We've been taught to think that certain oils are good for us - a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil here, a spoonful of coconut oil there. That they're an essential part of a healthy diet, right? It turns out this couldn't be further from the truth.
When you eat a whole food plant based diet without added oil, the positive changes can be dramatic. They certainly were for me, leading to weight loss, clearer skin and so much more energy. Here's why:
1. It’s incredibly energy dense.
Being 100% fat, oil is the most calorie dense food you can eat. When you consider that just one tablespoon of olive oil contains the same calories as a can of coke, it’s easy to understand why so many people find excess weight melting away without ever going hungry when they shift to a whole food plant based lifestyle.
2. It harms the lining of our blood vessels.
Oil is harmful to the lining of our blood vessels, known as the endothelium. The endothelium performs the important function of releasing nitric oxide, which cause the blood vessels to relax. When they’re relaxed, the blood vessels widen, allowing oxygen and nutrients to all of our organs. With nitric oxide flowing freely from your endothelium, the circulation of your entire body improves.
This is one of the reasons why many people get a ‘glow’ about them when they transition to a plant-based lifestyle; their skin is fully oxygenated and nourished, and it shows.
In addition to inhibiting the release of nitric oxide, when fat from oil enters the bloodstream, it causes the red blood cells to clump together, making them unable to pass through the smallest capillaries. When we consider that our blood vessels do the vital work of carrying oxygen and nutrient rich blood to and from every part of our body including our eyes and brain, we realise how important it is to keep our blood vessels in optimal health.
3. It increases inflammation.
While inflammation is an important healing process in the short term, chronic inflammation is now understood to be the precursor to all disease – including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer.
Inflammation also restricts blood flow by lowering nitric oxide levels – and, as you now know, we want that stuff flowing freely!
4. It raises cholesterol.
High cholesterol levels lead to a build up of the plaque that clogs arteries increasing your risk of heart attack and stroke.
Former US president Bill Clinton (a man with access to the best health care money can buy) famously reversed heart disease using a whole food plant based diet. If it’s good enough for him…
5. It suppresses our immune function.
Oil leaves our bodies with a reduced ability to fight infection or combat cancer cell growth, and has been implicated as a risk factor for breast cancer.
Stick to whole foods.
Eating oil free doesn't mean eating fat free. When we eat the whole foods, such as olives, nuts and seeds, we're getting all the nutrition and fibre that have been stripped away to create oil. We can still enjoy foods that are satiating, rich and delicious that are good for our bodies too.
What about polyphenols?
Some people argue that olive oil is good for us because it contains polyphenols, which are powerful antioxidants found in many plant foods.
Olive oil, however, isn’t the rich source of them you might imagine. For example, in 100 g of extra-virgin olive oil will give you 62 mg of polyphenols. 100 g of strawberries will give you 235 mg. This amount of oil carries 900 calories, while the strawberries yield only 33 calories.
I think I’ll be sticking with the strawberries thanks.
If you'd like to experience for yourself how delicious oil-free food can be, come along to a Nourish cooking class. There you'll learn how to create a banquet of whole plant food recipes, and we'll share them together in a long-table feast. You can learn more here.