Take a Mediterranean-loving girl like me and tell her no oil in your cooking, and it creates a complete mind freeze. Say what? I’m an olive oil devotee. Every dinner meal begins with fragrant onions turning translucent in olive oil. But when your beloved partner is threatened with a rare disorder for which the only possible recovery is via no oil or saturated fat, you learn quickly to adapt.
Fortunately, others have paved the way so recipe ideas have inspired me to new levels of creative cuisine. Plus, there is an upside – weight loss!
A little background…
After 2.5 years of undergoing multiple tests, my partner was finally diagnosed with a rare venous problem that is affecting his ability to walk. The specialists said, “Go home, take aspirin and hope you don’t have a stroke”. Yikes! He’s allergic to aspirin. I was convinced this couldn’t be all we could do.
That news sent me delving deeply into learning all about the epithelial cells lining our blood veins. Absolutely amazing cells in great abundance throughout our intestines, veins, arteries – really everywhere. If we stretched all these cells out flat, they would cover 8 tennis courts!
Epithelial cells produce a variety of chemicals to regulate our bodies including nitric oxide that expands our arteries, increases oxygen flow and gives men erections. In the colon, they interact with inulin to regulate the immune system. Inulin is the prebiotic in chicory root, one of the unique phytonutrients that makes Teeccino so healthy to drink.
It seems that epithelial cells don’t like fat, either saturated or unsaturated. The quest to revive the epithelial cells that line my husband’s clogged veins has led me to the only proven lifestyle program that can unclog arteries and hopefully, in his case, veins.
You may have read about the plant-based, low fat, no saturated fat diet used for heart patients by doctors like Dean Ornish, Caldwell Esselstyn and John McDougall (no relation). This diet is a testimonial to how something as seemingly simple as what we eat can profoundly alter our health!
Onwards to cooking without oil…
I have to confess, I moaned inwardly at the thought of giving up eating fish, goat & sheep’s cheeses, and oils of any kind. Of course, I didn’t have to since I’m not the one who is under a majorhealth threat, but I’m a devoted partner. To lead the way and show it could be done, I committed to jumping in first to convince him to follow. But wait. How do I replace olive oil?
I started with salad dressing. A day doesn’t go by without at least one garden fresh salad in my life. I don’t buy bottled salad dressings at the store because they don’t use virgin olive oil and other fresh ingredients that I find indispensible in a good dressing (I’m often urged by friends and family to bottle my salad dressings but I know that the high quality ingredients I use would make it too expensive to commercialize). Facing the challenge of a no-oil salad dressing, I decided I’d use everything I normally use and just find a new base to replace oil.
But one key ingredient had to be found. You can’t have your salad dressing running off the lettuce and pooling at the bottom of your plate like a puddle. A good dressing should have viscosity so it coats the salad ingredients and makes them all so delicious.
Plus, fat in a salad has been shown to help increase the absorption of the nutrients and antioxidants your salad has in abundance. Usually you get fat from your dressing’s oil, but you can also get it from avocados, nuts and seeds all of which I still plan to continue eating.
When fat is naturally bound in fiber, it doesn’t overwhelm your blood with free floating fat from oils that coat your epithelial cells. Eating fat bound in fiber, just like sugar bound in fiber instead of refined sugars, is my goal for optimal health.
Not to forget the fact that oil has 9 calories per gram! How much is a gram? Well a tablespoon of oil holds 13.6 grams so it contains 122.4 calories. See why you can lose weight easily just bycutting oil out of your diet?
My oil-free salad dressing solution jumped at me quickly. Happiness! A seed I’m passionate about can provide both the viscosity and the fat: Chia seeds! With ground chia in my new super seeds cereal, TeeChia, I know all about the goodness these tiny powerhouse seeds packed with omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and fiber can add to my salad’s nutrition. Plus their ability to absorb liquids keeps my oil-free salad dressing from separating and thickens it to just the right consistency to coat my salad leaves.
Enjoy this dressing on your next salad and let me know how you like eating oil-free salads!
Caroline’s Pomegranate Chia Salad Dressing
3/4 cup POM pomegranate juice (or another brand)
Juice of 1 orange (use a hand citrus press to make it quick & easy!)
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar – organic is preferable!
1 tbsp whole grain Dijon mustard (Trader Joe’s has my favorite French brand)
3-4 cloves fresh garlic squeezed through a garlic press (Swiss-made Susi® is the best garlic press ever)
½ cup fresh basil leaves picked off of their stems – press them into measuring cup to pack them down when measuring
1 tbsp chia seeds, ground
½ tsp herb salt (Spike is my favorite brand next to my own creation)
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper depending on if you like a bit of heat
- 5-7 raspberries to add a fruity flavor and nice red color
- Use blood oranges when in season for a bright red color
- A small cheat for really fabulous flavor & nutrition: add 1 tbsp. of lightly toasted walnut oil which is high in omega-3 fatty acids and so yum!!
Put all ingredients into a blender. Blend well until the basil leaves are all chopped up. Pour into a salad dressing container. Makes 1 ¼ cups dressing. Keep refrigerated. Can last up to 10 days.
Time Saving Tip: Here’s how to keep your salad fresh for several days:
- Don’t add wet ingredients like tomatoes and cucumbers or ones that will turn color like avocados or apples. Offer these ingredients in a separate bowl to be added at the time of eating.
- Let each person dress their salad individually at the table. Keep the salad in the bowl undressed unless you’re confident the whole salad will be eaten.
- Store your salad in a lightweight bamboo bowl in the refrigerator with a plastic baggie tucked in over the top of the salad. Undressed salads can be kept several days this way so you don’t have to make a salad for every meal! Bamboo is preferable to glass or plastic as it will release moisture that otherwise can ruin the stored salad. (Be careful because some wooden bowls will crack in the refrigerator. I lost my favorite hand-chiseled olive wood bowl that way!) For a nice selection of bamboo salad bowls, visit these site: