Vegetable oils are plant-based, but they are not whole foods. Basically, oil is just fat extracted from olives, nuts, seeds, corn, palm, coconuts, or other sources. Oils are the processed remains of plant foods and have little nutritional value.
Isn’t olive oil good for your heart?
Not really. All oils weaken the endothelial cells that line your arteries. Olive oil jumped to the top of the health food list due to the popularity of the Mediterranean Diet. However, Mediterranean people most likely have healthier hearts due to their higher intake of vegetables and fruits, and low consumption of red meat and processed foods, not necessarily their consumption of olive oil. Olive oil is among the healthiest of oils, but that doesn’t mean you should be adding it to your diet.
Omega’s 3 and 6
Marketing companies promoting olive oil and products containing olive oil use the fact that people need to consume Omega-3 fatty acids daily for good health. It is true that we do need to consume Omega-3 fatty acids as they are essential for good health and our bodies don’t produce them. Olive oil producers use this fact in their labeling and marketing. But increasing consumption of olive oil isn’t the best way to get more Omega-3 fatty acids.
Good sources of Omega-3 fatty acids include avocados, coconuts, all nuts and seeds, nut and seed butters, and algae-derived supplements.
The reality is that people need to reduce their consumption of all oil. We are supposed to have a balance of Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids, a ratio of 1:1. The Standard American Diet (SAD) contains vastly more Omega 6 fatty acids because they are prevalent in processed foods, which contain corn, soybean, sunflower, or safflower oils, so people eating the SAD have an Omega 3:Omega 6 ratio, by some reports, of around 1:30.
The answer is not to ONLY increase consumption of Omega 3 fatty acids, but to decrease the intake of foods high in Omega 6 by reducing or eliminating processed foods.
Fat = Calorie Dense
Since fat contains twice the calories per measure than carbohydrates and protein, a food that is 100% fat is extremely high in calories. You can enjoy 3 cups of air-popped popcorn for about 90 calories, but cook it in just 2 tablespoons of oil and you will consume over 300 calories. You do need to consume fat, but it’s much healthier to consume whole, fiber-rich fat sources like avocados, nuts, seeds, beans, seaweed, and tofu.
Cooking without oil
It’s not hard to cook without oil, and one of the benefits is realizing how oil masks the flavors of food. When stir-frying, heat the pan before you add your food. If the food starts to stick, add a splash of water and continue stirring. For baked goods, there are several plant-based substitutions for oil or butter, like applesauce or almond butter. Instead of tossing vegetables in oil prior to roasting, try tahini mixed with a little mustard, curry powder, or hot sauce.