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Why Oil is Bad for You

Vegetable oils are known to contain the healthy essential fatty acids where olive oil is especially known for it’s heart healthy benefits. Now there is popping up all kinds of popular “health-oils” such as avocado and coconut oil.

You have probably noticed that most of my recipes don’t contain oil, and that is not a coincidence.


Oil is not whole food plant-based

Basics first, all oils are pure fat and highly refined, it’s nutrient depleted food fragments. Oils derived from plants are no longer intermixed with the naturally balanced environment of proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and thousands of other chemicals found originally in the plants[1]

We do need fat from different sources in our diet but fat from oil is not one of those sources.


What about the essential fatty acids?

Our bodies can’t synthesise some basic elements, these must therefore come from what we eat. The elements are 11 vitamins, 8 amino acids, and 2 kinds of fat. All of these essential nutrients are made by plants, except for vitamin D from the sun and B12 from bacteria.

So it’s only plants that can synthesise omega-3 and omega-6 fats (the essential fatty acids). It’s not the fish that makes the omega-3, it’s the algae that the fish eats. With this said, we do get the essential fatty acids we need from plants[2].

Omega-6 & -3 are important to us because they assist in the formation of cell membranes, transportation and oxidation of cholesterol and the production of hormones. But when we choose to get the essentials fatty acids from oil, we are not only getting the good stuff, it’s also hurting our arteries[3].


The Risk of Heart disease

Saturated (mostly animal and coconut oil), monounsaturated (olive oil), and polyunsaturated (omega-3 & -6 oils) fat are all associated with increase in new atherosclerotic lesions[4]. All kinds of oils, including olive oil, are found to contribute to arterial damage and also the progression of heart disease[5].

In our blood vessels we have something called endothelial cells, these cells cover the inner lining of the blood vessels. The function of the endothelial cells has several critical functions and one of them is to ensure proper blood flow to and from the heart. Endothelial function also maintain the proper dilation and constriction of the blood vessels.[6]

Olive oil is found to have the same impairment to our endothelial function as high fat foods like sausage and eggs[7]

It’s not just olive oil, other oils have also been shown to have deleterious results on endothelial function[8]. Studies found a significant decrease in endothelial function that appears within three hours after a meal, no matter what oil it was[9][10]. In one of these studies[11] they found that the endothelial function decreased 32% and that all oils caused the arteries to vasoconstrict (shrink) temporarily.

Although studies show that people on a mediterranean diet (a diet loaded with olive oil) have heart benefits, these benefits are most likely due to the diet being almost vegetarian[12].

Coconut oil doesn’t have a free pass, it’s actually worse than other plant oils because of its high saturated fat content[13]. I will cover a post about coconut oil and it’s side effects later!


Weight gain

The damage in our arteries is not the only bad quality of oil, weight gain is also one of the bad qualities. Oils in general are 40 calories per tsp and 120 calories per tbsp, and 14% of the calories come from saturated fat (the bad fat). So what does this mean?

For example: If you order a 1/2 cup of steamed veggies (25 calories) and there’s just a tsp of olive oil added (40 calories), 62% of the total calories in this dish would be coming from oil. Since most of the calories are coming from the oil, this is technically no longer a side of veggies but a side of oil - with some veggies added. In addition, this side dish would be about 10% saturated fat. Jeff Novick, MS, RD explains this very well, you can read his full post here.

The impact of oil, even at this small tsp level, is dramatic.

When you eat a whole food plant based diet you will be eating nutrient dense food (higher nutrients for the fewest amount of calories). Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes are between 100-600 calories per pound, nuts & seeds are between 2000-2800 calories per pound, and oils are about 4000 calories per pound. 

So instead of eating caloric dense food (low nutrition for much calories) such as oil which doesn’t make you full anyway, eat more nutrient dense food and get full on vitamins, minerals and fiber instead. 

Because oil is cheap and lets the food last longer on the store shelves, oil is everywhere. In cookies, crackers, pre packed food etc. So be aware.

You don’t need it

As written above that only plants can synthesise omega-3 and omega-6, means that we can get these essential fatty acids from whole plant based foods[14].

The essential fatty acids are found in green leafy vegetables, flaxseeds, soybeans, nuts and seeds. By eating a varied whole food plant based diet you will get adequate amounts of the fatty acids and you will skip the problems associated with animal products, processed oils and supplements[15].

You will find the most omega-3 fatty acids (with a good ratio to omega-6) in flaxseeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, and leafy greens.

If you want to start cooking without oil, you can! I have done it for a long time and love it. You will notice how much more the food taste without a “oil glove” on your tongue and be surprised of how delicious it kan be to cook without it. 

This website explains how to cook without oil very well: How to bake without oil, How to grill, saute and fry without oil