Olive Oil is Key to Promoting Plant-Forward Diets, Report Says

The white paper, which was published by the Culinary Institute of America and the International Olive Council, also says that a shift to plant-forward diets is necessary to achieve global climate goals and promote healthy eating.

Aug. 19, 2019
By Daniel Dawson

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The Culinary Institute of America (CIA), in con­junc­tion with the International Olive Council (IOC), have pub­lished a white paper lay­ing out a series of strate­gies to pro­mote con­sump­tion of olive oil and plant-for­ward diets around the world.

The paper was pre­sented at a con­fer­ence ear­lier in the sum­mer and Greg Drescher, the vice pres­i­dent of strate­gic ini­tia­tives and indus­try lead­er­ship at the CIA, told Olive Oil Times that it was well-received by other indus­try pro­fes­sion­als.

We need to be able to bet­ter artic­u­late what olive oil and the Mediterranean diet have to offer.- Greg Drescher, Culinary Institute of America

There was a sense that this is a sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion to fur­ther­ing our under­stand­ing of the oppor­tu­ni­ties that the olive oil kitchen presents within this cur­rent set of con­cerns around health and the envi­ron­ment and the need to move toward more plant-based dietary prod­ucts,” he said.

According to the CIA, the two main goals of plant-for­ward cook­ing are to improve envi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­ity around the food chain and fos­ter health­ier eat­ing habits.

See Also: Mediterranean Diet News

In addi­tion to clean energy, plant-for­ward diets are going to be essen­tial to meet our cli­mate chal­lenges,” Drescher said.

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The Mediterranean diet – which empha­sizes the con­sump­tion of fruits and veg­eta­bles, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds and olive oil – is a prime exam­ple of a plant-for­ward diet that has worked for cen­turies.

We don’t need to nec­es­sar­ily invent new foods or new dietary pat­terns,” Drescher said. We can be inspired by what already exists rooted in cul­tures.”

The CIA and IOC believe that increas­ing olive oil con­sump­tion is a com­ple­men­tary goal to pro­mot­ing a shift toward plant-for­ward cook­ing. The two orga­ni­za­tions addressed strate­gies by which to do so within the white paper.

A lot of peo­ple under­stand the gen­eral con­cept with­out nec­es­sar­ily under­stand­ing a lot of the specifics under­ly­ing the con­cepts of the Mediterranean diet, which is really rooted in the olive oil kitchen,” Drescher said. We need to be able to bet­ter artic­u­late what olive oil and the Mediterranean diet have to offer.”

The white paper really delves into a lot of culi­nary strat­egy and areas of spe­cific devel­op­ment within the Mediterranean kitchen and the olive oil kitchen that will be valu­able to pub­lic health and cli­mate experts as they rec­om­mend cul­tur­ally based mod­els for sus­tain­able eat­ing,” he added.

Among these culi­nary strate­gies is the more exten­sive use of aro­mat­ics to fla­vor food, as opposed to rely­ing solely on meat. Leveraging smaller por­tions of ani­mal-based pro­teins, which is fre­quently done in Mediterranean cui­sine, is another strat­egy. Drescher believes that olive oil plays a big part in both of these strate­gies.

A prac­ti­cal exam­ple that he cites is switch­ing from meat-based sauces to nut and olive oil-based ones.

Many chefs from a vari­ety of cul­tures around the world have trou­ble imag­in­ing sauces that are not meat-based,” he said. The Mediterranean olive oil kitchen has a wide vari­ety of nut sauces that are some com­bi­na­tion of olive oil, nuts, herbs, spices, gar­lic and other aro­mat­ics. These stretch from Spain to the Middle East and North Africa and are absolutely deli­cious.”

In the United States, which con­sumes more food per capita than almost every other coun­try accord­ing to data from Oxford University, plant-based sauces, such as hum­mus, are grow­ing in pop­u­lar­ity.

Drescher attrib­utes this to the steadily increas­ing avail­abil­ity of hum­mus in super­mar­kets and restau­rants. He believes that increas­ing con­sumers’ access to these types of prod­ucts will go a long way in pro­mot­ing plant-for­ward diets.

It’s not just that we need to have wider con­sumer under­stand­ing, but we need to have wider acces­si­bil­ity for con­sumers so that it’s incum­bent on chefs and restau­ran­teurs and retail­ers to make more of those foods avail­able,” he said.

In gen­eral, the U.S. appears to be fer­tile ground for expand­ing plant-for­ward diets. According to a recent Nielsen Homescan study, 39 per­cent of Americans said they were actively try­ing to eat more plant-based foods.

The CIA and IOC believe that pro­mot­ing plant-for­ward cook­ing can help boost this fig­ure and push plant-cen­tric eat­ing pro­grams, such as the Mediterranean diet, more into the fore­front of American culi­nary cul­ture.

Drescher believes that know­ing how to use and cook with extra vir­gin olive oil is key to achiev­ing these goals. To illus­trate this point, he cites some­thing Antonia Trichopoulou, a pro­fes­sor of bio­chem­istry at the University of Athens, once told him.

It’s not that we Greeks nec­es­sar­ily like veg­eta­bles any more than you Americans do,” she said. The dif­fer­ence is in how our veg­eta­bles are pre­pared: with olive oil.”


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