But, oil is vegan – right? Yes, plant based oils are vegan so if you’re an ethical vegan there’s no reason why you can’t eat oil (actually, some people avoid certain oils due to questionable production methods and issues about sustainability, but that really isn’t the point of this post so I’m gonna try not to get side tracked). If, however, you’re eating a plant based diet for health reasons, or you’re an ethical vegan but want to get healthier (see here for our blog post on the difference between vegan and plant based), you might want to consider eliminating or reducing oils from your diet.
A question we’ve noticed has come up a lot lately is why should you reduce or eliminate oil from your diet. Below, I’ve set out a few reasons why Jonny and I have significantly reduced oils from our diet to help you make up your mind!
1. Oil is pure fat
Fat gets demonised a lot in diet culture, but in this case I think it’s deserved. Let’s take olive oil, for example. Olives themselves are whole foods that contain fat, but they also contain vitamins, minerals and fibre. The process of turning whole olives into processed olive oil, extracts the fat without the vitamins, minerals and fibre. Not only are you missing out on the health promoting nutrients found in the whole food, but without the fibre you won’t feel full. This means the calorie dense oils won’t trigger stretch responses in your stomach to let you know you have had enough, so you’ll eat a lot of calories very quickly and will be more likely to over eat.
2. It damages your arteries
Oils appear to have a detrimental effect on endothelial function (a thin membrane lining the blood vessels), regardless of the type of oil used. Research has shown that even extra virgin olive oil (often considered to be healthy) can impair the ability of our arteries to contract and dilate properly. I don’t have any medical training, so don’t want to talk about medical issues too much - for more information in this area I’d recommend checking out Dr Greger’s Nutrition Facts website.
3. You can get the fats you need from whole plant foods
In a well-balanced, plant based diet, you can get the dietary fats you need from sources such as nuts, seeds, avocado, nut butters, olives, tofu and oats. It it important to pay attention to omega 3, as there are not that many foods that are rich in omega 3. Good sources are:
- chia seeds;
- hemp seeds;
- walnuts; and
If you don’t like nuts and seeds, you can use an omega 3 supplement made from algae instead.
4. Cooking with certain oils is bad for your health
Again, I don’t want to get too in depth about medical issues here, but different oils have different “smoking points” – the point at which the chemical structure starts to break down and smoke. This releases toxins which, when breathed in, can harm the cells in your body. If you do want to cook with oils, you should choose oils with a high smoking point.
5. It’s easy enough to cook without it
We’ve found it really easy to cook without oils. We used to use oil in a lot of our cooking, for example to fry onions, but now we tend to use either water or vegetable stock. We season our food so we still get a lovely flavour, but without the added risk of inhaling toxic fumes and without the added, unnecessary, calories from pure fats!
Well, that’s my brief overview as to why Jonny and I avoid oils in our diet. I hope this has given you a starting point to do a bit of research to decide for yourself whether you want to include plant oils in your diet.