Many health authors recommend coconut oil, olive oil or avocado oil. But I follow the lead of excellent doctors and researchers such as Dr. Esselstyn, McDougall, Barnard, Campbell, Klaper, Goldhammer (and many others) and do not use any oil.
Why No Oil?
Here are some reasons to avoid oil:
1) Oil is a refined product and the most concentrated source of calories available anywhere. One tablespoon of oil contains 120 calories of pure fat with almost no other nutrients. Refined sugar is only 50 calories per tablespoon.
A few splashes of olive oil here and there can quickly add up to hundreds of extra calories that you don’t need. Worst of all, those calories are missing all the fiber and essential nutrients and are empty.
2) Vegetable oils contribute to inflammation. Omega 6 fats contribute to inflammation in the body while omega-3 fats reduce it. But most vegetable oils have a ratio that dramatically favors omega-6 fats. We should seek a dietary ratio of no more than four times the omega 6s vs. 3. Olive oil contains over ten times the omega-6 as omega-3, and many other oils are worst.
3) Olive oil doesn’t lower LDL cholesterol; in fact, it increases it. It’s a myth to think that olive oil is “heart healthy.” Studies have only shown that it lowers LDL cholesterol when it REPLACES animal fats like butter. But to add olive oil (and other vegetable oils) to an otherwise healthy diet increases LDL levels. If you want to raise your LDL levels even faster, then eat some coconut oil. There’s a lot of hype around coconut oil, but in my opinion, it’s just another good way to get to a heart attack faster. (For the lowdown on coconut oil, watch this video by Dr. Greger.)
4) Olive oil injures the inner lining of the arteries (called endothelium). A study conducted by Dr. Robert Vogel and published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology showed that a meal containing olive oil caused severe constrictions in arteries, contributing to heart disease. Consuming olive oil reduced blood flow by 31% in this study. It’s worth noting that canola oil or salmon didn’t cause this problem (however, all vegetable oils are unhealthy to some degree).
What studies found was that the protective components of the Mediterranean diet appear to be fruits and vegetables and nuts, and NOT the olive oil. Greek people only got away with eating olive oil because they consumed a lot of fruits and vegetables. They also replaced animal fats like butter with olive oil. But olive oil in itself isn’t healthy.
5) Oils release toxic compounds when heated. Many oils become carcinogenic when heated. And yes, every type of fat can withstand a different level of heat. But don’t believe for a second that nothing is happening to your oil when you start heating it. Udo Erasmus, one of the world’s most well-known experts on fats, always recommended NEVER to heat any fat. He said: “If health is what we want, water is the only oil appropriate for frying. We’re back to steaming, poaching, boiling, or pressure cooking our foods. Or, even better in most cases, eating them raw.”
What about essential fats?
It’s true; we need some fats for good health. But all whole foods contain them to a certain degree, and in the perfect omega 3/6 ratio.
What’s my favorite source of fat? Green vegetables. Although the percentage is low, it contains omega 3s in the perfect ratio.
Additional fats should come from whole foods such as nuts, seeds, avocados, etc. Those foods contain fiber, vitamins, minerals, protein, and so many other critical nutrients that are missing from liquid fat calories.
I only take two tablespoons of ground flax seeds every day. I have tested my Omega-3 levels using a blood test, and I’m getting optimal results. My theory is that removing oil in the diet improves the omega-3 ratio because there’s no omega-6 to compete with the omega 3rd. The body can fully convert the small amount of fatty acids naturally found in every whole food, including vegetables. Including flax seeds and walnuts or hemp is a good idea.
How to Transition to an Oil-Free Diet
When I make a batch of hummus, I only use some tahini, but I don’t add any oil. The traditional recipe for hummus doesn’t contain any oil.
When I eat a salad, I usually eat it plain or with a simple seasoning of balsamic vinegar and maybe nutritional yeast. But I don’t add olive oil to it. I might add some diced avocado.
When I make rice and beans, or marinara sauce, I don’t stir-fry the onion and garlic in olive oil. I dry-sautee the onions and garlic until a little brown and then deglaze it with vegetable broth. No oil.
My taste buds have adapted to this oil-free diet. I now enjoy my food more without oil. It takes about 60-90 days for a person used to an intake of 30+% fat to adjust to a lower-fat diet (of less than 15% by calories – I favor less than 10%). Then when the transition is over, you will start to dislike oil and enjoy the taste of real, unrefined foods without added liquid fat.