J Morris Hicks

J Morris Hicks

Posted July 14, 2011

Published in Food, Health

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Olive Oil; not a health food...the first in a series of six

Read More: esselstyn, healthy food, heart disease, olive oil

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I received a note from a reader recently about someone who had just been told that olive oil was not good for you:

Hi, I am so confused about the oil issue. The movie "Forks over Knives" says that ALL oils are fat and are bad for you. I can't seem to find any info on line supporting this. Do you know anything regarding this. I always thought olive oil was so good for you? Thanks, Susannah

Lovely and tasty, olive oil is 100% fat and, while plant-based, it is not a whole plant.

Her question has inspired me to write a series of six blogs about a number of foods that virtually everyone seems to think are healthy -- vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. In Chapter 10 of our book, while providing tips on how to eat a truly health-promoting 4-Leaf diet, we include a list of six foods entitled, Not-So-Healthy Foods -- A Reminder.

We included that list because most of us have grown up believing that all six items were very healthy choices. The other five are milk, cheese, granola, yogurt and fish. Here's what we had to say about olive oil in Chapter 10:

Olive Oil. People are always shocked to learn that olive oil is not a healthy food; but the truth is, all oil derives 100% of its calories from fat.  Your body does need fat, just as it needs carbohydrates and protein—and it gets just the right amount of all three from fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds.  As Dr. and Mrs. Esselstyn say, “You don’t need oil for cooking. You can use almost any liquid—even beer or wine.”  An optimal diet delivers 15% or less of its calories from fat, so choosing to use oil makes coming anywhere close to that number very difficult.

J. Morris Hicks introduces Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn at the Stonington Harbor Yacht Club in August of 2010.

Dr. Esselstyn likes to see his heart patients keep their fat consumption below 10% of their daily calories. The average American gets close to 40% from fat and will have a real tough time getting down to even below 20% if they make any oil (including olive oil) a part of their daily routine. Dr. Esselstyn has also reported that even though olive oil contains no cholesterol, that its consumption will make it difficult to hit his total cholesterol target of less than 150.

He has also found that processed oils cause damage to the endothelial cells within our arteries. As he says in the new Forks Over Knives book, page 19, "The typical Western diet of processed oils, dairy and meat destroys our endothelial cells and leaves plaque buildup that inhibits blood flow."

J. Morris Hicks, with no planned olive oil consumption, my percent of calories from fat is around 12%.

What to do? In my case, I probably consume a fair amount of olive oil on salads and other dishes that I order in restaurants. But I never plan to have any, I don't buy any and I don't keep any in my house. The best solution is to find cause for CELEBRATION with your new diet-style, not deprivation from things that you may have enjoyed in the past.

If you like what you see here, you may wish to join our periodic mailing list. Also, if you'd like to pre-order our book on Amazon, click here. Finally, for help in your own quest to take charge of your health, you might find some useful information at our 4-Leaf page. From the seaside village of Stonington, Connecticut – Be well and have a great day.

—J. Morris Hicks…blogging daily at