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The Daily Beet: Tips, Advice and Stories

No Oil?

Part of living a plant-strong life is letting go of oil. This includes all oil: olive oil, coconut oil, flax seed oil, hemp seed oil, ANY oil.

(You can keep motor oil for your cars!)

We know that there are a lot of myths around oil, and there has been a lot of misinformation about consuming oil. In short oil is a highly processed food that comes from a whole food, kind of like sugar comes from a sugar cane plant. (just a note, did you know you need about 3 feet of sugar cane to make a tbs of sugar? It takes 1375 olives to make a litre of oil!)

Back to oil, it is pure fat, and many of the great nutrients and properties of the whole food are extracted in the process of making a whole food an oil.

Let’s have some experts weigh in on the oil debate:

Dr. Esselstyn: “NO OIL! Not even olive oil, which goes against a lot of other advice out there about so-called good fats. The reality is that oils are extremely low in terms of nutritive value. They contain no fiber, no minerals and are 100% fat calories. And above all they contain saturated fat which immediately injures the endothelial lining of the arteries when eaten. It doesn’t matter whether it’s olive oil, corn oil, or any other kind of oil. This is so important I have detailed oil in Chapter 10 (of Prevent And Reverse Heart Disease).”

Want to know how Bill Clinton got healthy? It wasn’t only cutting out animals, it was cutting out oil.

You can also watch Dr. Esselstyn’s hour long lecture, which will give you a good start in understanding heart disease and what foods should be avoided, if you also want to avoid heart disease.

Is oil a health food or a junk food? Watch this short video by Jeff Novick. And what about coconut oil? Read all about the brilliant marketing that lead many to believe that coconut oil was a health food.

What about Dr. McDougall? Here is what he has to say:

“In our bodies these plant-derived, essential fats are used for many purposes including the formation of all cellular membranes, and the synthesis of powerful hormones, known as eicosanoids (prostaglandins, leukotrienes, and thromboxanes).

Our requirement is very tiny, and even the most basic diets provide sufficient linoleic acid to meet our requirement, which is estimated to be 1–2% of dietary energy.1 Therefore, in practical terms, a condition of “essential fatty acid deficiency” is essentially unknown in free-living populations.

*Essential fatty acid deficiency is seen when sick patients are fed intravenously by fat-free parenteral nutrition.  In these cases, correction of the deficiency can be accomplished by applying small amounts of soybean or safflower oil to their skin—giving you some idea of the small amount of oil we require.2 Plan on your diet of basic plant-foods supplying an abundance of essential fats delivered in perfectly designed packages, functioning efficiently and safely.

*Some people talk about a “relative deficiency” of essential fats created by a large intake of saturated animal fats, synthetictrans fats (as found in margarine and shortenings), and/or omega-6 fats compared to their intake of omega-3 fats, and they believe many of our common chronic diseases are the result of this imbalance.1 This is quite different from true essential fatty acid deficiency which would result in: loss of hair, scaly dermatitis, capillary fragility, poor wound healing, increased susceptibility to infection, fatty liver, and growth retardation in infants and children.1″Read the rest of the article here.And what about Fish oil?
Here is what Dr. Esselstyn has to say: “Fish oil is not essential. Fish get their omega 3 from plants. It is difficult to be deficient in Omega 3 if eating 1-2 tablespoons of flax seed meal and green leafy vegetables at several meals. There is also research that suggests that those on plant based nutrition become highly efficient in their own manufacture of omega 3. Patients on fish oil are also at increased risk for bleeding.”Dr. Campbell (in regards to DHA): “Most importantly, however, we need to understand that these chemicals (nutrients) work in a highly integrated, virtually symphonic manner to produce their health effect. Thus it is a matter of thinking about the collection of such chemicals in large groups of foods. I hold that we need to discard the traditional view of nutrition, based on the effects of single nutrients, and take seriously the symphonic nature of food chemicals working together. In effect, the ‘whole’ nutritional effect is greater than the sum of its parts.”

read the rest of what he has to say.

Wondering if you need fat to absorb nutrients? Dr.McDougall clears up that myth as well.

What about fish oil?

Dr. McDougall:

“Much attention has recently been paid to the possible benefits of increasing the intake of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) by consuming fish oil. However, this can have adverse effects such as raising LDL “bad” cholesterol levels in patients with already high cholesterol and causing a deterioration in glucose tolerance, in other words, making diabetes worse. (Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids 44:127, 1991). In one recent study of feeding w-6 alpha linolenic acid to obese subjects insulin sensitivity and HDL “good” cholesterol diminished, and the amount of oxidized LDL “bad” cholesterol increased (Aterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol 17:1163, 1997). In most other studies, however, oils high in alpha linolenic acid have little effect on cholesterol and triglycerides (Am J Clin Nutr 65:1645, 1997).” Read the rest of that article here.

Dr. Esselstyn on fish oil:

“Fish oil is not essential. Fish get their omega 3 from plants. It is difficult to be deficient in Omega 3 if eating 1-2 tablespoons of flax seed meal and green leafy vegetables at several meals. There is also research that suggests that those on plant based nutrition become highly efficient in their own manufacture of omega 3. Patients on fish oil are also at increased risk for bleeding.”

Dr. Campbell (author of “The China Study”) on fish oil:

“Most importantly, however, we need to understand that these chemicals (nutrients) work in a highly integrated, virtually symphonic manner to produce their health effect. Thus it is a matter of thinking about the collection of such chemicals in large groups of foods. I hold that we need to discard the traditional view of nutrition, based on the effects of single nutrients, and take seriously the symphonic nature of food chemicals working together. In effect, the ‘whole’ nutritional effect is greater than the sum of its parts.” read the rest of what he has to say: Dr. Campbell’s article about fish oil.

Your questions:

1. Where do we get fat? Nearly everything we eat has fat in it. It would be very difficult to not get enough fat, and many people get far too much. If you are eating a plant-strong diet, and eating enough getting enough fat is not an issue. Much like you get all the protein you need from eating plant-strong, you will get plenty of fat.

2. What about nuts/seeds/high fat plant-foods ? You don’t need to add much, like we said it is not really an issue, so long as you are not starving. If you have heart disease, type 2 diabetes or are overweight you will want to greatly reduce or eliminate high fat plant foods all together.

3. What about kids? Kids do not need to add pure fat to their diet. They can however have some of the higher fat plant foods like nuts, seeds, avocados, tofu, tempeh. But there is no reason to go overboard on this. Give fat to kids in the way of whole foods like vegetables, nuts, grains and beans.

4. What about athletes? If you are a professional level athlete (working out more than 35 hours a week) you will need to consume a lot more calories, but this in no way means you have to add oil. You might have to increase your higher caloric plant-based foods (nuts, avocado, seeds) but we would tell you to even be careful of that, too much high fat plant foods can cause issues, even to athletes.

5. How do I cook?! For stove top cooking, simply use water or low sodium vegetable broth. For baking you can use applesauce or any of these options.

6. Don’t I need to eat fat to lose weight? First, remember this is NOT a fat-free diet. You will be eating enough fat if you stick to whole starches/grains, vegetables, beans and fruit. We are not saying to cut out all fat, we are saying to cut out pure, processed fat in the form of oil. If you want to lose weight, you need to eat foods lower in caloric density, for more on that, check out Jeff Novick’s article about calorie density.

7. What about organic/natural/EVOO/other fancy ways to make oil sound healthy? And what about vegan products like vegan butter/coconut spread? They also sell organic, natural, local cigarettes, it doesn’t mean they are healthy for you. The bottom line is that oil is a processed food that causes damage to the endothelium, causes insulin resistance, and should not be considered a health food, no matter how many great marketing words they use. As for some of the non animal based junk food out there, it is still junk food. Vegan butter is still unhealthy.

8. But I know someone who eats oil every day, and I myself added oil in my diet and felt really great! Let’s go back to the cigarette analogy, ask most people who quit smoking and start again, and they will tell you they felt a lot better when they started smoking again. Their mood was better, maybe even their energy level, they ‘felt’ a lot better. Oil is a highly calorically dense food and all fat, we would be surprised if someone didn’t feel a little hit of pleasure when they consumed it. However, that should not be confused with health. As for people who eat oil and are healthy? Chances are they are healthy despite their use of oil, not because of it. Much like the Mediterranean Diet (you can read a great article about it here)

9. All things in moderation! I only use oil moderately. What is wrong with that?! Read the truth about moderation here and here. We also like Dr. Esselstyn’s take on it – if you eat unhealthy foods in moderation, you will have a moderate heart attack.

10. Food won’t taste good anymore! Why are you ruining my life? Well, our goal is to help you make your life a lot better, by giving you some more years, and better yet, LIFE in your years. Why suffer for decades with heart disease or type 2 diabetes when you don’t have to? But we understand, giving up junk food like oil is hard, it is hard because our brains seek out the highest caloric density foods, that cause us the most pleasure response. So we agree, it is not always easy. If you want to learn more about this and “The Pleasure Trap” pick up Doug Lisle’s book on why we crave and want food that does not do us any good.

11. Where can I find oil free plant-strong recipes? We have a Pinterest page with over 100′s of  oil free, plant-strong recipes (no need to have Pinterest, just click on the photo until you get to the recipe). You can check out Fat Free Vegan here (where she has over 1000 recipes) and here. Lindsay Nixon at Happy Herbivore has a bunch of awesome recipes.  Cathy Fisher from Straight Up Food has beautiful and delicious recipes. Jeff Novick has some of his fast, 10 minute meals in this wonderful album (click on photos for recipes). Healthy Girls Kitchen has a bunch of great ones. And then you can get some great DVD’s/books: Fast Food by Jeff NovickBurgers and Fries by Jeff Novick, Every Day Happy Herbivore, Happy Herbivore,

There are more recipes than we know what to do with, 1000′s of plant-strong, no oil recipes (we know we missed a few resources, but that should get you started.)

12. How do I eat out? What if I need a fast meal? This is going to take a little effort on your part, in that you are going to be a little more vocal when you eat out. But rest assured, we haven’t had a problem yet! And we travel a lot. You can read Rip’s tips on traveling here. Need quick, packaged food, we have put all of our favorite fast, packaged oil free, plant-based foods here (no need to buy them from Amazon, look for them locally, a lot of stores carry everything on the page).

13. What about the recent studies that say that olive oil is healthy? 

Read the responses by Dr. Esselstyn and Dr. Campbell. You can also read the response by Dr. McDougall, Dr. Ornish and a response by PCRM. Do not be fooled by poorly conducted studies.

Bottom line, oil is not a health food. Please consider reading all of the resources above, but better yet – TRY IT! It might take a couple of weeks to get past the pleasure trap side of things, but it will get easier as you go. See how great you will feel when you pass on the oil.

About the author

NatalaE2
Natala is the director of communications for Engine 2 Diet, she is also one of our coaches on our support site, Engine 2 Extra. A few years ago, Natala was at the end of her rope. She was on almost 15 medications daily, had out of control Type 2 Diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, issues with nerve damage, and was morbidly obese. She was just over 30 years old. She decided to take her life back by becoming plant-strong. She has lost over 200 pounds, got off of all of her medications and now has great health numbers. Natala plays the violin and studied music therapy. She became passionate about plant-strong nutrition, received her Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition through Cornell University, a certificate in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention and is currently pursuing a degree in nutritional sciences. Natala is also a featured speaker at our Engine 2 Retreats she talks about the reality of our nations obesity epidemic as well as providing practical steps to becoming a healthier person.
  • Lindy B.

    This article is EXACTLY what I needed as oil is one of the two last things I want to change in order to be 100% plant-strong! Thank you!!

  • healthygirlskitchen

    Thanks for mentioning Healthy Girl’s Kitchen. I was reading the article and thinking, boy, do I need to link to this, this is great . . . and there I was! Thanks again.

  • GC

    always nice to have a reminder…thx

  • Pingback: Something’s greasy about Dr Esselstyn’s diet | bite my words

  • Roz83

    I’ve been a vegan for a few years now and one of the hardest things about transitioning into a plant-based diet has been the reduction (and near elimination) of oil and processed fats (like vegan butter). It is very easy to grow dependent on certain foods when you are otherwise restricted! I’ve recently reduced my fat/oil intake into a tiny fraction of what it used to be and have noticed so many positive changes in my health, energy, and skin. Many people worry that they will not like the taste of their food without oil, but after a little while, you will hardly notice it. Now if there’s any oil on my food, it tastes so slimy and oily. I also feel that oil (and other fats) are a culinary cop-out. If you can’t make something taste good without fat, it probably wasn’t very good to begin with!

  • Jerry

    Are sprouted nuts and seeds acceptable when trying to reduce fat from the diet?

  • http://www.facebook.com/barbara.j.hartley Barbara Jean Hartley

    Just started a few weeks ago & I feel great, but I would also like to drop a few pounds any suggestions?

  • Pingback: The Skinny on No Oil in a Plant-Based Whole Foods Diet | Plantivores

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    The Engine 2 blog will feature tips, plant-strong success stories, how to make plant-strong work, answer your questions and feature special guest experts. Our goal is to provide you with the tools to help you become and stay plant-strong. Please be sure to jump in the conversation by leaving comments on each post!
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