Contrary to popular opinion, oils are NOT health foods. Oils are the pure, liquid fat which has been extracted or pressed from olives, corn, coconuts, peanuts, seeds and other whole foods.
Because one tablespoon of oil contains 120 calories and 14 grams of fat – including saturated fat – just 3 TBS/day equates to gaining roughly 3 pounds per month. Added fats are just that – FAT. No bulk, no fiber, no vital nutrients. Yet we sauté with it, fry with it, bake with it, top our salads with it, dip our bread into it, and eat a ton of processed foods which are loaded with it.
Worse than being real diet busters, extracted oils are known to cause inflammation and damage to the endothelial lining of our arteries. Here’s a brief overview of why extracted oils should be immediately eliminated from a healthy diet:
- Saturated Fat. According to Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, author of Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, “between 14-17% of olive oil is saturated, artery-clogging fat – every bit as aggressive in promoting heart disease as the saturated fat in roast beef.” All oils immediately injure the endothelial lining of the arteries, paving the way for plaque formation. Coconut oil is one of the worst, consisting of 92% saturated fat.
- Brachial artery tests show that oils restrict blood flow as much as lard or butter. The added fats make our blood viscous (thick)
- Oils depress the immune system, according to the NIH, making us vulnerable to infection and suppressing our ability to fight cancer.
- Oils contribute to insulin resistance.
- JAMA study – every type of oil (sat, poly unsat, monunsat) are associated with an increase in arterial plaque build-up which contributes to heart attacks.
- Oils cause our red blood cells to clump…..study showing flow-mediated dilation decreases by over 30% for four hours after we eat a fatty meal.
- WATCH the labels on packaged foods, which are loaded with oils. Avoid hydrogenated oils (trans fats) at all times, as there is no safe amount.- Brachial artery tests show that oils restrict blood flow as much as lard or butter.- Coconut oil = 92% saturated fat. Even olive oil contains about 18% saturated fat. Oils are not health foods.
- – Learn to replace w/applesauce in baking; saute with veggie broth or water.
- – Watch your labels! Peanut butter, tortilla shells, crackers, cake mixes, everything. Avoid Hydrogenated! Some research suggests that we can ingest an additional 600-900 calories/day from the oils in processed foods. We cover this in more depth at Oct. 11 class.-
Learn to sauté in water and broths; substitute applesauce or mashed banana in place of oil when baking. Come to my health and cooking classes to learn more; contact me to be notified of future classes, or to receive additional oil-free salad dressing recipes:
What about Dr. McDougall? Here is what he has to say:
“In our bodies these plant-derived, essential fats are used for many purposes including the formation of all cellular membranes, and the synthesis of powerful hormones, known aseicosanoids (prostaglandins, leukotrienes, and thromboxanes).
Our requirement is very tiny, and even the most basic diets provide sufficient linoleic acid to meet our requirement, which is estimated to be 1–2% of dietary energy. Therefore, in practical terms, a condition of “essential fatty acid deficiency” is essentially unknown in free-living populations.
What about fish oil?
“Much attention has recently been paid to the possible benefits of increasing the intake of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) by consuming fish oil. However, this can have adverse effects such as raising LDL “bad” cholesterol levels in patients with already high cholesterol and causing a deterioration in glucose tolerance, in other words, making diabetes worse. (Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids 44:127, 1991). In one recent study of feeding w-6 alpha linolenic acid to obese subjects insulin sensitivity and HDL “good” cholesterol diminished, and the amount of oxidized LDL “bad” cholesterol increased (Aterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol 17:1163, 1997). In most other studies, however, oils high in alpha linolenic acid have little effect on cholesterol and triglycerides (Am J Clin Nutr 65:1645, 1997).” Read the rest of that article here.
Dr. Esselstyn on fish oil:
“Fish oil is not essential. Fish get their omega 3 from plants. It is difficult to be deficient in Omega 3 if eating 1-2 tablespoons of flax seed meal and green leafy
vegetables at several meals. There is also research that suggests that those on plant based nutrition become highly efficient in their own manufacture of omega 3. Patients on fish oil are also at increased risk for bleeding.”
Dr. T. Colin Campbell: Read what Dr. Campbell has to say about fish oil here.
1. Where do we get fat? Nearly everything we eat has fat in it. It would be very difficult to not get enough fat, and many people get far too much. If you are eating a plant-strong diet, and eating enough, getting enough fat is not an issue. Much like you get all the protein you need from eating plant-strong, you will get plenty of fat.
2. What about nuts/seeds/high fat plant-foods ? You don’t need to add much, like we said it is not really an issue, so long as you are not starving. If you have heart disease, type 2 diabetes or are overweight you will want to greatly reduce or eliminate high fat plant foods all together.
3. What about kids? Kids do not need to add pure fat to their diet. They can however have some of the higher fat plant foods like nuts, seeds, avocados, tofu, tempeh. But there is no reason to go overboard on this. Give fat to kids in the way of whole foods like vegetables, nuts, grains and beans.
4. What about athletes? If you are a professional level athlete (working out more than 35 hours a week) you will need to consume a lot more calories, but this in no way means you have to add oil. You might have to increase your higher caloric plant-based foods (nuts, avocado, seeds) but we would tell you to even be careful of that, too much high fat plant foods can cause issues, even to athletes.
5. How do I cook?! For stove top cooking, simply use water or low sodium vegetable broth. For baking you can use applesauce or any of these options.
6. Don’t I need to eat fat to lose weight? First, remember this is NOT a fat-free diet. You will be eating enough fat if you stick to whole starches/grains, vegetables, beans and fruit. We are not saying to cut out all fat, we are saying to cut out pure, processed fat in the form of oil. If you want to lose weight, you need to eat foods lower in caloric density, for more on that, check out Jeff Novick’s article about calorie density.
7. What about organic/natural/EVOO/other fancy ways to make oil sound healthy? And what about vegan products like vegan butter/coconut spread?
They also sell organic, natural, local cigarettes, it doesn’t mean they are healthy for you. The bottom line is that oil is a processed food that causes damage to the endothelium, causes insulin resistance, and should not be considered a health food, no matter how many great marketing words they use. As for some of the non animal based junk food out there, it is still junk food. Vegan butter is still unhealthy.
8. But I know someone who eats oil every day, and I myself added oil in my diet and felt really great! Let’s go back to the cigarette analogy, ask most people who quit smoking and start again, and they will tell you they felt a lot better when they started smoking again. Their mood was better, maybe even their energy level, they ‘felt’ a lot better. Oil is a highly calorically dense food and all fat, we would be surprised if someone didn’t feel a little hit of pleasure when they consumed it. However, that should not be confused with health. As for people who eat oil and are healthy? Chances are they are healthy despite their use of oil, not because of it. Much like the Mediterranean Diet.
9. All things in moderation! I only use oil moderately. What is wrong with that?! Read the truth about moderation here. We also like Dr. Esselstyn’s take on it – if you eat unhealthy foods in moderation, you will have a moderate heart attack.
10. Food won’t taste good anymore! Why are you ruining my life? Well, our goal is to help you make your life a lot better, by giving you some more years, and better yet, LIFE in your years. Why suffer for decades with heart disease or type 2 diabetes when you don’t have to? But we understand, giving up junk food like oil is hard, it is hard because our brains seek out the highest caloric density foods, that cause us the most pleasure response. So we agree, it is not always easy. If you want to learn more about this and “The Pleasure Trap” pick up Doug Lisle’s book on why we crave and want food that does not do us any good.
11. Where can I find oil free plant-strong recipes? We have a Pinterest page with over 400 oil free, plant-strong recipes (no need to have Pinterest, just click on the photo until you get to the recipe). You can check out Fat Free Vegan here (where she has over 1000 recipes) and here. Lindsay Nixon at Happy Herbivore has a bunch of awesome recipes. Cathy Fisher from Straight Up Food has beautiful and delicious recipes. Other resources to investigate include:
Fast Food by Jeff Novick
Burgers and Fries by Jeff Novick
Every Day Happy Herbivore
Bravo!(True North Cookbook)
Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease has over 100 great recipes, our book Engine 2 (of course!) has some of our plant-strong favorites, and the Forks
Over Knives cookbook has a lot to pick from, they also have a new cookbook coming out soon,
The McDougall Quick and Easy Cookbook, and
The Starch Solution has a lot of new McDougall recipes.
There are more recipes than we know what to do with, 1000′s of plant-strong, no oil recipes (we know we missed a few resources, but that should get you started.)
Bottom line, oil is not a health food. Please consider reading all of the resources above, but better yet – TRY IT! It might take a couple of weeks to get past the pleasure trap side of things, but it will get easier as you go. See how great you will feel when you pass on the oil.