Most people in Western society have heard that consuming oil can be healthy, at least certain oils. As a certified Starch Solution nutritionist, I would like to bust the common myths and share considerations for why you might choose to eat oil-free.
1. Oil is not nutritious.
The process of creating oil removes the fiber, carbohydrates, protein and, therefore, virtually all nutrients from its source. The only remaining nutrients are a bit of Vitamins E and K.
MYTH: Oil is a good source of Vitamin E.
Truth: The cooking oil industry often promotes oil for its Vitamin E, which improves immunity, skin, and nails. However, the amount of Vitamin E is relatively insignificant. For example, a tablespoon of olive oil provides 13% of the recommended daily value (RDV). Significantly more potent (and nutrient-dense) sources of Vitamin E include nuts, spinach, and broccoli. Just an ounce of sunflower seeds provides 66% of the RDV!
MYTH: Oil is a good source of Vitamin K.
Truth: Vitamin K is required for blood clot formation, but once again, the amount in cooking oil is relatively insignificant. Canola oil has the highest amount of Vitamin K of all oils, but you would still need 9 tablespoons of it to get 100% of the RDV. Cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, and kiwifruit contain significantly more Vitamin K. A cup of kale has 443% of the RDV!
MYTH: Olive oil is a good source of antioxidants called polyphenols.
Truth: You can get the same amount of polyphenols from a cup of leafy green vegetables. The leafy green vegetables are 10% of the calories, with the added benefit of healthful fiber and nutrients.
MYTH: Oil is a good source of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids.
Truth: Nutritious plant-based sources of omega’s, such as flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, and spinach, are much more potent and nutritious sources. For example, to get your daily requirements of Omega-3s from olive oil, you’d have to drink a cup of it (which is 1,900 calories!). Instead, you could get your daily dose from 1.5 tablespoons of flax seeds (83 calories).
2. Oil contributes to chronic illnesses.
Most oils are high in saturated fat, which has been shown to be a contributing factor for chronic illnesses, including heart disease. There are numerous articles that attempt to debunk this information, but they are based on studies sponsored by the meat, dairy, and processed food companies. For example, The Saturated Fat Studies Set up to Fail describes how the dairy industry creates and promotes studies to undermine the global consensus and guidelines from the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology.
ALL oils contain saturated fat. Coconut oil has the highest percentage, with a whopping 91%! Olive oil and avocado oil are often promoted as begin “heart healthy” because they have the lowest amounts of satured fats, yet 14% and 12% of their calories still come from saturated fat, respectively.
If you have pre-diabetes, Type 1 diabetes, Type 2 diabetes, or gestational diabetes, saturated fat causes insulin resistance. If you want to gain better control over your blood sugar, prevent Type 2 diabetes, or reverse Type 2 diabetes, removing all oil from your diet can help significantly.
Oil is a required nutrient because it helps absorb vitamins. However, a daily consumption of beans, vegetables, and fruits can provide all the fat we require. If you want an extra dose of fat, stick with the sources of oil before their nutrients are removed, e.g., avocados, olives, and nuts.
3. Oil is extremely high in calories.
Oil has the highest amount of calories of all food products. Oil gets all of its calories from fat. A gram of fat is 9 calories, while a gram of protein or carbs is 4 calories. Unless you have no need to worry about maintaining or losing weight, oil is not a good choice.
4. Eating oil-free may help you live a longer and healthier life.
Blue Zones are the regions where the people have lived the longest, healthiest lives, free of most Western diseases, like heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, and dementia. Their diet primarily consists of whole, fresh grains (like rice and pasta), beans, vegetables, and fruits. They do not consume oil, or they consume it in very limited quantities. For example, Italians who eat a Mediterranean diet are generally are trim and healthy despite their consumption of a minimal amount of olive oil.
5. Oil is not required for cooking.
Why consume the empty calories and highly processed food when you don’t need it? Oil actually dilutes the flavor of the food you’re cooking as well. You end up tasting oily vegetables rather than the true taste of the vegetables. As you eat more veggies and starches without oil, your taste bads will change to enjoy the taste of the food itself. There are numerous ways you can cook without oil, such as:
- Use non-stick cookware.
- Use water, broth, wine, sherry, soy sauce, lemon juice, or salsa.
- Line your baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Use balsamic vinegar to roast your vegetables. You can get a variety of flavored balsamic vinegars to make a variety of yummy flavored roasted vegies. For example, see Chef AJ’s yummy Roasted Brussels Sprouts recipe.
To make fried food without using oil, use an air fryer, or make your crispy veggies in a standard oven by spraying the veggies with water first. For example, try this French fry recipe from Plant-based Gabriel.
To make your own corn tortilla chips, cut corn tortillas into triangles and place them on parchment paper, spray the tortilla pieces lightly with water, bake at 350 F for 10 minutes, flip and spray the other side, then bake for an additional 8 minutes. Voila! Bite into a chip and you’ll quickly see that it is delicious even just by itself.
For your salads, pastas, and veggies, you can replace your oil-based dressings with balsamic vinegar, salsa, homemade oil-free dressings (like these from WFPB Chef Dreena Burton), or oil-free hummus. Here’s how I make my yummy lemon hummus: In a blender or food processor, combine 1 15-ounce can of chickpeas (a.k.a garbanzo beans), 1 tbsp garlic powder, 1/3 cup fresh cilantro, juice from 1/2 lemon, and 1/8 cup of water. Add additional water as needed, and blend until you have a thick sauce.
If you’d like to learn more about healthy oil-free cooking, follow me on Instagram or Facebook to see my meals and recipes. If you found this article helpful, or if you have questions, let me know in the Comments section below.
For Informational Purposes Only. The contents of LibbyRome.com are designed for educational purposes only and are not intended to serve as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The information should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease. It is not a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you have a health problem, you should consult your health care provider.