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The Truth About Oils
“People love to hear good news about their bad habits.” Dr. John McDougall
That would explain the following phenomenon.
Studies have famously shown that the “Mediterranean Diet” is healthier than the Standard American Diet. Because olive oil is a part of that diet, it has been extrapolated that olive oil is healthy.
So let’s look at this with our brains turned on, shall we?
It’s true, the Mediterranean Diet, high in fruits and vegetables with small amounts of fish and olive oil, is healthier than the Standard American Diet. Possibly because almost any diet on earth would be healthier than the Standard American Diet. The only less healthy diet would be one of those Atkins/low-carb monstrosities.
Judging the diet, not the dieters. I’ve done low carb, too. I even did the butter-coffee bullshit. WTF was I thinking?
I’ll tell you what I was thinking. I was thinking something had to work. I’d been “dieting” my whole life and not one medical professional had ever once told me the truth. Just eat what the earth offers and try not to fuck with it too much. It’s so simple! I am angry about that. I feel lied to, conned by Oprah and the FDA and Kellogg’s and Kraft and Jenny Craig and Good Housekeeping and the whole giant, tangled web that are our food-healthcare-media systems. It’s a RICO-worthy conspiracy to keep us fat, sick, and poor.
Sorry. Tangent. Back to the topic.
Those studies actually show that the Mediterranean Diet without the olive oil is healthier yet. The presence of the olive oil actually makes it less healthful.
Yet those studies have been touted by the olive oil industry for years. Even though the studies actually prove the opposite of what the industry claims. It’s all just spin. You have to learn to look past the spin.
Take a whole, healthy olive. Strip away everything good about it. Take out all the fiber, all the nutrients, and leave only the pure fat. Add a pricey PR budget and some slick advertising. Fund a couple of studies and give the results just the right spin, and voila! Olive oil is suddenly a health food.
Here’s the reality
The moment you ingest any oil, your blood vessels constrict about 22%, slowing the flow of blood through your arteries. The fat you’ve ingested settles there on the insides of your arterial walls. It buries and destroys the endothelial cells that line your arteries to keep your blood flowing smoothly. That’s coronary artery disease, heart disease. When the fat and plaque build up enough, your blood flow stops and you suffer a heart attack.
Vegans tend to feel safe from that, because most saturated fat comes from animal products. The keyword there is most. There is saturated fat in plant oils, too.
Pure lard (animal fat) is 43% saturated fat.
Coconut oil is 90% saturated fat.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States.
The oil lobby will say that we need the essential fatty acids that come with the non-essential fats in oils.
They’re right, we do need those essential fatty acids. That’s why they’re called essential. But essential fatty acids are found in abundance in green leafy vegetables, soybeans, walnuts and other nuts, chia seeds, flaxseed and other seeds. They’re found in the whole foods from which the oil was pressed. I put a tablespoon or two of flaxseed on my oatmeal every morning to ensure I meet my daily needs.
Vegetable oils have no fiber, carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, or minerals. But when you eat the whole food, the whole olive, a piece of the whole coconut, a handful of sunflower seeds, you get a perfectly balanced amount of fat, fiber, and nutrients. It’s this whole-food that your body recognizes and understands how to process. The whole olive will nourish your body and support your health. The olive oil will tear up your endothelial cells and line your arteries in fat.
“Oil, even the finest olive oil, is 100% fat, calorically-dense and nutrient-poor. Oil injures the endothelium, the innermost lining of the artery, and that injury is the gateway to vascular disease. For those with known heart disease, even adding a little oil can have a negative impact on heart health.” —Defining Food Groups, NutritionStudies.org
We get everything we need from plants. There is no benefit to oils, and the harm they do to our health is greater than most of us have ever realized. So besides the inane, But-I-like-the-taste defense, there’s no reason to include them in our diets.
So I don’t cook with oil, and don’t buy processed foods that contain oil, except as a rare treat.
How to pull this off IRL
Read the ingredients when you have to buy something processed, and try not to take products with oils. It can be a challenge, I’ll tell you. In one store, I had trouble finding a box of freakin’ raisins without added oil. Raisins. Who knew? (Sun-Maid seem to be oil-free, but check.) Bread isn’t too hard. There are lots of whole grain breads that are made without oil. Ezekiel is one of my favorite brands, and they make bread, English muffins, wraps, pockets, and more.
With a little practice, you can cook without oil or sprays. The keys to the no-oil sauté are an excellent pan (I use Ozeri Pro Series) heat, and motion.
Get the pan very hot, but do so with the burner not much above medium to protect your nice pan. So be patient. Test the heat by dipping water from your fingertips onto the pan. If it beads up and dances, the pan is ready.
In baking, I usually substitute an equal amount of unsweetened applesauce for the oil required in the recipe. In most cake or cookie recipes, I’ll swap natural, unsalted peanut butter or almond butter for any butter or margarine called for, and usually reduce the amount too. This often adds a nice pop of flavor, especially if there’s also chocolate in the recipe. I always pour off the excess oil from my nut-butters.
Avocado is a very fatty fruit, and its flesh can be used to create a vast array of dips and desserts.
Don’t go nuts with the nuts. Dr. Esselysten, renowned heart surgeon, insists on no nuts for his cardiac patients. I saw him say in an interview once that if he tells them they can have one small handful of nuts a day, they forget the “one small handful” part, and just go with “nuts are okay!” But that’s for cardiac patients trying to reverse their disease. For healthy people, unsalted nuts in small amounts are okay. 2 tablespoons or so per day is a good amount. Nut butter is compressed, remember, so less of that.
Now you know why you should eliminate oil from your diet, and you have some tips on how to do so. Why not give it a try?
The only way to prove whether a whole food, plant-based eating plan will work for you is to go into it 100%, whole-heartedly, for about three weeks. I’m working up a plan for that, and it’ll eventually take form, but it’s in the early stages.
If you have questions, leave them in the Comments section. If I don’t know, I’ll do my best to find the answers.
If you think what you’re reading here will add healthy years to your life, and want to help keep it free for others, maybe buy a gal a carrot.