By Molly Patrick
Jan 17, 2017
People tend to over-complicate stuff, especially about food and what’s healthy and what’s not.
And I get it. There’s a lot of noise and conflicting opinions on the internet. At the end of the day, it’s up to you to do your homework and then eat however makes you feel the best – physically, mentally, emotionally, and ethically.
We all have different reasons for eating like we do, or striving to eat like we feel is best for us. And what’s best for one person might not be best for another person. And that’s okay.
One size fits all makes perfect sense for cute sarongs, but not always for food.
My jam, both personally and professionally, is a diet made up of whole plant foods. The scientific evidence is solid to back up this way of eating. The health success stories that I have witnessed through my work are undeniable and completely inspiring. And I have personally found my health sweet spot with this way of eating. But even when I put all of that aside, eating a diet made up of whole plant foods makes perfect sense to me at a really basic level.
Mama earth doesn’t grow apple pie, but she does grow apples.
Your garden won’t grow potato chips, but it will grow potatoes.
You can’t grow olive oil on vines, but you can grow olives.
The healthiest foods are the foods that haven’t been altered too much from their original form. And this makes sense because once you start deconstructing whole, intact foods and taking some components out (like fiber, bran, phytochemicals, hull, etc…) and adding in other components (like sugars, additives, artificial flavors, etc.), the original structure is altered and a once nutrient dense, healthy food becomes a nutrient void, unhealthy food.
However, there are certain plant foods that are minimally processed and still have health benefits and are fine to add in when eating a whole food plant based diet.
And this sometimes trips people up.
Take nut milk for example. You add nuts and water to your blender, you blend the hell out of them and then strain it to get milk. Yes, the nuts have been altered from their original form, but nut milk isn’t unhealthy by any stretch of the imagination (unless of course a whole bunch of gunk is added to it, like sugar and additives).
Same goes for tempeh, tofu, sprouted bread, sprouted tortillas and whole grain pasta.
- Are whole nuts more nutrient dense than nut milk? Yes.
- Do whole soy beans pack a bigger nutrient punch than tofu? Yes.
- Does a big bowl of quinoa have more nutrients and fiber than a bowl of quinoa pasta? You betcha.
- Is eating whole sprouted grains more beneficial than eating them in bread form? Probably.
However, these minimally processed foods are important because they add diversity to a healthy plant based diet which ultimately makes it more realistic for people to follow. PLUS they aren’t super calorie dense or entirely void of their original nutrients and fiber, making them beneficial for your glittering bod.
So while eating the whole plant food is always the healthiest, there are some minimally processed plant foods that are fine to nosh on.
One exception is oil.
Some oils are crazy processed, like canola oil, and some oils go through less of a beating, like olive oil and coconut oil.
But even the most expensive, small batch, virgin olive oil that comes from the smallest village in Italy has zero fiber, 120 calories and 14 grams of fat per tablespoon.
Same goes for the most hand crafted, blessed by goddesses and approved by raw vegans everywhere coconut oil.
All oil has zero fiber, 120 calories and 14 grams of fat per tablespoon, and the majority of the nutrients are stripped out during the process of extracting the oil from the plant.
To give you a comparison, there are about 78 calories and 6 grams of fat in the same amount (1 tablespoon) of cashews. Plus, cashews have fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals, like vitamin K, B6, magnesium, zinc and iron.
Oil is pretty straight forward, but what about nut and seed butters? If you’ve ever opened a jar of peanut butter or tahini and saw a thick layer of oil, you might wonder where this lives on the spectrum of oil-free eating.
First of all, some brands add oil to their nut butters, this is especially common in peanut butter. This isn’t at all necessary – it’s done to cut costs because oil is cheaper than nuts. So the first thing is to make sure your nut butter doesn’t have any added oil.
Apart from that, there will inevitably be some oil in nut and seed butter because nuts and seeds are high in fat and when they’re ground into paste, some oil will naturally rise to the top.
If you want to go truly oil free, you would have to avoid nut and seeds and nut and seed butters. For me, this falls under the category of making shit more complicated than it has to be and so this is where I draw the line. Mama earth gave us nuts and seeds, did she not? I see nothing wrong with eating nuts and seeds or nut and seed butter. That said, if you grind them yourself, they’ll be less oily. If you buy them packaged and there’s a layer of oil on top, you can always discard the oil if you wish.
So the healthiest place to get fat in your diet is from whole plant sources (nuts, seeds and avocados) rather than from extracted oil of foods (olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, etc…) because oils have no fiber, less nutrients and are more calorie dense than the whole foods in which they come from.
I’m not saying that olive oil and coconut oil are evil and will induce a heart attack upon entry of the pie hole. In fact, some studies show that olive oil has health benefits, however, this is only when compared with butter.
You can think about it like this.
Eating butter is like having a one night stand with a random stranger in a bar.
It was exciting at the time, but you wake up hungover, regretful and concerned that your vajayjay may or may not have an STD.
Eating olive oil or coconut oil is like having sex with your best friend.
It’s better than a drunk one night stand, but it’s still going to be awkward and cause problems down the road.
Eating nuts, seeds and avocados is like making love to your soul mate while you’re both totally sober, with Maxwell playing in the background and candles lighting the room.
No regrets, no problems, just healthy, passionate lovemaking.
Sure, we all go through grungy, awkward sex periods, but ultimately, it’s the soul mate Maxwell sex that feeds our soul and keeps us happy and healthy.
Sex analogies aside, on top of not being super healthy or slimming, oil isn’t necessary to cook delicious food. Most people do it because they always have and it’s just what they do. I used to cook with olive oil like mad because I assumed using it was necessary to make yummy food.
I was wrong.
When you go without oil for just a few weeks it becomes clear that it’s an unnecessary ingredient. Which is awesome because it saves money, plus doing the dishes is a lot easier when everything isn’t coated in oil.
Here’s the deal. Eating 100% oil free 100% of the time isn’t realistic. We all go out to eat, we all nibble at parties – life happens. But if you take the oil out of your kitchen and start cooking without it, then the majority of your food will be oil free.
Try it out for a few weeks and see what happens. You’ll be surprised and pleased with the results and how quickly you adapt.
All this said, remember that eating is an art, not a science. And more importantly, how you eat is your art. So play around, have fun, let it be fluid and find what works best for you.
Our whole food plant based meal plans are always oil-free and delicious.
Today’s plant based mashed potatoes proves that you don’t need oil (or butter) to make bomb diggity food. Try this out and you’ll think about oil-free cooking in a whole new way.
Let me know how it goes in the comments below.
- 1 batch Roasted Garlic Sour Cream recipe below
- 1 cup low sodium vegetable stock or water 235ml
- 2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes 900g, quartered
- 1 medium-sized celery root stalks cut off, peeled and cut into chunks
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 green onion optional, thinly sliced
Roasted Garlic Sour Cream
- 1 garlic bulb directions below, roasted
- 1 heaping cup raw cashews 135g, soaked for at least 10 minutes
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1/2 cup water 120ml
- 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1 teaspoon dried dill or 1 tablespoon fresh minced dill
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- couple turns black peppercorns
Make the Roasted Garlic Sour Cream:
First roast the garlic:
- Heat the oven to 400°F (205°C).
- Trim about 1/4 inch off the top of the garlic bulb and wrap the bulb in foil (no need to take off the papery outer layer).
- Place in the oven and roast for about 40 minutes, until the garlic is nice and brown. Take out of the oven, unwrap the foil and allow the bulb to cool enough so that you can handle it. When you can touch it without getting burned, pop each clove out of the skin and place in a bowl.
Now assemble the Sour Cream:
- Discard the soaking water from the cashews and place the cashews into your blender, along with 6 roasted garlic cloves, rice vinegar, water, nutritional yeast, dill, onion powder, salt and pepper. Blend well until the mixture is smooth, about a minute or so. Taste the mixture and add more garlic cloves if you’re feelin’ it (save the rest of the garlic cloves to mash on toast and layer with avo!).
- Place the mixture into a bowl and set aside.
Next cook the potatoes and celery root:
Instant Pot Directions:
- Add 1 cup of vegetable stock or water to the Instant Pot, along with the dried thyme. Place the IP trivet on the bottom of the pot and place the potatoes and celery root on the trivet. Lock the lid into place and make sure the nozzle is in the sealing position.
- Use the manual setting and set the timer for 12 minutes. Use the quick release method when the timer is up.
Stove Top Directions:
- Place the potatoes and celery root into a large pot and cover with water. Add dried thyme to the pot and bring the water to a boil.
- Reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.
Now it’s time to put it all together:
- Carefully scoop the potatoes and celery root out from the Instant Pot or regular pot and transfer to a colander. Reserve the cooking liquid.
- Add the potatoes, 1/4 cup of the reserved liquid (60ml) and the Sour Cream to a table mixer bowl. Use a wooden spoon or potato masher to break up the large pieces of potato and celery root so they won’t spin out of the mixer bowl when you turn it on.
- Turn on the mixer, starting on slow speed and working up to medium for about a minute. Turn off the mixer, scrape down the sides of the bowl and add up to an additional 1/4 cup of the reserved cooking water if needed.
- Blend on medium, alternating to med-high for a couple seconds at a time, until you achieve a nice, smooth and fluffy texture. Do not over blend or the veggies can break down and become gummy.
- Add additional salt and pepper to taste if desired and top with sliced green onions before serving.
Wishing you a happy week. May it be filled with letting go of shit that no longer serves you.