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Cooking — without oil!

January 24, 2012
By Wendy Monro , Simply Food

OK, I am really getting confused here. I thought olive oil was so good for you. Isn't this one of the good fats, like an avocado?

The more I read about food and health, the more interesting it all becomes. Even though I have high cholesterol, I always believed that using olive oil to cook didn't affect any of this. In fact, I thought using it was beneficial to my overall heart health. Well, some important research results claim otherwise.

The other day, I watched a video of Dr. Caldwell B. Esseltsyn Jr., M.D. What caught my attention most was how Dr. Esselstyn kept repeating, "No oil at all." What? So, I bought his book, Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease, in which he teaches the benefits of living on a plant based oil free diet.

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Polenta with sauteed vegetables, served over brown rice.

He provides research results, which prove that cholesterol levels, angina symptoms and blood flow improve dramatically when switching over to his diet. He has scientific proof that eating this way reverses heart disease. The reason oil is eliminated is because it is low in nutritive value and contains no fiber or minerals. Also, it gives a body 100 percent fat calories. Oil, even olive oil, contains saturated fat, which immediately injures the endothelial lining of the arteries.

The reason this was so fascinating to me is that I use olive oil in almost everything I cook. I make my own salad dressings with olive oil. I saute vegetables in olive oil. My pasta sauces start with olive oil. I go through about a bottle every couple weeks. Maybe this is why my cholesterol level is so difficult to manage? I don't know.

I do know that a couple of years ago my mom and I started counting calories to see how much we were consuming each day. We were checking to see if we were eating more than we were burning off. I was surprised to discover that whenever I added a couple of tablespoons of olive oil the results were alarming. A simple salad with less than two hundred calories, jumped up to almost five hundred calories. Two tablespoons of olive oil adds 238 calories to your meal with 21 percent fat and 9 percent saturated fat.

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Polenta with sauteed vegetables

Time: 30 minutes

Serves: 4

3 cups brown rice and/or wild rice, cooked according to package directions

2 shallots, thinly sliced

1 stock celery, thinly sliced

1 carrot, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

2 tomatoes, quartered

1 package (tube) of polenta, cut into thin circles

1 can cannellini beans

1 cup arugula

3 cups vegetable broth

2 tablespoons tofutti sour cream (optional)

1 tablespoon Mexican saffron (safflower)

1 teaspoon garlic powder

salt and pepper to taste

Heat a skillet over high heat. Add the shallots, celery and carrots. Mix often to make sure they don't burn. Let them brown. Add 3 tablespoons broth and mix. Let the liquid evaporate. Add more if necessary. Cook this way for ten minutes. Add garlic and tomatoes. Saute tomatoes for five minutes more. Add in the polenta, beans, arugula and broth. Let simmer for ten minutes. Mix in the tofutti. Add the Mexican saffron and garlic powder. Salt and pepper to taste. Spoon the vegetable mix over the rice.

I don't have heart disease and I consider myself to be pretty healthy. As a healthy individual, I believe I can take a lot of helpful hints from Doctor Esselstyn's research results. I am going to keep his advice in mind and make a few changes that will hopefully help stop the cascading events that occur in the body, which could lead to disease. I would like to safeguard my health for the future. Doesn't everyone? I am definitely not going to think of olive oil as something to be used all of the time with absolutely no negative health risks. I will use it sparsely and wisely. Olive oil isn't water. What was I thinking?

That being said, I started to think, "How the heck do you saute vegetables without oil?" I honestly didn't think it was possible. So, I got on the trusty old Internet and began surfing. You can saute vegetables without oil! I have been practicing it all week and it doesn't even make a difference in taste or texture of the onions and other vegetables. All you do is heat the skillet to a high heat and add the onions. Then, you move them around so they don't burn. They will brown. Add broth, wine, Worstershire sauce, soy sauce, or whatever liquid works with your recipe. Add only enough to scrape the veggies from the bottom of the pan and let the liquid evaporate. You keep doing this until the vegetables reach the desired consistency for the rest of your recipe. It works perfectly! It also eliminates any artery damage and cuts out almost 300 calories from your meal.

I made this wonderful dish with polenta, cannellini beans, arugula, vegetables and brown rice. I was so excited that it was going to be oil free and very healthy. Half way through, I thought it would be a great idea to add in some tofutti sour cream (dairy free). Why not? Then, the sauce would be nice and creamy.

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I added in a tablespoon of the tofutti. Later, I looked at the ingredients and guess what is in there? Oil! Uggh! After all of that effort, I still ate oil. It doesn't matter though. Imagine if I had both the two tablespoons of olive oil and the oil in the tofutti? At least I cut out most of it. Nobody's perfect. I'm always learning. This was just another lesson. It tasted delicious so I didn't complain. It would probably taste just as good without it. I'll try that next time. I'll put the recipe with the tofutti as an option. You can decide for yourself.



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