FIRST OFF, no oil does NOT mean no healthy fats!
Some people look at the whole foods, plant-based diet and think “I could never do that, it’s so restrictive.” Those same people often think the same when they hear that one of those crazy vegans (me) has stopped eating plant-based oils too. Why would someone ever want to be oil free?
Let me set the stage with some perspective. It is common knowledge that refined carbohydrates, like cane sugar, are not as healthy as complex carbohydrates, like whole grains, legumes, and fruits. There are healthy properties and nutrients in whole carbohydrates, but not so much in refined carbohydrates.
Oil is refined fat and the same philosophy applies. There are healthy properties and nutrients in whole fats like avocado, nuts, and seeds, but there are not so much in oils.
The most popular question I get asked: Why?
1. Oil is pure fat.
I don’t need to say much more than that. It’s a fact: oil is pure fat. Take coconut oil for example: coconut oil is oil that has been extracted from coconuts. Take note of the difference in nutrition. The shredded, raw coconut meat, while predominately fat, also contains protein, carbohydrates, fiber, and sugars.
Still not convinced? Need another example? Take avocado oil vs. avocados. Avocados are a phenomenal source of fiber, while avocado oil has 0 g of fiber. Raw avocado also has a mixture of macronutrients that avocado oil does not.
2. Oils are calorically dense, processed, and void of micronutrients.
Oil is calorically dense, not nutrient dense like their whole, unprocessed counterpart. When you process the whole food into an oil, you lose micronutrition (vitamins and minerals) as well as macronutrient (carbs, proteins, and fats) diversity.
Not familiar with the concept of caloric density? Check out this article over at Forks Over Knives by Jeff Novick, MS, RD. In short, caloric density is the number of calories over the weight of the food. Most commonly (and in the table below) caloric density is discussed in terms of calories per pound of food.
If weight loss or weight maintenance is your goal, then minimizing oil in your diet is a very sensible decision! Even if weight loss or weight maintenance is NOT your goal, there are plenty of high-calorie foods (like nuts and seeds) that can provide extra nutrition and keep your calorie intake high.
Imagine yourself in the kitchen sauteeing vegetables. It’s super easy to pour 100-200 nutritionally void calories into the pan. Instead, why not flavor your vegetables by sauteeing them in vegetable broth or water?
Answer this: would you enjoy the taste of a tablespoon of olive oil? Most people get stumped when I ask them this question because the answer is usually no! The oil that you’re adding to the pan is not enhancing the flavor of the vegetables! Try tossing your vegetables in smashed avocado or an oil-free sauce for extra flavor and nutrients!
Going back to the avocado example… Avocado is packed with micronutrition, while avocado oil contains no micronutrients.
- Vitamin K: 26% RDA
- Folate: 20% RDA
- Vitamin C: 17% RDA
- Potassium: 14% RDA
- Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5): 14% RDA
- Vitamin B6: 13% RDA
- Vitamin E: 10% RDA
What about nutrient absorption?
Yes, in order to maximize the absorption of fat soluble vitamins (Vitamin A, E, D, and K) you should consume them with some fat. Notice how I said: you should consume them with some fat. That fat doesn’t necessarily need to be oil!
You can have a spinach salad rich in vitamin K with some avocado and a few almonds to ensure that you absorb the most vitamin K that you can.
Is this all-or-nothing?
NO. You don’t have to be 100% oil free. Personally, I minimize oil consumption by not adding oil to my food when I cook at home. That being said, I don’t eat out very often and most of my food has been prepared by me, so my diet is mostly oil-free.
If I am at a restaurant, I make oil-free requests within reason. For example, if I order a salad at a restaurant that doesn’t offer oil-free salad dressings, I simply request for a few lemon slices to squeeze over my salad. But sometimes it isn’t reasonable to make oil-free requests and that is okay. And there are definitely times when I’ll go to a vegan restaurant and order “vegan junk food” that is prepared with oil! No biggie!
You’re not going to die if you consume a little oil here and there. Minimizing oil consumption at home and replacing those oils with healthy, unprocessed fats will simply give your diet a nutritional edge and help you maintain or manage your weight.
HOW do I eat oil-free?!
It’s not a science, it requires a little practice. Check out this guide to minimizing oil without eliminating healthy fats! Still have questions? Comment below!