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November 23, 2010

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Home » Feature » Health and Environment

Go ahead, add some oil to your diet

NUTRITIONISTS say olive oil is healthier than other types. Chefs say olive oil complements Chinese cuisine and you don't have to worry about sacrificing great taste. Zhang Qian asks, what's not to like?

Chinese cuisine is known for its appetizing appearance, attractive smell, great taste, and various cooking methods. Yet the heavy use of oil and high calorie counts over time can lead to high blood sugar, inefficient metabolism and weight gain.

Nutritionists suggest substituting olive oil, which is much healthier, in those recipes that call for lots of oil.

Olive oil has been commonly used in cooking, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and soaps in Mediterranean countries for hundreds of years. It has gained in popularity in China in recent years due to its health benefits. Most Chinese families only use it for cold dishes, but Tian Qiuming, executive chef of the Great Wall Hotel in Beijing, says olive oil is perfect for Chinese food. The best part is that it adds less calories than other oils.

"Apart from use in cold dishes, olive oil is especially suitable for stewing, braising, and earthen pot cooking," Tian says. "The ingredients don't absorb large amounts of olive oil as they do with other types, which will help reduce calories."

Though frying is considered unhealthy, it is still a popular cooking method to many due to its good taste and convenience. Tian says olive oil can also be a better choice in frying as it doesn't break down in high temperatures, thus forming a protective layer around ingredients. And since it has a much higher smoke point - 240-270 degrees Celsius - than other oils, it is less likely to produce carcinogens, especially during deep frying.

Apart from adding fewer calories, using olive oil can also help improve metabolism, reduce cholesterol and lower the risk of cardiovascular disease because it is rich in monounsaturated fat and antioxidants like chlorophyll, carotenoids and vitamin E, which is an anti-aging weapon, according to nutritionist Fan Zhihong.

Olive oil also contains vitamins D and K. Vitamin D helps improve calcium absorption while vitamin K can help accelerate blood circulation and thus rid the body of subcutaneous fat,

Despite the benefits of olive oil, it is not advised to use only one type of oil. Different oils can usually provide different nutrients.

Nutritionist Mai Haiyan of The First Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-sen University says different oils are recommended for different people. Oil with monounsaturated fatty acid, like olive oil and tea seed oil, is recommended for people with high blood sugar and cardiovascular disease. Oil with linoleic acid and -linolenic acid is recommended for children, teenagers, pregnant women and the weak.

Mai recommends that most adults use different oils in their diet.


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