Vinegar and olive oil have become increasingly popular over the years because of their health benefits. In 2004, Americans spent $450 million on olive oil alone. Gaining popularity partly because of the Mediterranean diet trend, which focuses on fruits, vegetables and healthy fats, both vinegar and olive oil have secured a spot on Americans’ plates.
While there is little research summarizing the health benefits of vinegar, a decrease in caloric intake can come as a result of using it instead of other high calorie condiments like mayonnaise and oil in salad dressings.
Calories in vinegar range per tablespoon, depending on the type. Most vinegars are virtually calorie free and aged balsamic vinegars can have up to 30 calories per tablespoon. Vinegar has a very strong flavor, so not much is needed to flavor up a dish anyway. Try mixing vinegar with Dijon mustard for an oil-less low calorie salad dressing to save up to 100 calories per tablespoon.
Research done in 2009 by the journal of Chemical Senses suggests that a polyphenolic compound in extra virgin olive oil called oleocanthal has shown to contain anti-inflammatory properties. The inflammatory process is responsible for immune responses like asthma, blood clots, and even promotes growth and division of cancer cells. The type of olive oil with the greatest amount of oleocanthal is called “extra virgin.” Extra virgin describes the oil’s low acidity level and is a reflection of top quality care and processing and higher levels of polyphenols compared to “virgin” or “pure” olive oil. A little extra virgin olive oil everyday may help control asthma symptoms and decrease cancer risk.
Along with its anti-inflammatory properties, olive oil contains high amounts of poly and monounsaturated fats and very little saturated fat. In 2004, the Food and Drug Administration announced that "eating about two tablespoons of olive oil daily may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease due to the monounsaturated fat" (FDA News Release, 2004). As long as calories are not increased, consuming olive oil every day can protect your heart and blood vessels. Finish pasta with olive oil to improve your heart’s health.
Cholesterol is found in all animal products, like meat, cheese, eggs and butter. These products also tend to have high amounts of saturated fat. Cholesterol and saturated fat work to increase LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol) and total cholesterol. Olive oil contains very low amounts of saturated fat and high amounts of monounsaturated fat, which works to lower LDL and even increases HDL (“good” cholesterol). Substitute butter with olive oil for a cholesterol-lowering meal.