Hello, my friends! Welcome to the first blog post of 2021! Today we are going to be talking about a topic that I am asked a LOT of questions about…. oil. More specifically, why I don’t use oil in my cooking.
If I had to narrow down the questions I am most often asked regarding my eating habits, I would say that “why don’t you use oil?” is pretty high up there. It’s probably second place, right behind “where do you get your protein?” (that’s a whole other question for another day!).
So today I am here to answer this always-asked question for you! Probably in more detail than you necessarily expected.
First of all, I want to reiterate that I believe that everyone’s version of “healthy eating” is different. Although I of course encourage the idea of eating more whole plant foods when possible, I think that the exact way you eat is completely dependent on you – your body, what makes you happy, and what is realistic for your situation! I would never tell someone that they HAVE to completely give up added oil to be healthy, nor do I claim to be the perfect epitome of health.
I have made the personal decision to generally not cook with added oil. Now, you may disagree with my thoughts on the subject, and that’s okay. If you want to keep using oil, you do you. But my goal for this post is to explain why I have chosen this lifestyle, and from there you can decide for yourself how you feel about it and what works for you!
If you’re intrigued by the no-oil concept by the end of this post and want tips on how to make the transition, stay tuned for an upcoming post with all of my tips and tricks!
What is Oil?
To understand my stance on oil, let’s talk about what exactly it is. Oil is a substance that is extracted from something such as olives, coconuts, or another high-fat food. This fact alone means that it is not a whole food – which, for me, means that I don’t want to include it in my whole food plant based lifestyle. I try my best to use foods that are whole or at least minimally processed, and oil simply doesn’t fit into that category for me. I believe in getting my nutrition from the entire food source, rather than just parts of the food, which is the opposite of what oil is!
Now you may be thinking “but you use pasta, which is processed because it uses flour!”. This is true. However, I typically only use pasta that is made with whole grain flour. This means that the flour is made by grinding up a whole grain. So while the grain is being modified in some way (ie being ground up), parts of it were not taken away in the process. The entirety of the grain is still there, it’s just in a different form. This is why I consider things like pasta to be “minimally processed”, versus the more highly processed oil. By taking away part of the whole food, it no longer serves me in the best way.
Does Oil Have Nutritional Value?
There is a lot of information out there about oil – some claiming it to be good for you, and some claiming it to be bad. It can get confusing, just like most things in the nutrition world.
There is definitely some truth in the argument for the nutritional benefits of oil. (Stick with me). Oil does contain a few important nutrients, such as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Oil is also a fat source, and as humans we should be consuming some fat with our foods!
However, those two facts don’t tell the whole story. Oil is highly calorically dense, meaning that just a small amount of oil will add a lot of calories to your dish. Now, I don’t necessarily strive to follow a “low calorie” diet. BUT I do believe that while you consume your calories, you should also be consuming your nutrients! For the amount of nutrients vs calories that oil contains, it simply doesn’t give you the best bang for your buck. It gives you a lot of calories, with very little nutrients in comparison. That means that it’s taking the place of other calories that could provide you greater nutrition!
As for the argument that oil is a fat source – yes, this is true. However, it is a processed fat source with a relatively small amount of nutrients. (See a theme here?) Any source of fat will naturally be high in calories, because that’s kind of what fat is! However, if we focus on whole food fat sources such as avocados or nuts, we are going to get tons of nutrients along with them! This, to me, is preferred because I know that I’m giving my body lots of nutrition packed in with the calories, rather than just the calories themselves.
If you’re concerned about those omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, don’t worry! You can still get those from less processed plant sources, such as seeds (especially flax seeds), nuts, and even green vegetables.
Summed up, yes – oil does have some appealing properties. And for your specific situation maybe it makes sense to use it! But I feel that we can easily find those same properties in other sources that are less processed and pack in more nutrients overall. My personal rule of thumb is that I prefer to go right to the source of the nutrients rather than rely on oil (ie I’d prefer to eat an avocado rather than avocado oil).
So… You Don’t Use ANY Oil?
Due to the reasons that I have explained throughout this post, I almost never use oil in my own personal home cooking. Occasionally I will, but it’s rare.
When it comes to eating out, I don’t worry much about this. To put it bluntly, I find it very difficult to avoid oil while eating out. Practically everyone (and every restaurant) uses it. My general rule is that I don’t use it at home, which makes up most of my meals, and then I don’t have to sweat it so much when it sneaks into my takeout food!
I also want it to be noted that everything I’ve said today is in regards to added oil. I recognize that nuts, avocados, and other foods that I eat have oil in them. However, again, I prefer to go right to the source for my nutrients – so consuming a whole food that happens to naturally contain some oil is okay with me! It just doesn’t fit my lifestyle to add extra oil in addition to this. That being said, I’m all about balance. If a friend stops by with a handful of chocolate chip cookies and they have some oil in them, you bet I’ll eat them. I just won’t rely on them for every meal! I don’t think that oil is pure evil. I just don’t think that relying on it all the time matches my lifestyle.
Ultimately, everyone needs to eat in the way that works for them. Whether that includes oil or not is up to you! But hopefully my seemingly odd low-oil lifestyle makes a little bit more sense now!
If you want to know more about HOW to cut back on added oils, stay tuned for part 2!