Ever since the pandemic started back in March, I’ve doubled down on my fitness and nutrition efforts. And since then, I’ve lost around 10lbs of weight, primarily fat, bringing my total down to 160lbs. I can’t remember being 160lbs since high school or college. I’ve always been lean but losing this extra 10lbs surprised me. I didn’t expect it to happen since I had no intentions of dropping weight. But it happened and one of the main things I’m contributing it to is the complete removal of added oils from my diet. But aren’t oils like olive oil and coconut oil healthy for you? Isn’t fat or oil needed for a healthy diet? And how do you eat food like sauteed vegetables or salad dressings without oil? I took a deep dive into the current state of added oil consumption in the United States and researched all the facts and myths surrounding it. Here’s what I found and how it’s helped me drop 10lbs.
Current State of Oil Consumption
As food manufacturing has evolved, food engineers have become more prevalent. With manufacturers wanting to sell more product, these engineers are tasked with making better tasting food. And what we know is that our taste buds light up when they encounter salt, oil, and sugar. So as with salt and sugar consumption, our oil consumption has increased in the United States too. More and more foods now contain oils. Potato chips, frozen meals, salad dressings, popcorn, and peanut butter all now have added oils. Most of us don’t even realize that what we’re eating has added oils in it either.
In 1970, the average American consumed 10lbs of added oil per year. 30 years later in 2000, that number doubled to 20lbs of added oil per year. And just 10 years later that number skyrocketed to 36lbs per year (2010). I couldn’t find a number for 2020 but looking at the trends, we’re likely consuming over 40lbs of added oil per year. That’s a lot of oil. Especially, when you consider the fact that oil doesn’t exist as a whole food. That means someone consuming an entirely whole foods diet would consume zero pounds of added oil per year.
Negative Effects of Added Oil Consumption
But added oil is a topic that few news sources cover or nutritionists mention. Most people even think of olive or coconut oil as healthy and add it to many of their meals. The problem with this is that these added oils are 99% fat without any substantial nutritional content. Not only is oil a nutrient sparse, 99% fat containing food, but it comes in liquid form. When liquid enters the stomach, it gets digested rapidly. And what does the body do with this immediate high-calorie fat source? It stores it as fat. It’s too many calories in too little time for the body to use and without any fiber or nutrients to slow its absorption. Because of that, added oil consumption has been linked with:
- Raised Cholesterol Levels: Added oils are shown to raise LDL levels (the bad cholesterol). Higher cholesterol levels are then linked with an increased risk for heart disease.
- Weight Gain: With oil being 99% fat in liquid form, the body can’t use it all as its being digested. It therefore gets stored as fat and is linked with weight gain.
- Slowed Blood Flow: Just as if you were to slow down water flow in your house by pouring oil down the pipes, oil makes its way into our blood and slows down blood flow over 20%. This can cause what many know as a “food coma” after eating a meal high in added fat. This can start to clog arteries and damage their walls.
Although these are the main negative effects associated with added oil consumption, there are also links with decreased immune function, overeating, inflammation, cancer, and type 2 diabetes. That’s enough for me to decide I’d rather avoid added oils altogether.
Worse Contributors? Cooking and Salads.
So where does our increased added oil problem stem from? Cooking and salads. Almost anytime food is fried, sauteed, or seared, it’s done so in oil. Whether its vegetable oil, olive oil, canola oil or any other oil, cooking is primarily performed using oil. And that’s the same for salad dressings too. Whether Ranch, Caesar, Italian, or nearly any other dressing you prefer, oil is the main component. And if you think it’s only a little oil, look at a few of these examples below:
Anytime you’re eating cooked food or having a store-bought salad dressing, it’s extremely likely that it includes added oils. Therefore, I recommend cooking your own meals and making your own nut-based salad dressings where you have full control over the ingredients. This allows you to consume oil free, nutrient dense meals all the time.
Although fat is needed for a healthy diet, there are much healthier ways to get it than oil. A variety of nuts like walnuts, almonds, cashews, pecans, and pistachios have tons of healthy fats. A variety of seeds like sesame, chia, flax, hemp, pumpkin, and sunflower seeds provide healthy fats too. Even avocados and cacao nibs are primarily healthy fats. If you incorporate a variety of these foods into your diet daily, you’ll be almost set with your daily fat requirement. The only exception may be a deficiency in Omega-3 fatty acids like DHA and EPA. But that’s why I recommend a daily multivitamin to mitigate this risk (Is This The Only Supplement Worth Taking?).
Top 3 Oil Myths
- The healthy Mediterranean Diet is built around olive oil. The reason the Mediterranean diet is considered so healthy is because it’s largely built on vegetables, fruits, whole grains and nuts which lower risk of heart disease. Although olive oil is a component in the diet, studies have shown that fat from nuts are better for longevity while also helping cholesterol levels.
- But extra virgin olive oil is different. In a study comparing cholesterol level changes within 3 months of refined olive oil, extra virgin olive oil, walnut and almond consumption, researchers found that extra virgin olive oil performed better than refined olive oil. This is likely because there are a few extra nutrients that remain with the extra virgin olive oil. But in that same study, walnuts and almonds outperformed both oils in terms of cholesterol changes. Thus, making nuts the healthier choice when compared to added oils.
- Well coconut oil is the healthiest oil. Seven studies were compared in 2016 and six of them showed statistically significant evidence that LDL cholesterol is raised when people eat coconut oil. Although some oils may be slightly healthier than other oils in some areas, added oil is still added oil. And all should be avoided for optimal health.
Our consumption of addictive and unhealthy salt, oil, and sugar has increased drastically over the past decades. This has caused all sorts of problems from heart disease to obesity and cancer. But oil has remained largely in the shadows in comparison to salt and sugar. It doesn’t get a lot of news coverage or mentions from nutritionists. While researching what the science has to say, I discovered that its effects on our health are just as detrimental though. Raised cholesterol levels, weight gain, and decreased immune function are all linked with added oil consumption. This makes sense though as oil is not a whole food. It’s an extracted substance from a whole food that lacks fiber and nutrients. All of this is why I believe removing added oil from your diet is key to a healthy life. Instead, opt for a mix of healthy fats like nuts, seeds, and avocados.
Want an oil-free recipe to jump start your health journey? Checkout the Health Kit!
Hey, I am Brandon Zerbe
Welcome to myHealthSciences! My goal has always been to increase quality-of-life with healthy habits that are sustainable, efficient, and effective. I do this by covering topics like Fitness, Nutrition, Sleep, Cognition, Finance, and Minimalism. You can read more about me here.
- The Good, Bad and Ugly About Oils
- Should I use Oil on a Plant-Based Diet?
- Why No Oil?
- WFPB – Why No Added Oil?
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil vs. Nuts
- Is Oil Good for You? 6 Facts to Know Before Making a Choice
- Oil FAQ
- Fat in Food: Fats and Oils in the Changing American Diet
- What About Extra Virgin Olive Oil?
- What You Need to Know About Coconut Oil
- What About Coconuts, Coconut Milk, & Coconut Oil MCTs?
- Olive Oil is Not a Health Food
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