One of the most common questions that I get is: why don’t you recommend oil?
What about coconut oil? Or extra-virgin olive oil? Or flax seed oil?
I follow the lead of excellent doctors and researchers such as Dr. Esselstyn, McDougall, Barnard, Campbell, Klaper, Goldhammer (and many others) in my stance against oil.
I don’t use any oil, including olive or coconut — and never eat any except in circumstances where I’m not in full control of the food that I’m eating.
Once you’ve experienced going oil-free, you don’t want to go back. The benefits of eliminating oil from the diet are numerous, and you will feel many of them immediately.
You’ll have more energy. Oil is 100% pure fat with no protein or carbohydrate, and very few other nutrients. Fat is twice as concentrated in calories as carbohydrates, containing nine calories per gram vs. four for carbohydrates. You’ll have more energy eliminating oil because you eliminate a concentrated source of calories. You will replace those calories with foods that give more energy, such as fruit, healthy starches, vegetables, and whole nuts and seeds or avocados.
Your mood will improve. Again, consuming liquid fat means consuming fewer carbohydrates and healthy sources of protein. Whole carbohydrates contribute positively to serotonin production.
Your digestion will improve. Oil makes digestion sluggish. Liquid fat takes a lot more time to digest than carbohydrates. On an oil-free diet, your digestion will be excellent! You will never feel too full or experience discomfort after a meal, even if it is big.
You’ll lose weight. You might think that eating so many carbohydrates makes you fat. But in reality, it’s the combination of carbohydrates and fat that makes one fat. Carbohydrates are burned as energy whereas fat can be stored directly as body fat. If one consumes both carbohydrates and fat in significant quantities, the carbohydrates will be used as energy and the fats will be stored as body fat (as long as total calories exceed what the body needs). Liquid fat (oil) are the easiest types of calories for the body to store as body fat.
It has been my experience that an oil-free, low-fat diet is the only diet where I can eat as much food as I want, never worry about quantities, and never gain any weight. I have gone back and forth with different approaches over the years, but it’s only with this oil-free diet that I have achieved and stayed at my ideal weight.
Your blood sugar will improve. I used to check my blood sugar every day. Eating fat and especially meat has always caused the greatest spike in blood sugar. That’s because a high-fat diet lowers insulin sensitivity. In fact, beef causes more insulin production than white sugar.
Why No Oil?
Here are some more 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.
Multiple studies have found that adding fat to food makes people over-consume calories without realizing it because fat has a very low satiety factor compared to carbohydrates or proteins. Many of these fascinating findings are described in the book “Salt, Sugar, Fat.”
Remember: it takes 24 olives to make 1 TBS of olive oil. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never once added 24 olives to a single serving of salad.
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 favor omega-6 fats. We should seek to 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. As Dr. Williams recently pointed out in an article published on Renegade Health, vegans tend to eat too much coconut oil, and it does raise their LDL levels. 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.) Note: whole coconuts are healthy. You can eat them.
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 oil 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 to NEVER 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.
What About Olive Oil?
One of the biggest LIES we’ve been fed over the last 15 or 20 years in nutrition circles is the idea that olive oil is awesome for health and that we should drizzle it all over everything.
Watch any cooking show on TV, and you’ll see the chef lift that elbow high. In fact, they don’t even calculate how much olive oil they put.
“So we’re going to drizzle a few tablespoons of Olive oil in our pan before we start frying our organic wild-caught Atlantic salmon…”
There goes about a a quarter cup of olive oil.
Why Olive Oil Is NOT Awesome
The idea of olive oil as a healthy food comes from research that’s been done on Mediterranean countries, like France and Greece.
In the 70s and 80s, a lot of research went into trying to answer a mysterious paradox:
Why are some countries consuming a lot of fat, yet experiencing less heart disease than other countries that eat more fat?
It was the beginning of the French paradox.
So there began the Lyon Health Study, the biggest of its kind at the time, that studied over 16 countries in the Mediterranean and found that the island of Crete was the one that experienced the best health at the time (this was BEFORE major industrialization took place on that island).
What the Lyon Health Study did was to compare a “Mediterranean-type” diet, inspired from the data available, to a control study that they labelled a “Low Fat Diet”
They put people in two separate groups. One was to eat the “Mediterranean Diet,” and one the “Low Fat Diet”.
Mediterranean Group: They were instructed to eat more bread, more root vegetables, more fish, more fruit, but reduce red meat, use margarine instead of butter, and olive oil on salad. Wine in moderation.
Low Fat Diet:The so-called “low fat diet” still consumed over 34% of their calories from fat! In my book, that’s not a low fat diet. On the other-hand, the “Mediterranean” group ate 30% fat, and much less cholesterol. The Low Fat Diet was higher in fat than the Mediterranean diet!
What they found is that people in the “Mediterranean” group experienced a dramatic reduction in cardiac death following that diet (50-70% less). So they even had to stop the study, fearing for the health of the control group on their so-called “Low Fat” diet.
What’s interesting is that all of the benefits from the “Mediterranean” diet can easily be explained by the slightly better choices they made: eat more vegetables and fruit, eat less meat, avoid saturated fats.
Here’s where it gets interesting:
– The studies on the Mediterranean diet NEVER proved that olive oil is healthy food in itself
– They only proved that replacing other fats (like butter) with olive oil is slightly better
– The main message from the study is to eat more fiber, whole grains, fruits, vegetables and exercise!
Even a further study, the Nurse Health Study, shows that women eating olive oil are only marginally healthier than those who don’t.
The truth is that inhabitants of the island of Crete used to be very healthy because:
– Ate lots of fresh produce and some coarse (whole grain) bread
– They ate beans and fish instead of refined foods and fatty meats
– Yes, they added some olive oil to their diet (2 tablespoons a day), but burned it off by walking and hiking on average 9 miles a day!
For your information, I visited the island of Crete in 2010. Now 60% of the population there is overweight.
How to Transition to an Oil-Free Diet
Now, does that mean you can never have a splash of olive oil? If you’re very active and burn a lot of calories, a bit of olive oil probably won’t hurt you. But it’s better to go without it. Try giving it up and you’ll notice that your taste for oil will disappear. If you crave something fatty, have whole nuts and seeds instead, or even some nut butter. Eat some avocado. And whole coconuts contain ALL of the benefits of the coconut. Coconut oil is just pure fat. What could be tastier than a fresh, young coconut?
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. I stopped purchasing the tahini brands that contain oil (most of them).
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 a diet of 30+% fat to adjust to lower-fat diet. Then when the transition is over, you will start to dislike oil and enjoy the taste of real, unrefined foods without added liquid fat.
1 Harvard Magazine
2 US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health