Recently, I've been wondering how many olives are in a tablespoon of olive oil. Having followed a no-added oil plant-based lifestyle (more accurate than "diet") for over 5 years now (since interviewing Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn), it's something I hadn't considered until I happened to see Ms. "Lean into Everything Veganish Quantumly" on Charlie Rose talk about all the "surrounding fiber" lost with refined sugar and carbohydrates. Normally, I take anything she says somewhat skeptically (in her most recent book, she's still pushing the "8 glasses of water a day" myth, despite it having been debunked many times).
Whatever. I remember something I'd read about all the minerals, fibers, etc., being stripped away when producing free oils (processed vegetable oils):
"Chemically speaking, free oils are chains of carbon found in a purified state. Extraction processes have removed all of the other ingredients of the whole food. Thus, free oils are no longer intermixed with the naturally-designed and balanced environment of proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and ten thousand other chemicals found originally in the plants. Free-oils are not food..." (Dr. McDougall, (Source).
Ironic that Ms. Leanfully advocates the use of free oils in her recipes (and recommended pantry). But, moving onward, the question of how many olives are in a tablespoon of olive oil intrigued me. I found an answer than I think is reasonable, being as olives come in many sizes. The following website has guessed around 44 olives per tablespoon of olive oil (Source). I'll go with 40 olives as my working number.
So, what does this mean? Well, when you put a tablespoon of olive oil into your skillet, you are putting the equivalent of 40 olives "stripped" of accompany minerals and other chemicals designed to help you absorb and properly metabolize the oil from those 40 olives. Can you imagine 40 olives in your stir-fry?
Wow. No room for veggies! Continuing with the math: 2 TBL of olive oil (80 olives), 4 TBL. of olive oil in 1/4 cup (160 olives), 8 TBL. of olive oil in 1/2 cup (320 olives), and 16 TBL. of olive oil in 1 cup (a whopping 640 olives).
I saw a recipe the other day for a vegan pizza that called for a bag of Daiya cheese (8 oz.). That amounts to 48 grams of fat (2 to 3 times the daily limit Esselstyn recommends, almost 3/4 the daily fat recommended by the Feds, and 80% the daily saturated fat).
But wait, there's more. The fat in Daiya comes from oil (safflower, and/or coconut (high in trans-fat), and/or canola), and these free oils have about the same amount of fat per tablespoon: around 14 grams each. Let's extrapolate what that would mean in terms of olives, if olive oil was used: the equivalent of 160 olives on that pizza (someone else can work out how many seeds for safflower or canola oil... start with 50 lbs. of rapeseed to make 2.65 gal. canola oil).
Would anyone put 160 olives on a pizza? How about 80 olives (2 TBL of olive oil) for a single serving of salad dressing? Yet, I see both vegan and non-vegans use apply olive oil with complete abandon in all kinds of food preparations.
Actually, using the olives might be healthier than using just the oil! But seriously, this oil issue is one of the primary reasons I wrote: "Heart Healthy Pizza." There had to be a better way of enjoying pizza other than adding pure fat in the guise of faux cheese. Whenever you see a tablespoon of oil, think: 40 olives (or the equivalent).
Anyway, this pontification went on longer than expected, so it's now Part 1 of 2 posts on this topic. In the next post I'll relate it all to a short exchange I had online recently with a well-known Iron Chef as well as from seeing a nouveaux Vegan Chef on the Today Show last week and reading the recipe he demonstrated (Chef Tal will also be mentioned). Stay tuned!