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Expanding Your Oil Palate

Previously, we explored expanding your oil palate beyond extra virgin olive oil to include walnut and pistachio oils. In this blog segment, I want to discuss two additional oils—avocado and pumpkin seed—including their health benefits and how you can integrate them into your recipes.

Avocado Oil

Also called the “alligator pear,” avocados are botanically considered fruit and mainly made up of heart healthy monounsaturated fats (MUFAs).  Unlike other fruits, avocados are also high in protein, potassium, magnesium, folic acid, B vitamins and vitamins E and K.  They contain many phytochemicals, such as beta-sitosterol, which can aide in lowering “bad” (LDL) cholesterol and increasing “good” (HDL) cholesterol.

Béatrice Peltre, author of the cookbook La Tartine Gourmande, describes avocado oil to have a mellow and buttery taste.  Refined avocado oil has a uniquely high smoke point (the temperature at which oil breaks down, loses nutrients and releases carcinogens) of 520⁰F. This high smoke point makes avocado oils a much safer option when using cooking methods that need a higher temperature, like frying. Keep in mind it must be a refined avocado oil to achieve this high smoke point. Virgin (unrefined) avocado oil has a lower smoke point similar to olive oil that ranges from 375-400⁰F.

Peltre suggests to use avocado oil when sautéing vegetables or broiling fish/chicken.  She integrates avocados and its oil into this summery lunch—Serve 4-oz. cooked crabmeat atop a diced apple and diced avocado, tossed with 3 Tbsp. avocado oil, 1 Tbsp. lime juice, 1 tsp. each finely chopped ginger and coriander, 1 chopped scallion, salt and pepper.

Pumpkin Seed Oil

Pumpkins are for more beneficial than being carved for Jack-O-Lanterns at Halloween and pureed for pumpkin pies at Thanksgiving.  They are jammed packed with fiber, potassium, selenium, vitamin A, beta carotene, alpha-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin and lutein. The seeds prove also to be Pumpkins seeds are also a good source of Omega-3 fats and a great source of phytosterols, which has been shown to help reduce enlarged prostate glands.  The oil from the seeds has high levels of tocopherols, known for their anti-aging effects.  Additionally, there is research that implies pumpkin seed oil may help reduce inflammation related to arthritis and regulate blood pressure.

Described as having a vibrant forest green color with an intense concentrated flavor, Peltre suggests using pumpkin seed oil to enhance a potato salad.  Boil 2 ¼ pounds fingerling potatoes 12-15 minutes.  Cool slightly and slice.  Whisk together 5 Tbsp. pumpkin seed oil, 3 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar, 1 chopped shallot, 1 Tbsp. each finely chopped ginger and parsley, 1 tsp. tarragon, and 1 tsp. each finely chopped chives.  Toss mixture with potatoes and top with 3-oz. of Feta cheese and 2 Tbsp. toasted pumpkin seeds.

Expand your oil inventory with these two delicious and heart healthy oils.   As I said before, it is always exciting to try something new and out of the norm when cooking.  These two oils are great options for elevating your recipes and developing your oil palate.    Bon appetite!


NOTE:  Nutrition details referenced from 101 Foods That Could Save Your Life by David Grotto, RD, LDN.  Recipes from La Tartine Gourmande by Béatrice Peltre.

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