Sorry Rachel, no EVOO for me

“The fat you eat, is the fat you wear.”

-Dr. John McDougall

This is just one of Dr. McDougall’s comments from his article, The Fat Vegan in the December 2008 Newsletter as it relates to fat in the American diet. “Veganism is the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products” (source). Some individuals who eat this way do it for ethical, dietary or environmental reasons. Although some vegans are “ovo-lacto” and while not eating animal flesh of any kind will consume dairy and eggs. Veganism seems to have a negative connotation in my limited experience. This is how I am labeled by many individuals when it comes to how I eat. Yet I prefer a more positive approach calling, “plant-strong” lifestyle or “plant-based, whole food” lifestyle.

The difference, as Dr. McDougall discussed is the plant-based lifestyle also removes oil from the diet. “Oil is a highly refined processed and extracted food “product”. It has no protein or essential amino acids (which we need), it has no carbohydrates, or sugars (which we need), it has no fiber (which we need), it has no minerals (which we need) and has virtually no vitamins (which we need),” (source) writes Jeff Novick, MS, RD.

Prior to learning about Dr. McDougall through the documentary, Forks Over Knives I was guilty as the next person when it comes to the amount of olive oil I would use in my cooking. The misconception I grew up with is olive oil is heart healthy. There is a shade of truth to this as “olive oil is monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs). MUFAs are actually considered a healthy dietary fat. If your diet emphasizes unsaturated fats, such as MUFAs and polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs), instead of saturated fats and trans fats, you may gain certain health benefits” (source). Still the fact remains, the fat you eat, is the fat you wear.

Jeff Novick, “Here is something to think about… right now the typical American diet is 10-12% saturated fat. Olive oil is around 14% saturated fat. The AHA is now recommending that Americans reduce the percentage of saturated fat in their diet to below 10%, if not below 7% (for those at risk, which is just about everyone is America). I think below 5% is optimal” (source).

Of all the foods I decided to stop eating, oil was the easiest. I used oil in nearly every recipe. It wasn’t until I stopped using it that I realized every recipe I have seems to include oil in some amount. I subscribed to Cooking Light last year before making this lifestyle change. Now I thumb through the magazine and look at the amount fat in many of their recipes and it’s quite appalling! It doesn’t get better if you start research vegan or vegetarian recipes either.

While I haven’t shared any of the vegan web sites I have found to date, of the 14 I have linked many of the recipes include olive oil. Usually the amount of olive oil varies, but many chefs use it to saute. Can’t blame them that is usually how I used oil in my cooking. After October, 2011 that changed and olive oil is not part of my lifestyle. Using water is not only better to saute with, but gives up a better flavor. If you are baking, oil can be substituted with apple sauce or a prune puree.

Jeff Novick sums it nicely when it comes to oil.

1) The need for essential fats can be meet through whole natural foods without adding any concentrated sources.

2) Unsaturated fats are less harmful than saturated fats.

3) Hydrogenated Fats and Trans fats are probably the worst fats.

4) Substituting saturated fat with unsaturated fats, without adding additional calories, may lower cholesterol levels and the risk for CVD and some cancers and possible DB. This is an “improvement”, not an ideal recommendation and is a result of the “substitution” and not the “addition”.

5) Substituting refined carbohydrates and/or sugar with unsaturated fats without adding additional calories may lower risk for CVD, DB and some
cancers. This is an “improvement”, not an ideal recommendation and a result of the “substitution” and not the “addition”.

6) there is absolutely no evidence than adding either saturated fats, or unsaturated fats to an otherwise optimal diet will improve the diet.

7) the Med diet was healthy not because of the olive oil, but in spite of the olive oil. If the olive oil added any benefit, it was because of some phytonutrients in the olive oil, and not any specific fat or fatty acid.

8 ) Oils rich in PUFAs are more unstable than oils rich in MUFA and have been shown to increase growth rate (but not initiate) of some cancers in animals and possibly in humans, especially those which are high in Omega 6s.

9) I have never seen any conclusive evidence putting sat fat in a “healthy” light. Maybe my light needs new bulbs.

10) Focus your diet on and consume a variety of healthy unrefined unprocessed fresh fruit, veggies, starchy veggies, whole grains and legumes.

Don’t be fooled into believing olive oil is good for you. It does have heart healthy properties in MUFAs, but isn’t needed for every day cooking. Make a change for the better, start cooking without oil. You will see and taste a difference.