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–and our body already manufactures all the fat it needs. 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.