Although you may just be considering a vegan diet for the first time, you probably already know that the fewer animal products you eat, the better–with a 100% plant-based diet being best for health, as well as ethically and environmentally.
However, given all you’ve heard about the Mediterranean Diet, “healthy fats”, and “good cholesterol” you may be surprised to learn that a diet containing NO (zero!) added oils is both optimum AND possible to achieve.
While it is true that a Mediterranean diet is superior to a Standard American Diet, this is mainly because the Meditterean diet contains less animal protein and more fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.
A big reason for the confusion over dietary fat is that “healthy” is a relative term, and even foods that exclude animal products can be health-promoting OR health-degrading.
Olive oil is healthier in comparison to animal fats such as butter, but unfortunately cannot be considered health-promoting. In fact, olive oil (even extra virgin) has virtually no nutrients, except fat. Excess dietary fat from any source contributes to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). Many people have become obese on the Meditteranean diet consuming too much fat, mostly in the form of olive oil.
According to Dr. John McDougall, the oil extraction processes remove the “naturally-designed and balanced environment of proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and ten thousand other chemicals” of the whole food (olives, corn, soybeans, etc.) to such a degree that “Free-oils are not food—at best these are medications, causing some desirable effects, and at worst; they are serious toxins causing disease.”
Rather than using olive oil (or other processed oils), choose instead to eat the whole food, such as olives. One tablespoon olive oil has 126 calories vs 154 calories in one cup of olives. Olive oil may contain traces of the benefits of olives–such as polyphenols–but has none of the fiber, mineral or vitamins contained in whole olives.
If you become lost at the thought of cooking without oil (I was!), check out FatFreeVegan for quick and easy, original recipes that use little to no oil at all. Susan’s delicious Caribbean Beans and Quinoa (photo above) uses olives in place of olive oil. She also has a completely no-oil recipe for Low-Fat Tahini-Chickpea Dressing that has all but eliminated olive oil and vinegar dressing in my house.
Many of the recipes Susan develops are based on the Eat to Live plan of Dr. Joel Fuhrman, who recommends no oil whatsoever, but believes canola oil is relatively better than olive oil because of it’s lower percentage of saturated fat. Two other great low-fat cooking resources are Rip Esselstyn’s Engine-2 Diet and Dr. Neil Barnard’s Food for Life.
Like olives, other high-fat whole foods–such as avocados, nuts and seeds–also promote health, however they should be eaten in moderation due to high caloric content. Your overall goal should be to eat health-promoting and nutrient-dense foods, those with maximum number of nutrients per calorie.
A major advantage of eating a whole foods, plant based diet comes from greatly reducing processed foods like extracted oils that have little or no nutritional value nor health benefits. One reason raw vegan diets are more health-promoting than typical vegan diets is that they usually contain none of the processed oils that are contained in cooked or baked foods.
For further reference, including medical research, refer to this informative article by “Soul Veggie” Mark Sutton 15 REASONS TO AVOID VEGETABLE OILS.
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