrier; I too look for foods that amplify the flavors of the meats and vegetables that I prepare. Seasonings, fruit juices and zests as well as vinegar and oil all play a part in the meals that I make on a regular basis.
When cooking with oil, I usually choose extra virgin olive oil. The astounding benefits of olive oil never cease to amaze me. A true favorite of mine, olive oil complements the taste of many foods that I prepare regularly for my family. It’s easily digestible and provides the healthy fat that your body needs. Olive oil is a flavor carrier that locks in the moisture of chicken breasts and other lean cuts of meat. Brush it on grilled vegetables for a taste sensation you won’t feel guilty about. To me it has a lighter taste than butter and the fact that it contains half the saturated fat content as butter, olive oil is the healthier choice when you are watching your fat and cholesterol consumption.
Long acknowledged for being a heart healthy fat, recent studies show an increase in the protein osteocalcin, a marker for bone growth in people who regularly ate a Mediterranean diet and virgin olive oil. You can also increase your osteocalcin levels by munching on olives. Add a few to your salad or toss some into your food processor combined with some capers and anchovies for a tasty tepenade that you can add to sandwiches or pasta for a boost of flavor.
Other ways to cook without butter include cooking with orange juice, lemon wedges, pineapple slices, a variety of peppers, applesauce, garlic and nuts. All of which can be combined and complemented with a small amount of olive oil to lock in the flavors of your food and even have enough left over to make a sauce that will rival most of the finer restaurants in town.
If you want to make the switch, or just interested in adding olive oil to more of your recipes, keep a bottle close to your stove and grab it instead of heading to the refrigerator for the butter. I keep a bottle in the cabinet next to my stove because I reach for it repeatedly. Whether you choose virgin or extra virgin olive oil is up to you. These types are considered more beneficial than the light tasting variety, but be open to the different flavors and decide for yourself.
~ Karen Ficarelli
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