low-fat lessons, Yin-Yang Tomato Soup
As most of us know by now, not all fats are created equal. In moderation, some fats have real health benefits. Mono-unsaturated fats, like those in almond oil, olive oil and (to a lesser extent) flaxseed oil, fight cholesterol and protect the heart. And they have other advantages, says nutritionist Lisa Sasson of New York University. Almond oil is a good source of vitamin E, flaxseed oil of heart-protective omega-3 fatty acids. Olive oil is still the most lauded; its antioxidants may protect against certain cancers.
Chef Michel Nischan of Heartbeat in New York City shares three tips for low-fat cooking: Buy a juicer. According to Nischan, it's a vital tool. He juices vegetables and fruits to serve as flavorful low-fat sauces and soups. Use tofu. Instead of oil, opt for silken tofu; whisk it with vinegar and seasonings for creamy, fat-free dressings. Splurge on olive oil. Nischan buys the best extra-virgin olive oil he can find. A $40 bottle of oil adds so much flavor that you need only a little.
As a child, Michel Nischan grew up eating his Southern mother's smothered pork chops and fried chicken; as a chef, he was equally generous with the lard, cream and butter at all kinds of restaurants, from soul-food shacks to haute French places. Then, in 1995, one of his five children was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes. "Chris's getting sick made me realize that, for millions of people, the restaurant experience is too often about what they can't eat," he says. A couple of years later, restaurateur Drew Nieporent was searching for a chef to develop spa-like recipes for Heartbeat, at Manhattan's first W Hotel. Nischan created a menu of minimalist yet delicious dishes made without butter or cream and with little oil: "I want to construct amazing dishes that people can eat, rather than deconstruct those they can't" (149 E. 49th St.; 212-407-2900).
When it comes to conditioning skin and hair, fat can be a good thingespecially in the form of avocado oil. Sundãri Neem and Avocado Balancing Moisturizer pairs hydrating avocado oil with skin-healing extracts from the neem tree ($52 for 1.7 ounces; 800-552-0203). Kiehl's Creamy Eye Treatment with Avocado is a rich but lightweight moisturizer ($23 for 0.5 ounces; 800-KIEHLS-2). Bobbi Brown Hydrating Eye Cream with Avocado Oil & Aloe Vera soothes skin and plumps up fine lines ($33 for 0.63 ounces; 888-888-4757. ê Shave Avocado & Linden Shave Soap softens hair and skin for a closer shave ($25 for 3.5 ounces; 800-94-SHAVE). Ligne St. Barth Avocado Oil does triple duty as an after-sun lotion, hair conditioner and bath soak ($33 for 4.25 ounces; 888-474-5566).