Most people believe plant-based oil is quite healthy. In recent years, an increasing number of people has decided to replace animal fat with plant-based oils when cooking. However, while animal fat is not healthy, neither is oil. That is also why many vegan doctors such as dr. Greger, dr. McDougall and dr. Esselstyn advise people to not only eat plant-based, but also to stop consuming oil.
Too much oil
People often believe that they don’t consume that much oil. However, oil (or a product like margarine that have it as an ingredient) is often not only used for cooking (to fry in or over a salad). Most processed foods also contain oil. Many people consume it all day, through sandwich spreads (peanut butter, hummus, vegan cheese/meat), snacks (cookies, chocolate) and ready made products (sauces, meat substitutes). That way, most people consume much more of it than people used to do in the past. That’s not only bad because oil isn’t healthy, but also because it contains a lot of calories, as it’s pretty much pure fat. Especially in countries where many people already consume too many calories, adding unnecessary calorie dense foods is not a good idea. Even more so as it consists mostly of empty calories. It is mainly fat, stripped from almost all other nutrients. This makes oil comparable with white bread and junk food, that also contain some useful nutrients, but are mainly empty calories.
Olive oil, for example contains omega 3 and is often advertised as a good source of omega 3. However, to get the daily recommended amount of omega 3 from olive oil, you’d have to consume an entire cup of it, containing about 1900 calories! So while oil does contain some useful nutrients, it’s much better to get healthy fats and other nutrients from other sources that contain a wider variety of useful nutrients in higher amounts. Similarly to when you eat a lot of junk food, if you get a considerable amount of your calories from oil, you can also eat less healthy food without gaining weight. That makes it more difficult to consume enough healthy food to get enough of all the different vitamins and other nutrients.
It’s a processed food
Nowadays, many people realise that processed food is often not very healthy. However, oil is still being seen as a healthy product, even though it’s a processed product as well. In order to make oil, it needs to be processed in many different ways, from pressing the oil out, but also cleaning the oil as it often contains a lot of pesticides and other pollutants. In addition, the oil has to be processed in order to be able to preserve it. Oil naturally becomes rancid very quickly, so making it preservable is necessary.
When making oil, the fats are taken out of a product, for example olives. This fat is than eaten without the other nutrients that are naturally only available together in whole foods such as olives. This makes oil hard to digest and means that a meal with oil, for example a salad, takes much longer to digest than that same salad without oil. In addition, nutrients are often better absorbed in the combinations naturally available in whole foods, which is another reason why eating olives is much healthier than olive oil.
Higher risk of diseases
For a long time, it was thought that plant-based oil was quite healthy. For example, olive oil was linked to the Mediterranean diet that is known to be relatively healthy with a smaller chance of diseases of affluence. However, more recent research suggests that the usage of olive oil doesn’t play a part in making a Mediterranean diet healthy. Other factors such as the consumption of high amounts of fruit and vegetables and the fact that the people who took part in the research did a lot of exercise and often physically heavy work are now seen as the reasons why they seemed to be more healthy.
Other research has shown that oil slows down the blood flow, increases the chance of cardiovascular diseases and has a negative impact on our immune system. In addition, oil contains a lot of calories so consuming a lot of oil increases the chance of obesity, which in turn increases the chance of many different diseases. For a long time, it was thought that polyunsaturated fat was good to keep cholesterol levels down. However, there is little research that suggests that consuming oil lowers cholesterol levels or contributes to a better health more generally. Research that compared different diets mostly showed that decreasing or stopping the consumption of both animal fat and oil contributed to a lower chance of diseases. Merely replacing animal fat with oil made little difference. Even coconut oil, which is often advertised as being healthy, increases the chance of getting a variety of diseases. As it contains a lot of saturated fat (about 90%), it has about the same effect as consuming animal fat and there is no scientific proof that coconut oil is healthier than other fats or oils.
Another reason why oil is unhealthy is because when heated, toxic chemicals are released into the air. This happens with both animal fat and plant-based oils and these chemicals have mutagenic properties. Cooking with oil and breathing in these chemicals increases the chance of lung cancer and other respiratory problems.
How to get healthy fats?
Of course our body does need certain healthy fats, so it is important that you do consume several healthy types of fat in the right amount. Luckily, it’s quite easy to get enough fat from sources such as nuts, seeds, avocado, nut butters, olives, tofu and oats. In fact, while these are foods that contain a high amount of fat, almost all food contains at least some fat, so you don’t need to worry about consuming too little fat. It can be important to pay attention to omega 3, as there are not that many foods that are rich in omega 3. Good sources are chiaseeds or other seeds, or certain nuts such as walnuts. If you don’t like nuts and seeds, you can use an omega 3 supplement made from algae instead. That way you can get enough omega 3 in a much more animal friendly and healthy way than by consuming fish, as a lot of fish and fish-based supplements contain heavy metals.
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