Despite the myths that the Mediterranean and similar diets have copious amounts of olive oil, any oil is not a health food. Oil has no dietary fiber, is void of micro-nutrients, and will contribute to weight gain.
As a chef, believe me that learning to cook without oil was certainly different for me. I have found that I prefer the taste of food cooked without oil.
Dr. Joel Fuhrman was the first one to turn me onto the concept of leaving oil out of my diet. You can read his post here: https://www.drfuhrman.com/library/eat-to-live-blog/84/olive-oil-is-not-a-health-food
From a health perspective, oil consumption decreases endothelial function (My Post: ‘Endothelial Dysfunction Simplified’). This means that oil constricts the blood flow by 32% after a meal, injures the endothelial cells (the paper thin cells that line the interior walls of blood vessels), and triggers plaque build-up (atherosclerosis / cardio vascular disease).
See: Olive, soybean and palm oils intake have a similar acute detrimental effect over the endothelial function in healthy young subjects. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17174226
You can read more about endothelial dysfunction in my article: Erectile Dysfunction, Cardiovascular Disease and Diet.
In addition to the study mentioned above, few studies of a ‘heart healthy’ Mediterranean diet have isolated olive oil. The following study fed participants 3 different meals containing different fats: salmon, olive oil, and canola oil. They did this in order to see the postprandial effect on endothelial function (artery function after the meals). The olive oil meal reduced flow mediated dilation (FMD) by a whopping 31%! An FMD test is a non-invasive ultrasound that checks the dilation and endothelial function of arteries.
The postprandial effect of components of the Mediterranean diet on endothelial function. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11079642
Dr. Dean Ornish goes into greater detail about this study in his Reader’s Digest article ‘The Great Olive Oil Misconception — Dr. Ornish Responds‘
As I learn more about nutrition and study design, I want to note that the above mentioned study is in 10 people utilizing 60ml (2 ounces / 2 shot glasses) of oils and the type of olive oil is unspecified. The balance of the evidence indicates that good quality olive oil can be beneficial to health. In this larger, randomized study with 50ml of High-polyphenolic Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO), the EVOO acutely enhanced endothelial function.
Post-prandial effects of high-polyphenolic extra virgin olive oil on endothelial function in adults at risk for type 2 diabetes: A randomized controlled crossover trial https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33548380/
In a larger randomized study of 50 people utilizing 60ml (2oz / 2 shots) comparing two types of olive oil, neither oil contributed to arterial stiffness. There was a significant decrease in peripheral and central systolic blood pressure in the better quality EVOO group.
The Effect of High Polyphenol Extra Virgin Olive Oil on Blood Pressure and Arterial Stiffness in Healthy Australian Adults: A Randomized, Controlled, Cross-Over Study https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32751219/
In addition, we need healthy fats in our diet as some vitamins (A, D, E, & K) are indeed fat-soluble, and good quality olive oil contains oleocanthal, which is extremely beneficial to health. See my friend Dr. David Katz’s article on this topic: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/stunning-secrets-olive-oil-cherries-david/ .
I do maintain that basic vegetable oils suck for health and are extremely calorie dense, however, the balance of the evidence does indicate that good quality olive oil is good for you.
Surprising Nutritional Facts About Oil
- Gram-for-gram, oil has the same number of calories as beef fat.
- Coconut oil is 90% saturated fat, and lard is 40%.
- One tablespoon of oil has 120 calories and 14 grams of fat.
- A 130 lb woman would have to jog approximately 1.2 miles to burn off 1 tablespoon of oil.
- Within hours of ingesting oil—olive oil, corn oil, palm oil, etc.—arteries stiffen and their ability to dialate is impaired.
Oil is purely fat (with all other nutrients stripped away) and contains more calories per gram than any other food.
Choosing the Right Cookware is key to cooking without oil.
Here are a few that you may find useful:
- ScanPan brand non-stick pans (or hard anodized, non-teflon pan)
- Copper Crisper ($20 at Bed, Bath and Beyond)
- Silicon Baking Mats
- Ceramic Ovenware
- Air Fryer
- Parchment Paper when baking
This is the Copper Crisper, you can also look it up on YouTube.
Works great for air frying in your oven or toaster oven:
Instead of oil, saute with Tamari, vegetable both, coconut aminos, wine, vinegar, or Water.
Oil is not necessary for browning or caramelizing. These effects can be achieved when you’re cooking without oil; you just need to allow for more time.
When sauteing, just add a couple of table spoons of your liquids and add more as needed. If you reduce the heat on your stove top, you will avoid burning the foods that you are sauteing.
Vegetables can be steamed quickly and will retain their flavor. You can also sprinkle with your favorite seasoning.
Using non-stick cookware and parchment paper are part of the key to baking without oil. In addition you can use unsweetened applesauce, nut butters, or mashed banana to replace oil in baked goods.
No Oil Recipes:
Additional Resources: https://www.plantbasedcooking.com/cooking-without-oil/
Dr. Michael Clapper on Olive Oil:
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