Contrary to popular opinion, oils are not health foods. Oils are 100% pure, liquid fat which has been extracted or pressed from olives, corn, coconuts, peanuts, seeds, other whole foods and fish.
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. Oils contain no bulk, no fiber, and 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 as well as inflammation.
- Every type of oil (saturated, poly unsaturated, monounsaturated) is associated with an increase in arterial plaque build-up which contributes to heart attacks.
- Oils cause our red blood cells to clump. Studies show flow-mediated dilation decreases by over 30% for four hours after we eat a fatty meal.
- Vegetable oils cause more severe and prolonged sludging of the blood than do animal fats. According to Dr. John McDougall in his Dec. 2015 newsletter, when fats cause the cells to clump and stick together, the resulting slowing of blood flow may become so severe it can cause the blood flow to stop entirely in many small vessels. As a result, the oxygen content of the blood decreases by 20%. Eating three high-fat meals per day compromises blood circulation all day long, which can cause angina, impaired brain function, high blood pressure and fatigue.
- It bears repeating that coconut oil is not only 100% fat, but 92% of that fat is saturated fat. The makers of coconut oil use fraudulent claims to promote this product, which you can read about here and here.
What else does Dr. McDougall have to say:
“In our bodies, 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?
Many physicians and patients believe that fish oil supplements will improve health, and more specifically, reduce the risk of dying of a heart attack. Heart attacks occur when a blood clot suddenly forms in a heart artery as a result of the rupture of a small plaque. Omega-3 fats inhibit blood clotting and in this manner are believed to prevent heart attacks. Although, hypothetically, these supplements should be beneficial, a recent meta-analysis of only the highest quality studies (blinded, randomized, placebo-controlled trials) showed no effect on cardiovascular outcomes. This means the speculative benefits from the blood-thinning effects of fish oils fail to compensate for the harmful effects of the meat- and dairy-based Western diet.
Eating fish oil has serious downsides. The blood-thinning properties increase the risk of generalized bleeding; these consequences could mean death from a car accident. Fish oil suppresses the immune system. The result might be a reduction of arthritic pains, but this same suppression will accelerate cancer growth. Fish oil is 100% fat, and the fat you eat is the fat you wear. Thus, it causes weight gain. Approximately one billion dollars are spent on this supplement annually, compared to multivitamin sales of $4.8 billion. You can expect these supplements to remain popular because selling fish fat is big business.
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.
So what should you do to avoid oils?
- WATCH the labels on packaged foods, which are loaded with oils. Peanut butter, tortilla shells, crackers, cake mixes, everything. Some research suggests that we can ingest an additional 600-900 calories/day from the oils in processed foods. Avoid hydrogenated oils (trans fats) at all times, as there is no safe amount.
- Replace oils in baked recipes with unsweetened applesauce. You won’t notice a difference in taste. Other substitutes (for oils, margarine, eggs and coconut milk) can be found here.
- Sauté veggies with veggie broth or water, just adding a little at a time to prevent sticking. You’ll probably notice that you can taste the veggies again, now that they aren’t coated with oil.
- Create your own oil-free salad dressings (there are hundreds of recipes on-line) or purchase a healthy brand at the store (Maple Grove Farms has some good ones).
- Don’t fall for the marketing tricks the industry uses to make a junk food look like a healthy product. The words “organic” or “natural” or “expeller pressed” – used by manufacturers when labeling oils, coconut butter or vegan margarines – does not mean that the product is healthy! It’s still a highly processed, pure fat product that does damage to your body.
- BEWARE of restaurant food, as most of it is prepared or served with oils. ASK the chef to prepare something oil-free for you (most of them will). Call ahead to be on the safe side.
- BEWARE of popular fad diets that promote consuming oils, butters and other high-fat foods. Their ‘science’ is at best questionable, and they’re selling lots of books by giving people good news about their bad habits. Evaluate everything your read and hear when it comes to your health. Here are some helpful tips to help you do so.
Lastly, don’t worry that you’re not getting enough fat on a whole food, plant based diet. Starches, beans, vegetables, grains and fruit all contain some degree of fat. It would be extremely difficult to not get enough fat, calcium, protein, or any other nutrient – with the possible exception of B12 – on a well-structured whole plant diet.
So don’t go out of your way to add high-fat plant foods such as nuts, seeds, avocado and coconut to your diet; these foods should be consumed sparingly (unless you’re suffering from heart disease, Type 2 diabetes or other chronic diseases, in which case they should be greatly reduced or eliminated).
(Did you know that God delights in your welfare?)
“Let those who delight in my righteousness shout for joy and be glad and say evermore, “Great is the Lord, who delights in the welfare of his servant!
(Ps 35:27, ESV, underline mine)