A Delicious Companion To Good Health: The Olive Oil Story

 

The health benefits of olive oil in the Mediterranean diet has become more than a novel observation. Clinical research is substantiating healthy benefits, but the gourmet tastes and flavors are bonuses well worth mentioning too.

“The… patient should be made to understand that he or she must take charge of his own life. Don’t take your body to the doctor as if he were a repair shop.” — Quentin Regestein

olive oil photoHighly favored as a cooking oil, or for use in a variety of classic dressings, olive oil is being touted in some quarters as a delicious companion to good health. Research on the health benefits of olive oil is impressive, so is the affects of the Mediterranean diet.

Recent Findings

Olive Oil as a Cholesterol Reducer

Compared to American cuisine, especially the snack and fast foods prevalent in the US, the Mediterranean Diet has intrigued the medical world. The European Journal of Clinical Nutrition has published findings that indicate the introduction of olive oil into our regular diet has demonstrated a reduction in LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol). This is significant because once LDL cholesterol has oxidized it often results in artery rigidity and accompanying heart disease.

Olive Oil in Cancer Prevention

In a comparison study at the University Hospital Germans Trias Pujol in Barcelona there seems to be an indication that the health benefits of olive oil may also be useful in the prevention or slowing of cancer cells. In the study, lab rats were introduced to a carcinogen that resulted in cancerous tumors. The study provides evidence that a diet similar to the Mediterranean diet, rich in olive oil prevents colonic carcinogenesis reducing precancerous tissue which resulted in fewer tumors when compared to a controlled sample of rats ingesting foods containing other types of cooking oils.

Researchers at Oxford University in England have seen indications that olive oil may actually be as good for our digestive system as fresh fruit and vegetables in preventing or reducing the incidence of colon cancer. While red meat seems to be linked to the development of colon cancer, fish and olive oil seemed to reduce the incidence of colon cancer. The reasons behind this phenomena are still being considered, but it is believed that the olive oil may help regulate the bile acid in the stomach while increasing useful enzymes within the stomach that contribute to optimal colon health.

Olive Oil and Heart Health

The American Heart Association has also noted that consumption of olive oil has “clear health benefits”.

Olive Oil and Lower Blood Pressure

By substituting virgin olive oil for other fats within your diet, the Archives of Internal Medicine indicates a substantial reduction in drug dosage requirements for the management of high blood pressure. Initial findings indicate dosage reductions could be as high as 50%.

Additional Findings

By lowering the level of LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) there is an increase of the HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol). The antioxidant effects of olive oil have also been widely reported and are effective in reducing free radicals within the body that may prove to be a causal agent in pre cancerous and cancerous growth.

Additional health benefits of olive oil may be found in a Mediterranean diet which explores the varied uses of olive oil in both food preparation as well as additional balanced meal choices. Combined, olive oil and appropriate food choice seem to enhance the overall health of those subscribing to the Mediterranean diet.

Final Word

While studies remain ongoing, it is encouraging to note that something that has long been noted for good taste may also be a link to positive health benefits and longevity of life. An adaptation of the Mediterranean diet may be a healthy, yet palatable change well worth considering.

Cake Decorating Ideas For All Occasions

You really don’t need a special occasion to decorate a cake, but some events that can be made unforgettable and extra special with a decorated treat are holidays, birthdays, graduations, religious occasions, showers, weddings, and other personal special events.

Here are some cake decorating ideas that will help you make any occasion special:

New Year’s Champagne Toast

Bake one 9-in. round and one 9×12-in. rectangle cake.

Cut the round in half. Use one half for the top of the champagne glass.

Cut a 2 or 3-inch long strip for the stem of the glass and a 2 x 4-inch section for the base of the glass. Piece them together to form the champagne glass.  To be sure all the pieces stay together, lightly frost each piece separately before you piece them together.

Place the pieces on a cake board.  Ice the top part (straight edge) of the half-round cake and the stem and base sections in white icing. Ice the bottom part (rounded edge) of the half-round cake in light yellow or light pink icing to resemble champagne.

Easter Egg Hunt   (So easy kids can do it!)

Easter Egg Hunt photo

Bake 6 large muffins. Cool and frost them with green icing. Generously sprinkle green shredded coconut* on top of the frosting to resemble grass.  Place colored jelly beans within the coconut so they are half-hidden. Place small bunny toppers on the top of the muffins so they look as if they are finding the jelly beans.

*To tint shredded coconut, place coconut in a plastic bag.  Add a few drops of food color.  Knead color into coconut. Dry on waxed paper.

Spooky Halloween Brownies    (Let the kids help!)

Halloween Brownies photo

Bake your favorite brownies. When cooled, cut into 3-inch circles, using a cookie cutter or a pattern and sharp knife. Place a Halloween stencil (available in most stores) in the center of each brownie. Sprinkle the stencil with confectioner’s (powdered) sugar. Remove the stencil. Edge the top and the bottom of brownie with tip 14 white icing stars.

Shiny Christmas Ornament

Bake a one or two-layer round cake. Ice the cake smooth with white icing. Pipe tip 5 white icing lines across the top at 1-inch intervals. Vary the shapes of the lines, making one straight, one zigzag, one curvy, etc. to resemble decorations on an ornament.  Randomly pipe tip 5 icing  balls and tip 16 stars between the lines also to resemble decorations.

ADULT BIRTHDAY / SPECIAL OCCASION

Let Me Call You Sweetheart

Bake a heart-shaped cake and a heart-shaped mini-cake.  Ice the larger cake smooth with pink icing.  Place the mini-cake in the center of the larger cake.  Cover the mini cake in tip 16 red icing stars. Add a tip 14 red icing shell border at the bottom of the mini cake and a tip 16 red icing shell border at the top and the bottom of the large cake. Write your message in pink with tip 3 on the mini-cake.

KIDS BIRTHDAY

Rainbow Train

Rainbow Train cake photo

Bake four mini-loaf cakes. (about 3-1/2 x 4-1/2 inches each.)

Ice each one smooth – one with red icing, one with blue icing, one with green icing, and one with  yellow icing. Use the cake iced in red as the engine: Make a smokestack for the engine with 2 large marshmallows. Frost them together with green icing. Attach the marshmallows to the top of engine with a toothpick. Using green icing, attach a piece of white curly ribbon or candy on the top of the smokestack for smoke and attach two white or yellow gum drops to the front of the engine for headlights. With a spatula, place a small mound of yellow icing on top of the yellow car; add small chocolate chips to resemble coal. Place two or three small plastic cars on top of the blue car.  Stick small stick candies, such as licorice pieces on top of the green car to resemble metal parts. Decorate the sides of the cars with various small hard candies for decorations. For wheels: With icing the same color as the car, attach 4 large candy discs, such as peppermint swirls, to the bottom of each car. Connect the cars with one-inch licorice whips or pretzel sticks.

Up!  Up!  And Away

Bake two each: tulip, flower, butterfly and dragonfly cookies (eight  total) and a 9×12-in. rectangle cake. Ice the cookies smooth in various pastel colors with thinned royal icing.**  Decorate the iced butterfly cookie with tip 3 colored icing dots.

Ice the bottom half of the 9×12-in. cake smooth with green icing and the top half smooth with light blue icing to resemble grass and the sky.  Place two small mounds of white icing on the blue half for clouds. Pat down “the clouds” with your fingers dipped in cornstarch. Place the tulip and flower cookies in the “grass” and pipe tip 3 green stems and leaves, if necessary.  Place the one butterfly cookie near the flower cookie and the other butterfly cookie and the dragonfly cookies in the “sky.”  Write your message on the cake with tip 3 white icing.

**Royal Icing Recipe

2 cups sifted confectioner’s sugar

2 scant tablespoons meringue powder

3 tablespoons water

Beat all the ingredients a low speed until the icing forms peaks.

(Makes about 1-1/2 cups)

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