If you ever wondered “is oil bad for you?” then our guide will help you answer this complex question. Find out which oil to choose and if you should consume it at all!
Are you following a whole food diet and are unsure where to draw the line when it comes to the amount of processing your food went through?
There’s the common belief that we should eat food as it appears in nature, straight from the ground.
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But then we go ahead and make smoothies, green juices, hummus, creamy soups or bread — all of which are arguably healthy foods.
Find out more about vegan nutrition, the differences of culinary oils and how they fit your personal health goals so you can make the best decision for yourself.
Oil and vegan diets
That’s because some popular vegan doctors and nutritionists caution against the use of oil in one’s diet for health reasons.
But more and more scientific studies reveal that many oils are, in fact, good for you!
Yes, we’ve written about how we usually cook without oil, and the recipes we create for this blog don’t require any oil, either!
That doesn’t mean that we never consume it or advise against using oil, though.
Let’s take a closer look at this subject!
Differences in cooking oils
Edible oils are extracted from plant-based foods such as nuts, seeds, olives, soy or coconut with the help of an oil mill or a chemical solvent.
You’re left with a mixture of different fatty acids:
- Saturated fats
- Monounsaturated fats
- Polyunsaturated fats
Then, there are also trans fats which are mostly found in fried foods or shortening but can also be present in low amounts in hydrogenated oils.
Generally speaking, you want to focus on eating unsaturated fats to lower your disease risk, protect your organs and help with cell growth.
Sources of unsaturated fats include nuts and seeds but also certain oils which we list below!
- Olive oil — packed with phytochemicals, anti-inflammatory and blood vessel-expanding
- Canola oil — has a high smoke point, neutral flavor and is a source of omega-3 fats
- Flaxseed oil — excellent omega 3 to omega 6 ratio but can’t be heated
- Sesame oil — high-heat cooking oil with delicious flavor and lots of polyunsaturated fats
Keep your saturated fat intake lower by reducing the amount of palm oil, coconut oil and hydrogenated oil!
Find more information on good and bad oils here.
Benefits of using oil
Large health organizations agree that oil can have a place in healthy diets even though it’s refined food high in fat — which doesn’t automatically make it unhealthy.
Moreso, plant-based diets (or other healthy eating patterns) are already restrictive. Why take away even a tablespoon of olive oil in a salad dressing if there are no additional health benefits?
Especially those who want to stay vegan for life should ensure that their diet isn’t overly restrictive because this may result in them “quitting veganism.”
Nobody is suggesting that you douse everything you eat in oil but there is good evidence supporting the fact that eating a moderate amount of healthy fats is really beneficial! And yes, this includes healthy oils.
Just because a food has been processed doesn’t automatically make it “super unhealthy”.
At the same time, cooking your bacon in olive oil doesn’t make the bacon healthy!
Here are the main benefits of using healthy oils in a nutshell.
- Helps with the absorption of vitamins A, D, E, and K
- Gives food a pleasant mouth-feel
- Helps you feel satiated
- Brings out different flavors
- Helps you eat more veggies
- Great weight gain food for those with small appetites
- Low-fiber food for those with digestive problems
Let’s talk healthy fats
The term healthy fat is often used to describe whole foods that are high in fats, like nuts, seeds, olives or avocado.
While these are certainly good for you, there is no need to treat oils with a good nutritional value any different!
You absolutely do not have to consume oil and get your fatty acids from whole foods instead — but why miss out on the benefits of olive oil, canola oil or flaxseed oil?
Here’s who should consume and who should reduce their oil consumption!
Who should reduce or omit oil?
Probably the strongest argument for not using oil is that it comes in at a whopping 120 calories per tablespoon. Without adding much volume to your meals, you can drastically increase the calorie density when you use oil — even olive oil.
People who are overweight can very well benefit from reducing or omitting oil! By using different cooking methods like sautéing your veggies in soy sauce or veggie broth, you can still create delicious meals that are much lower in calories.
One large 2017 study found that participants who followed a whole food plant-based diet free from animal products and oil lost more weight and reduced cholesterol compared to the control group.
But the most significant finding was that this study achieved greater weight loss at 6 and 12 months than any other trial that does not limit energy intake or mandate regular exercise!
Check out our WFPBNO diet (whole food plant-based, no oil) guide for tips and recipes to see if it helps you with weight management.
When it comes to health issues such as heart disease, diabetes or cancer risk, more research about the role of oil in the diet is needed as current studies still aren’t conclusive.
However, the overwhelming evidence suggests that enjoying healthy fats (including oils high in unsaturated fat) is beneficial to our overall health — especially when they are replacing refined carbohydrates or saturated fats!
Who should consume oil
This brings us to the section of who should consume oil. As mentioned before, there are many good reasons why you should include unsaturated fats in your diet — both from whole food sources and healthy oils.
This means that pretty much everyone can consume oil but there are a few instances in which we suggest you definitely include oil into your diet!
- Vegan kids because they need more fat and have small stomachs
- Athletes who burn a lot of calories
- Underweight individuals who need to eat high-calorie meals
- People with an active eating disorder or past of disordered eating who should avoid any restrictions
If you’re still unsure about consuming oils, here’s a fun fact: articles that bash oils while citing the PREDIMED study use evidence that works against themselves — the findings showed that it didn’t matter whether dietary fats came from nuts or olive oil in terms of health outcome.
Then, there are also the Blue Zones, a term that describes peoples with the highest longevity around the world. Guess what, many of them are in the Mediterranean area where adults add on average 6 tablespoons of olive oil to their plant-based dishes per day!
While we used to believe certain plant-based speakers and doctors who advised against the use of oil, we changed our view based on the evidence we found and the strong scientific consensus on the topic.
We still create many everyday meals without adding oil but we are not afraid of it and deliberately enjoy oil in other dishes!
More vegan guides
If you liked this article, read the following vegan guides next!
Do you personally consume or avoid oil? Let us know in the comments below if you’ve learned anything from this article and Pin this guide here.