Olive Oil: Missing the Point

extracted plant fat

We take the idea of eating oil for granted. It seems quite natural—even healthy—to add oil to our foods in cooking or on the plate. But what if I told you oil isn’t a health food? Here’s why:

Oil, including olive oil, is produced by extracting fat from plants. The vast majority of nutrients are discarded while the oil is taken out. You can think of oil the way many people already think of white flour: it is a highly processed junk food, not a whole food and certainly not a health food.

Oil is also calorie-dense, having 120 calories per tablespoon. This means that eating oil replaces a significant amount of other, potentially health-promoting foods in your diet. Either that or it means gaining weight, since extra calories consumed are stored as body fat, and adding oil to food is an easy way to consume extra calories!

This isn’t to say that fat is bad. Fatty plant foods like nuts, seeds and avocados are absolutely healthful. But if you take just their oils, like olive oil or avocado oil, you lose the whole food and so lose out on nutrients that might support your health.

When you eat vegetables, you will absorb more nutrients (fat-soluble vitamins) if you also consume some kind of fat. This is why you should never have a fat-free salad. Opt for seeds or avocado for a nutritious fat source.

Here are some suggestions to help you reduce or eliminate oil from your diet:

*Steam vegetables instead of frying or roasting
*Use a seed butter or nut butter instead of oil in salad dressings (e.g. tahini lemon dressing)
*Use hummus or salsa as an oil-free condiment on salads, vegetables, grains, etc.
*Replace part of the oil in baking recipes with applesauce or nut butter

If you are used to eating oil, it will take time to adjust to oil-free food. Try slowly lowering the amount you use – or quit all at once and expect a few weeks of food tasting different. Just like reducing salt and sugar intake, avoiding oil means your tastebuds and your expectations for food must shift. But the good news is that they adapt to whatever your current diet is, as long as you give them time.

This article is based, in part, on an article by Dr. Joel Fuhrman. Read it here.

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