Vegetables are nutritional powerhouses, but they can be made even more powerful with an extra step: deep frying them.
But before you jump up and down, you need to read beyond the headline to understand why. (But you can still jump up and down.)
Phenols are substances found in plants that are believed to be antioxidants. These phenols, or phenolics as they're also called, are found in some vegetables as well as grapes. A study published in the journal Food Chemistry found that when vegetables are sauteed or deep fried in extra virgin olive oil, the vegetables gain additional phenolics not found in their raw form.
In essence, the phenolics from the olives in the olive oil transfer to the vegetables, upping their antioxidant quotient. When the vegetables were cooked in water, the phenolics in the vegetables decreased. So to get the total phenolic benefit from eating the vegetables cooked in water, or a combination of water and olive oil, the cooking medium (the water or water and olive oil) needed to be consumed as well.
Of course, the calories and the fat in the vegetables increased when they were cooked in olive oil, but the fats in olive oil are beneficial fats.
This isn't the first time a study has found that combining vegetables with olive oil creates health benefits. Combining olive oil and vegetables also produces nitro fatty acids and may reduce risk for cardiovascular disease recurring cardiac events, Type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, Alzheimer's disease, cancer, depression and stroke, plus they might improve physical functioning and cognitive health.
Researchers used potato, tomato, eggplant and pumpkin in their tests. Does this mean that one day we'll be able to eat huge plates of French fries and wash them down with Champagne to increase our health and cognitive abilities? Probably not, but there's the possibility that with more research, it may be that frying eggplant slices to freeze for later or making fried green tomatoes might be even smarter ways to use up end-of-summer produce.
There's one thing to consider before you pour olive oil in a pan to saute your vegetables tonight instead of adding boiling water: The benefits will only come if your olive oil is really olive oil. There's a lot of fake olive oil on the market, even on some grocery store shelves. Make sure you're getting your olive oil from a trusted source. The Truth in Olive Oil website has a list of affordable supermarket olive oils believed to be authentic, including Costco's Kirkland Toscano, Trader Joe's Estate Olive Oil, and Whole Foods California 365.