Reasons To Avoid Oil and What Gets Me Hot + the Best Vegan Reuben with Tempeh You’ll Ever Eat
By Molly Patrick
Oct 14, 2014,
If eating a vegan diet is the best french kiss in the world, eating a Whole Food Plant Based diet is an exploding orgasm that just keeps on coming.
Part of eating a Whole Food Plant Based diet (WFPB) is cutting oil from the diet.
If you haven’t read this post about different type of fats and this one about saturated fats, read those first and then come back to this one.
All non-hydrogenated vegetable oils fall into the category of either polyunsaturated fat or monounsaturated fat.
Polyunsaturated fats are important because we need essential fatty acids that our body cannot produce on its own (Omega-3 and Omega-6). We find these in polyunsaturated fats.
Monounsaturated fats are beneficial to the body in moderation.
Since all non-hydrogenated oils are either a poly or a monounsaturated fat, it’s understandable why people think adding vegetable oil to their diet is a good idea, especially olive oil, given the popularity of the Mediterranean diet.
But let’s take a closer look.
Most people don’t realize that even unsaturated oils contain a certain amount of saturated fat.
Olive oil is one of the highest with 14% saturated fat.
In fact, 2 tablespoons of olive oil has three times more saturated fat than a 4 oz. piece of white meat chicken.
All oil (even olive oil) is 100% fat and contains 120 calories and 14 grams of fat per tablespoon.
So all oil is high in calories, low in nutrients and has zero fiber.
Since there’s no fiber in oil, all the calories are absorbed quickly and stored away as body fat.
When we eat nuts and seeds to get healthy fat, our body has a different reaction. The fat in unrefined whole plant foods binds to plant fibers.
The binding of these fats limit absorption by the body and even attract other fat that’s just hanging out in the bloodstream. This chillin’ fat is then drawn into the digestive system where it goes on its merry way, making sure it NEVER even come close to your ass.
This is why eating a small handful of nuts and seeds a day actually helps us lose weight, whereas eating oil makes us gain weight.
Here’s another issue with oil.
People are getting way too many Omega-6 fats in their diet. This leads to a myriad of problems, including canceling out any benefits of Omega-3’s. The most common vegetable oils are loaded with Omega-6 fats, and eliminating these oils is the fastest way to cut down the Omega-6 in our bod.
At the end of the day, all vegetable oils are highly processed foods.
When you chemically extract oil from the whole food (be it olives, canola, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, etc.), you leave behind most of the micronutrients and create a food that has a lot of empty calories.
It is true that olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fat and monounsaturated fat is better for you then saturated fat or trans fat, but just because something is better for you than something really unhealthy doesn’t make it a healthy food.
Just like how the study that came out earlier this year about saturated fat gave people a free pass to eat as much meat as they want, the Mediterranean diet has given people a free pass to eat as much olive oil as they want.
The reality is, the Mediterranean diet is healthy because of the antioxidant rich and nutrient dense unrefined plant foods that make up most of the diet of that region, not because they pour olive oil on everything.
It’s been established that our body absolutely, positively needs a certain amount fat.
We also know that saturated fat and oils are not the healthiest places to get them. With this information we are lead directly back to nature where we find avocados, nuts, and seeds waiting for us.
Not only do these foods give us the right kind of fat that our bodies need, when we eat them in their whole form, they also give us fiber and other important nutrients and minerals that we can’t get from oil (even oil made from these foods).
It all goes back to eating high nutrient dense foods.
High nutrient dense fats, high nutrient dense proteins and high nutrient dense carbohydrates.
Nutrient density is simply the amount of nutrients a food has per calorie.
- Kale would be considered a high nutrient dense food because one cup of kale has only 33 calories, lots of fiber and a shit load of phytochemicals.
- Oil would be considered a low nutrient dense food because one cup of oil has 1,927 calories, zero fiber and only a very small trace of phytochemicals, if any at all.
So the goal here is to get your fat from unprocessed plant foods.
Put like that, it sounds pretty damn simple, am I right?
If avoiding oil sounds like something you want to experiment with, a good first step might be to rid your pantry and fridge of all pre-packaged foods that contain oil.
Once you’re off of those foods, maybe play around with some oil free recipes.
When you’re ready to really clean out, join Plant Fueled Life and get your mind BLOWN with how tasty oil -free food can be.
- Tempeh (recipe below)
- Thousand Island Dressing (recipe below)
- Sprouted grain bread
Thousand Island Dressing
- ½ cup cashews soaked in water for at least 10 minutes. 75g
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste 20g
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar 15ml
- ¾ teaspoon sea salt
- ⅔ cup water
- ⅓ cup chopped dill pickles 90g
- 2 tablespoons chopped onion 20g
- Few turns fresh cracked black pepper
- 1 package tempeh, steamed (directions below / 8 oz / 227g)
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tablespoons water
- 2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons brown rice vinegar
- 2 teaspoons coconut aminos
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce vegan
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon onion powder
- ¼ teaspoon caraway seed
- ⅛ teaspoon mustard powder
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper 10 turns
Thousand Island Dressing
- A good dressing will make or break your reuben. Make this one and you won’t be disappointed.
- Drain the water from the cashews and place the cashews, tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, sea salt and water in the blender and blend until creamy and smooth.
- Pour the dressing in a mixing bowl and add the relish, onion and black pepper.
- Stir until combined and refrigerate.
- Eat within 4 or 5 days.
- Now that you have a super yum dressing, it’s time to sort out the tempeh.
Make the Tempeh
- To make sure the tempeh is packed with flavor you want to marinate it overnight and then bake it the next day. This will lock in the maximum flavor.
- The first step is to steam your tempeh. Steaming is crucial because it helps the tempeh absorb the marinade and it will make for a better overall texture. You can use your Instant Pot or you can steam it on the stove. Whichever way you choose, cut your tempeh in half first, so you have two thick pieces.
- To use your Instant Pot (IP), add 1 cup of water and the bay leaf to the pot and place the IP trivet on the bottom. Place the tempeh directly on the trivet and lock the lid into place. Make sure the nozzle is pointed in the sealing direction. Use the manual mode and set the timer for 5 minutes. Use the natural release method when the timer is up.
If using the stove, add two cups of water and the bay leaf to a pot, along with a steamer basket. Place the tempeh in the steamer basket and place a lid on the pot. Steam for 10 minutes. If you do not have a steamer basket you can gently simmer the tempeh and bay leaf directly in the water for 10 minutes.
- When the tempeh is steamed, carefully slice both halves in half (lengthwise, through the middle) so that you have 4 thinner slabs in total. Set aside for now.
- Make the marinade by placing all of the marinade ingredients into a bowl, and whisk until combined. Transfer the bay leaf from the IP or the pot and add it to the marinade.
- Place the tempeh pieces into a container and pour the marinade over them. The marinade won’t completely cover the tempeh. This is okay – just flip the pieces over the next day so all sides get some marinade goodness. Allow the tempeh to fully cool before you cover the container with a lid and place in the fridge until you bake it.
- After the tempeh has done its thing overnight, bake at 350° for 20 minutes, flipping after 10 minutes.
Okay – you have the dressing and the tempeh, the rest is simple.
- Toast one or two pieces of sprouted grain bread, and pour the dressing over the bread.
- Add the tempeh and then add a generous helping of sauerkraut.
- Top with avocado and you have an insane sandwich in front of you.
- There are 5 main components in this vegan oil free reuben.
- Make sure you buy the type of sauerkraut that’s in the refrigerated section and doesn’t have any vinegar. Vinegar kills off the live cultures in the kraut. The live cultures are super healthy for your gut health. Also, make sure not to heat the kraut, this will also kill off the cultures. My favorite brand is Bubbies.
Have an awesome week and remember, whatever problem or difficulty you’re going through at the moment will look different with time, so don’t give it too much of your beautiful attention.
Fall in love with plant based cooking
Leave a Comment
Are you ready to live a Plant Fueled Life?
Love the food that loves you back
Get instant access to thousands of plant based recipes and meal plans, no credit card or perfection required.
Molly you are brilliant. Thanks for this awesome and educational post. I’ve been vegetarian or vegan off and on for most of my life and never really thought about giving up oil before I encountered Dr. Esselstyn’s work a year ago. Once I had the facts, it made perfect sense to go oil-free and you explain a lot of the ‘why’ here in a really accessible way. Keep up the great work!
P.S. Some types of unrefined oils do contain phytochemicals (think polyphenols in olive oil) but not enough to make them worth drizzling all over town.
Thank you for your kind words and the correction!
I first heard about the controversy around “healthy oils” a few months ago and my reaction was a heavy eye roll and the thought that next thing they’ll be be gunning for
Is kale… But I’m getting it – it’s making some sense. Your article was not the first I read about it but your post is the last one I needed to read before deciding to go oil-lesser maybe oil free.
I’ve been experimenting with your dry sautée techniques and they doesn’t piss me off like other oil free sautée techniques I’ve come across – so thank you, I’m grateful to you and your homework. It’s just another adjustment on my health and wellness journey.
So next topic – I made your Mac and cheese recipe from your 6 recipe PDF – I’m blown away, I researched many a vegan Mac and cheese recipe (I have a 3 year old – the stakes are high cooking for 3 year olds – failures propell unwanted and unnecessary suspicion for future pending meals) I ended up with three recipe finalists, I made yours first… Stone cold knock out – I will not be making the other two, done and done. Kiddo could not get enough. So my question is what to do about the vegan butter – all things considered. Use 1/2 the amount, try to omit it completely? Let me know
If you’ve made any attempts with this recipe as far as an oil free version – and thank you for the incredible quality of recipes and info you’re putting out. I’m a fan and you’re going to be a very big deal one day.
I hear you on the oil thing. I’m the first to scoff at new foods to be on the “off limits” list. But it does make sense and ultimately that’s more of the direction I’ve gone.
About the oil free Mac and Cheese.
You’re in luck. I made an oil free version that is amazingly similar to the Earth Balance version. Here’s the link:
Let me know if your little one takes to it.
I thought I was doing the right thing by using olive oil and I used it generously because they said it was “healthy” and good for me. When I stopped using it I lost ten pounds, just like that -Snaps fingers.- It was like a little ten pound miracle.
Hi Nancy –
Isn’t it the truth! It’s amazing what just cutting out the oil does for the bod.
Thank you for sharing.
Interesting article!!! How do you think about coconut oil, Molly?
Apparently it is very good for gut health and has many other health benefits. I cook nearly all my things with it 🙂 LOVE onions fried in coconut oil!
Thank you in advance.
I love coconut oil and I use it from time to time. Onions fried in coconut oil sound orgasmic.
Here’s the thing though. Oil is oil is oil.
Whether it’s palm oil, olive oil, canola oil or flax oil, it all contains 14 grams of fat per tablespoon and zero fiber.
All oil is highly processed.
Unfortunately, there is no oil that is good for our heart, even coconut oil (much to most peoples chagrin!). If you’re going for super clean then fresh coconut flesh or coconut water is super healthy, but most of the health benefits get lost when processed into oil. That said, I do use it sometimes, and enjoy it when I do!
This looks so good! I will have to try the recipe soon! Would you mind sharing the exact measurements for the marinade please? 🙂 TIA!
Start with 1/2 cup of vinegar, 1/2 cup of soy sauce and a tablespoon of maple syrup. Whisk it together, taste it and adjust from there. If the marinade isn’t totally covering the tempeh that’s okay. Just, flip the tempeh from time to time when it’s marinating.
Let me know how it turns out!
Okay great! I will just have to buy a few ingredients and then I will be certainly making this! I will let you know how it turns out! Thanks so much! 🙂
Thank you for this post! I have been vegan for a little a year now, and have decided to ditch the oils. You are right, it does feel very daunting, but I am ready now 🙂 I guess my concern is being able to socialize around food with family and friends. I know your oil consumption is super low, but how often, like if you go out to eat or something, do you consume it?
I never use oil when I cook at home.
When I go out to eat I don’t worry about it too much. If there’s a yummy looking oil free option I’ll go for it, otherwise I try not to be a pain in the ass.
Just start in your own kitchen and take it from there 🙂
Keep me posted on your oil free journey!
Hi Molly, Just wondering about the sweet pickle relish in the dressing. Is there a WFPB one you use or just chuck in any?
Hey Jane –
You can use good quality (i.e no vinegar) dill pickles and chop them up 🙂
If you do that, add a dried date to the blender ingredients.
Thank you 🙂
Isn’t tempeh a processed food?
Tempeh is considered a minimally processed plant food.
It retains nutrients and fiber in the process, so there are still benefits even though it is not in its original form.
I thought the water in the dressing sounded like too much at 3/4 cup, so I used 2/3 cup, thinking I could always add more if it was too thick. In fact, I wish I’d started out at 1/3 cup water (which might have been perfect). I thought the dressing was very thin, especially compared to the photos.
The taste of all was fantastic. I went the lazy-girl route and used Fakin’ Bacon (20 min. baked at 350). I would make this again in a heartbeat. Thank you!
I’ve basically leaned towards the Mediterranean Diet in recent years.. mainly for the hummus, Greek olives and wine. So with this No Oil rule, you’re saying no olives, either, right? That’s going to be a hard one. Can I keep the wine?????
Hi Barbara, Yum, hummus and olives. Molly’s recipes are based on a whole food plant based diet which encourages consuming nutrients in their whole plant form. Olives are in their whole plant form whereas the oil is pressed from the olives leaving behind parts of the whole food. She talks about oils at length in this post and this one too. That second link has the best mashed potato recipe that I’ve ever had. The thing about moving towards eating more plants is that there are no rules. You need to do what works for you. So, if hummus, olives AND wine are a joy to you, then that’s just fine. For many, alcohol creeps into a problematic territory when they overdo it repeatedly and feel awful the next day, so it’s common to see people reduce their alcohol consumption as they increase their intake of whole plant foods but we’ve all got our own journey. We wish you the best in your own journey! Thanks for reading and commenting.
Team Dirty Girl
When it comes to cooking veggies on the stove, what would be a good substitute for oil?
Hi Maria, preheat your pan a few minutes and do a dry saute adding a splash of water as needed to prevent sticking. Here’s a recipe to practice doing it. Our meal plan recipes use this technique weekly.
Team Dirty Girl
O-M-Gosh! Just made these for dinner tonight and they are phenomenal!!! WOW!! Even my omni hubby, who loves Reubens, really liked them! This is going on my regular menu rotation every week!!!
So glad they were a hit!
Thank you for sharing your WIN!
Holy moly! I’d seen tempeh on the grocery store shelves but had no idea what it was or what you could make with it. This sandwich is PHENOMENAL and well worth the overnight wait for the marinading step! Thank you 🙂
Woohoo! So glad you enjoyed the tempeh reuben. ~Karen
I have really been loving reading your posts and trying out new recipes! But you really should correct your post- Oprah did graduate from college in Tennessee!
I updated the post, thank you!
I’d been craving a Reuben and couldn’t find a recipe that quite did it for me. This one was SPOT ON! I added a dollop of Vegan Tangy White Cheese Sauce from MonkeyandMeKitchenAdventures.com for the Swiss cheese part of a traditional Reuben. Hubby asked that I PLEASE make this one again soon- and requested extra dressing for his daily salads.
Thank you so much!
Heck yes! We’re big fans of Reubens and we’re so glad your family like ours!
Just a question about nut butters.. do you eat them? They are processed I suppose and they often have oil sitting on the top that needs stirring in before using.. I do really love peanut butter but are you saying it’s not good? Cheers 🙂
Yep, we eat nut butter! Nut butters are a great addition to a whole food plant based diet because they provide naturally occurring fats, which our bodies need. They are processed, true, but the processing is minimal. We always suggest buying nut (and seed) butters with only one ingredient: the nut or seed itself (a little bit of salt is ok, too, if you can’t find any without). Oils and sugars are added to many brands, so be sure to check.
As always, the number one rule when eating this way is you do you! If you find something that works for you, even if it’s not what we recommend or strictly whole food plant based, do it! If you have any other questions, we’re happy to answer them. You can reach out to us here.
I’ve missed Reubens so much, but not anymore!! These were so so good!!! I usually shy away from tempeh because I find it bitter but the steaming took care of that completely and the marinade has all the flavors of corned beef. love!!
One small thing, the amount of water that is called for in the thousand island dressing recipe is WAY too much. It wasn’t spreadable at all so we used it as a dip. Next time I’ll start with half the amount of water (or even less) and go from there. Thank you for a great recipe. 🙂
Thanks for the love and for the feedback. We’ve reviewed the amount of water in the dressing and updated the recipe.
The love for this recipe shall never end. My bf was craving Reubens and I’ve been needing to up my protein and calories at lunchtime (recovering from surgery). PLUS Whole Foods had a local 100% rye bread. Made 2 packages of tempeh and managed 4 sandwiches out of it. AMAZING. And 365 brand vegan worcestshire is inexpensive and extremely tasty.
Thanks for the tip on the Worcestershire sauce. (I’m not sure if I’m saying OR spelling that right! LOL) I hope your recovery goes smoothly and thanks for stopping by to share your love for that Bomb Diggity Oil Free Vegan Reuben! That was one of the first recipes I ever made from Clean Food Dirty Girl, and the first time I used tempeh!