Despite what the media is trying to sell us about vegetable oils as superfoods, oils are NOT a health food and should at best be used very sparingly. When you think about it for a second – what is oil exactly? It’s a highly processed substance that’s been stripped of almost all nutrients and what remains is 100% pure fat. Sounds quite similar to refined sugars, doesn’t it? In addition to their use in cooking and baking, oils are found in processed foods, including cookies, salad dressing, margarine, etc. (especially ‘cheaper’ oils like the horrible palm oil, soybean or sunflower oil).
Refined vegetable oils weren’t readily available until the 20th century as technology offered the means to extract the oils from plants using either chemicals or an oil mill. Oils are often purified, refined and sometimes even chemically altered. As we see a steady increase in the availability of highly processed foods on our supermarket shelves, so does the consumption of vegetable oils. In fact, oil consumption is a high as ever! Considering that oils are the most calorically dense food that exists with 1 Tbsp = 120 calories (equivalent of eating 24 olives!!!), it might not be surprising that our population is getting fatter and battling chronic diseases in relation to this.
If we look purely at nutritional values now – 1 tbsp of oil has actually the same amount of fat as a Snickers bar.
While all of the major plant-based doctors in the field have been recommending for years to cut out oil from your diet or to use it very sparingly, the media continues to spread misinformation about the alleged health benefits of oil. Coconut oil has been pushed and intensely marketed as the new superfood for years now, when it is actually really harmful. Coconut is one of the few plant sources that has a very high amount of saturated fats (more than 90%), which evidently raises the bad cholesterol LDL. See → here ← for detailed info.
“I think of oil as the table sugar of the fat kingdom. Similar to how manufacturers take healthy foods like beets and throw out all their nutrition to make sugar, they take wholesome corn and scorch-earth it down to corn oil. Like sugar, corn oil calories may be worse than just empty.” -Dr. Michael Greger
While some oils like raw virgin olive and flax oil are considered slightly more nutritious as they’re less processed, the whole food they came from will always be the healthier choice providing fiber, vitamins and minerals. Olive oil is advertised as a good source of omega 3, but you’d have to consume an entire cup of it just to fulfill your daily recommended amount. See more info → here ←!
I personally have started cutting out refined oils from my diet about 2.5 years ago and have seen major benefits ever since. Apart from loosing 10kg and having much more energy than before, I simply feel much more clear headed. At home I cook without any oils about 95% of the time and limit my oil intake to eating out. The differences you’ll feel once your body gets used to less oil are incredible really. The Mediterranean diet is LOADED with olive oil and eating out in a traditional restaurant in Cyprus has become such a strain almost, as every single time I leave with stomach problems, a foggy head and just tired. Bottom line: oils are NOT a health food!
Having said that, I don’t advocate a low fat diet or restricting your intake of healthy fats from whole foods. I know some people might thrive on a very low fat diet, but personally I think there are so many benefits to eating wholesome fats like nuts, seeds, and avocados that you shouldn’t be afraid of them! Healthy fats are vital for optimal health and nutrient absorption so I make sure to include them in EVERY single meal I eat in the form of nut/seed butters, guacamole, oil-free salad dressings, etc. Absorption through whole fats is in fact much slower than with oils and they will mostly be burned for energy instead of being stored.
How to get all necessary healthy fats?
As I said, it’s important that our bodies get certain healthy fats in the right amount, in particular omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. It can be important to pay attention to omega 3, as there are not that many foods that are rich in omega 3 (short chain ALA and long chain EPA/DHA). A combination of flax seeds, walnuts, chia, algae and other plant sources rich in omega 3, however, should sufficiently cover our body’s needs. More information → here ←.
The good news: that’s fairly easy!