The Myth of Moderation: The Impact of "Just A Little Oil"

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The Myth of Moderation: The Impact of "Just A Little Oil"

Postby JeffN » Sun Mar 06, 2011 11:20 am

The Myth of Moderation, Pt 2:The Impact of "Just A Little Oil."
Jeff Novick, MS, RD

The following question is one I am frequently asked. It is about he impact of "just a little olive oil."

Q: I know that it is best to order (or make) steamed vegetables. If I were to order (or make) vegetables with a 'little" olive oil, how much olive oil do you think is usually used in proportion to the vegetables and how bad would that be?

A: No one knows for sure. And little amounts can have a big impact since oil is the most calorie dense food there is. And, while vegetables are the lowest in calorie density, the impact of even small amounts of oil on the vegetables can be huge.

In addition, in spite of all the health claims, olive oil is a very rich source of calories and, in addition, 14% of the calories in olive oil come from saturated fat. The current recommendation from the American Heart Association is to limit our intake of saturated fat to no more than 7% of calories. Personally, I think less than 5% is better.

Now, this is a great question because everyone always wants to know, "how bad is a little of this" or "a little of that." Your question, will give us an opportunity to look at this issue in detail.

So, let’s see how this works (and bear with me and all the math as I think this is very important)…

Let’s say you ordered a plain side of steamed vegetables. For every 1/2 cup serving of steamed vegetables, that would be about 25 calories. So, even a larger 1 cup serving would be only 50 calories.

Olive Oil, like all oils, is 40 calories per tsp.

So let’s see the impact.

If the serving of veggies is 25 calories (1/2 cup), adding even just 1 tsp. of oil would raise the total calories from 25 to 65 and the majority of the calories (62%) would now be coming from oil. Since most of the calories are no longer coming from the vegetables, this technically is no longer a side of veggies but a side of oil, with some veggies added. :)

In addition, in regard to saturated fat, the vegetables would have virtually none. But by adding in the olive oil, the side dish is now about 10% saturated fat.

As we can see, the impact of the oil on the vegetables, at this level, is dramatic and that is just for a tsp. of oil.

If we add 2 tsp. of oil to a 1/2 cup serving of steamed vegetables, we would raise the total calories from 25 to 105, and the majority of the calories (76%) would now be coming from oil. This side dish is also now 11% saturated fat.

If we add 3 tsp. of oil (which is the same as one tablespoon) to a 1/2 cup serving of steamed vegetables, we would raise the total calories from 25 to 145 and the majority of the calories (83%) would now be coming from oil. The side dish is now also 12% saturated fat.

For those of you who eat more than a serving of vegetables at a time, let’s see the impact of the oil on the vegetables if we double the side dish of vegetables to 1 cup, which, according to traditional serving sizes, is 2 servings of vegetables.

If the serving of veggies is 50 calories (1 cup), even just 1 tsp. of oil would raise the total calories from 50 to 90 and almost half of the calories (45%) would now be coming from oil. In addition, in regard to saturated fat, the vegetables would have virtually none, but by adding in the olive oil, the side dish is now 7% saturated fat.

If we add 2 tsp. of oil to the 1 cup serving of vegetables, we would raise the total calories from 50 to 130 and the majority of the calories (62%) would now be coming from oil. The dish is also now 9% saturated fat.

If we add 3 tsp. of oil (which is the same as one tablespoon) to one serving of vegetables, we would raise the total calories from 50 to 170, and the majority of the calories (70%) would now be coming from oil. The side dish is also now 11% saturated fat.

As we can see, the impact of even a little oil on typical serving sizes of vegetables is dramatic.

Now, remember, this analogy is with olive oil, which is supposed to be one of the healthier oils. Imagine the negative impact a little coconut oil, which is over 90% saturated fat (with about 30% of the calories being the worst saturated fats), would have in the same scenario.

But, I know, some of you say you REALLY eat lots of vegetables. :)

So, let's look at the impact of even a little oil on a large amount of salad and/or vegetables. Let's use a pound of steamed greens, which, for the record, would be about 3.5 cups of steamed kale.

A pound of steamed kale is 125 calories and is 1.4% saturated fat.

Adding 1 tsp. of oil would raise the total calories from 125 to 165 and 25% of the calories would now be coming from the oil. In addition, in regard to saturated fat, by adding in the olive oil, the side dish is now 5% saturated fat.

Adding 2 tsp. of oil would raise the total calories from 125 to 205 and 40% of the calories would now be coming from the oil. In addition, by adding in the olive oil, the side dish is now almost 7% saturated fat.

Adding 3 tsp. (1 TB) of oil would raise the total calories from 125 to 245 and almost 50% of the calories would now be coming from oil. By just adding 3 tsp. of oil to a pound of veggies, almost half the calories now come from the oil. In addition, by adding in the olive oil, the side dish is now almost 8% saturated fat.

In my personal and professional opinion as both a RD, a former chef and a frequent visitor of restaurants, a TB of oil, if not more, is what many people are using (or getting) per typical serving of food/vegetables, which as we can see, can have a huge impact. But, you actually may be betting much more. So, let’s do one more example with 2 TB of oil.

Adding 6 tsp. (or 2 TB) of oil would raise the total calories from 125 to 365 and 65% of the calories would now be coming from oil. In addition, by adding in the olive oil, the side dish is now 10% saturated fat.

And this is playing out in homes and restaurants every day under the mistaken guise that oils, like olive oil are healthy for you.

For example, I was in an Italian restaurant a few weeks ago that is supposed to be known for its "healthy" food. One of the members of the party I was with was trying to order a "heart healthy" meal. She ordered pasta primavera with a plain tomato sauce and specifically requested it be cooked with "as little oil as possible." When the dish came out, there was so much oil in the plate, she asked for a second plate so she could lift out the pasta and veggies from all the oil and put them in a new bowl. After she did this, we looked at the remaining oil in the original plate and there had to be over 1/2 cup if not more, of oil left in the original bowl. A 1/2 cup of oil is the equivalent of 8 tbsp. Imagine the impact this would have had on someone trying to eat "Heart Healthy." Even though she removed the pasta she was going to eat from all this oil, we still have no idea how much oil was still left in the pasta, veggies and sauce.

Instead of using oil, try sprinkling some balsamic vinegar and/or some lemon juice on your veggies along with some fresh herbs/seasonings. Balsamic vinegar has only about 5 calories per tbsp. and has no saturated fat. It will also add lots of flavor without adding any of the extra calories, fat and saturated fat that is in olive oil.

This is a real win/win/win.

It is time to clean up America's dietary oil spill.

In Health,
Jeff

PS I understand this is a microcosm example of the impact of a little oil on a side of vegetables and if it was the only example in a full day of healthy meals, would not have as large impact on the overall days dietary intake. However, the reality is that for most people, it is not just a micro example, but a representation of what happens at most meals and snacks they consume. The consumption figures of added fats/oil per person over the last 30 years, especially for salad oils and ever more specifically for olive oil (which is up almost 960% per person) proves this.
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Re: The Myth of Moderation: The Impact of "Just A Little Oil

Postby frozenveg » Sun Mar 06, 2011 1:19 pm

Great points, Jeff! Thank you for laying these facts out so clearly. Of course, the arguments will only work for those who are truly interested in taking care of their health, but won't faze those who are only giving lip service to health in pursuit of the pleasure trap instead! :P
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Re: The Myth of Moderation: The Impact of "Just A Little Oil

Postby TominTN » Sun Mar 06, 2011 3:11 pm

A pound of steamed kale is 125 calories and is 1.4% saturated fat.


Really? I wouldn't have thought that the minimal amount of fat that occurs naturally in kale would be saturated.
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Re: The Myth of Moderation: The Impact of "Just A Little Oil

Postby JeffN » Sun Mar 06, 2011 4:57 pm

TominTN wrote:
A pound of steamed kale is 125 calories and is 1.4% saturated fat.


Really? I wouldn't have thought that the minimal amount of fat that occurs naturally in kale would be saturated.



All natural foods have fat & have all three types of fat. The amount of saturated fat, however, is minimal.

In health
Jeff
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Re: The Myth of Moderation: The Impact of "Just A Little Oil

Postby somnolent » Sun Mar 06, 2011 7:26 pm

Thanks for this topic, JeffN. Just this morning, I heard the "just a little" argument from my husband for the umpteenth time. He is not mathematically inclined, though, so I have had limited success explaining calorie density and percentages to him. About all I can say is, "You are getting way more fat more than you think." How do you explain it to people who tune out math?
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Re: The Myth of Moderation: The Impact of "Just A Little Oil

Postby JeffN » Sun Mar 06, 2011 7:29 pm

somnolent wrote:Thanks for this topic, JeffN. Just this morning, I heard the "just a little" argument from my husband for the umpteenth time. He is not mathematically inclined, though, so I have had limited success explaining calorie density and percentages to him. About all I can say is, "You are getting way more fat more than you think." How do you explain it to people who tune out math?


Unfortunately, nutrition is a numbers (math) based science. Just like economics or finance or accounting. So, if there is a way to explain those to people who don't like math, I guess it might apply here but I dont know it :(

In Health
Jeff
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Re: The Myth of Moderation: The Impact of "Just A Little Oil

Postby somnolent » Sun Mar 06, 2011 7:44 pm

JeffN wrote:Unfortunately, nutrition is a numbers (math) based science. Just like economics or finance or accounting.


I guess that would explain the status of his checking account as well.... :roll: :D
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Re: The Myth of Moderation: The Impact of "Just A Little Oil

Postby patty » Mon Mar 07, 2011 10:42 am

JeffN wrote:
somnolent wrote:Thanks for this topic, JeffN. Just this morning, I heard the "just a little" argument from my husband for the umpteenth time. He is not mathematically inclined, though, so I have had limited success explaining calorie density and percentages to him. About all I can say is, "You are getting way more fat more than you think." How do you explain it to people who tune out math?


Unfortunately, nutrition is a numbers (math) based science. Just like economics or finance or accounting. So, if there is a way to explain those to people who don't like math, I guess it might apply here but I dont know it :(

In Health
Jeff


Maybe..."There is a difference between desperation and desire. Truth always follows."

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Re: The Myth of Moderation: The Impact of "Just A Little Oil

Postby peach1 » Mon Mar 07, 2011 12:05 pm

Excellent article! Where can I find The Myth of Moderation pt. 1?
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Re: The Myth of Moderation: The Impact of "Just A Little Oil

Postby Chumly » Mon Mar 07, 2011 12:17 pm

This may be an excellent time to use the cronometer or fitday.com. Using nutritional software to enter all of the food in can be very helpful for someone who is bad at Math. Putting the information in a graph form should make it a lot easier to comprehend. It is an easy way to show how much of an affect eating oil, junk food, fast food, etc. has on your daily/wekly intake of nutrients and calories.

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Re: The Myth of Moderation: The Impact of "Just A Little Oil

Postby landog » Mon Mar 07, 2011 1:43 pm

disfor wrote:Excellent article! Where can I find The Myth of Moderation pt. 1?


Jeff Novick on Facebook:
The Myth of Moderation: Do All Foods Really Fit?

(Facebook login not required)

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Re: The Myth of Moderation: The Impact of "Just A Little Oil

Postby LauraVeg » Fri Mar 11, 2011 6:00 pm

JeffN wrote:If the serving of veggies is 25 calories (1/2 cup), adding even just 1 tsp. of oil would raise the total calories from 25 to 65 and the majority of the calories (62%) would now be coming from oil. Since most of the calories are no longer coming from the vegetables, this technically is no longer a side of veggies but a side of oil, with some veggies added....
If we add 3 tsp. of oil (which is the same as one tablespoon) to one serving of vegetables, we would raise the total calories from 50 to 170, and the majority of the calories (70%) would now be coming from oil. The side dish is also now 11% saturated fat.


Those are very sobering (and surprising!) numbers. Thanks.
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Re: The Myth of Moderation: The Impact of "Just A Little Oil

Postby susie » Wed Mar 23, 2011 4:29 am

Thanks Jeff. This one made me sit up and take notice!
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