Renegade Health Radio: Is Oil Healthy?

Monday Jul 28 | BY |
| Comments (23)


In this podcast:

  • The bottom line on oil: Is it healthy or not?
  • Why if you’re eating crap and are adding oil to it, your body will go haywire.
  • One circumstance where eating a higher-fat diet might help you thrive (at 6:05).
  • Why people who want to drop the pounds you should focus on foods with low caloric density, and avoid ALL oil (at 6:30).
  • Why olive oil does not lower the risk of heart disease, and in fact, increases it when you just pour it on top of your salads, and how the studies on olive oil have been totally misinterpreted (at 10:30).
  • The three types of oils you should always avoid, because they’re too rich in omega-6 fats and cause inflammation (at 15:30).
  • Two oils that you can consume with great benefits, because of their high omega-3 content (at 17:35).
  • Which oils you should avoid cooking with, if you care about your health (at 18:50).
  • Fred issues challenge to you (and predicts what will happen!) (at 22:30).

Click the play button to start the podcast:


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Kevin: Renegade Health Radio. This is Kevin Gianni with Frederick Patenaude. We’re going to be talking about some cool stuff today. Fred, you want to let us in on it?

Fredric: Sure. Hi, Kevin and everybody. Because it’s summer, we want to, you know, we’re not going to talk about summer recipes and stuff like, that because we’re geeks. We’re still going to talk about the old controversies in nutrition. But this is really important, because this is something that’s been going on for a long time, so we’re going to talk about oil and what’s kind of the bottom line on it.

Is it healthy? Is it not?

Because we got a question from a reader, so this topic today comes from a question. So a reader from Italy, Joe, is confused about oil, because there is confusion in the nutrition world. On the one side, you have Dr. Esselstyn who is strongly against oil, even olive oil, and talks about the inflammation to the endothelial lining of the arteries. And he’s got good results with his patients getting them off oil. And then other doctors, as well, in the vegan world, are against oil.

Then you’ve got, on the other hand, you’ve got Mercola, you’ve got athletes like Brendan Brazier, Mike Mallory, who is a vegan bodybuilder, Gabriel Cousin, and so on, that sort of push high-fat diets. Not all of the fat is oil, but some of it comes from refined sources.

The question is…and also, there is the cholesterol issue. The entire issue of fat and refined fat. What’s the role in the diet? Is it healthy? Is it not? Does it feed cancer, and so on? That’s a question we get. I kind of summarized it from Joe, because he rambled a little bit.

Kevin: No, no, no. It was a great question.

Fredric: It was a good question, but I just summarized it for everybody, and so we were on target to talk about this, because this is a very important question.

Kevin: Yeah. And the thing about the oils that I look at first…so you go through this question and there’s a lot of different data and a lot of different people that Joe is pulling from. And one thing that I want to start off with is, Esselstyn does amazing work, right? The work at the Cleveland Clinic that Esselstyn does is awesome. The challenge that I have with some of the data, as well as what I have with Dr. Alan Goldhammer, too. I love the guy. I love Alan Goldhammer. I love what he does at True North. The challenge that I have is that these people are generally seeing people who don’t come from this health background that we do. So if you’re listening to this podcast, you know so much. And you know Fred and I are totally geeks about all this stuff, too, so we know a lot.

But people are going to Esselstyn, like, Bill Clinton went to Esselstyn. So Bill Clinton goes there. Bill Clinton didn’t know a lot about diet, decided to become a vegan based on what Esselstyn said, saved his life, right? So that’s a big deal. But I mean think about what Bill Clinton might have been eating before compared to if you or I went there, and then went to say we had a heart problem. Would we have a heart problem? I don’t know. But say we went there. We’re coming in with different food backgrounds, is what I am trying to say, here. What I definitely can 100 percent agree on is that if you’re eating crap and you’re adding oil to it—no matter what kind of oil, whether it’s coconut oil, healthy coconut oil or olive oil or anything like that—your body is going to go haywire.

Excuse me here. I’m choking. I was joking with Fred before I’m still choking on a goji berry seed.

But your body is going to go haywire. And so essentially, all these processed foods that people have in their diet, if they’re adding oil into it, that’s just another processed food that’s going to interfere. So we have to first separate that from everything and know that the more processed foods you throw into someone’s diet, the more crazy the body is going to react, the more likely it is to have disease.

Fredric: Yes, I totally agree, Kevin. And I think…I mean, I think that there is kind of a trend in doing what’s easy. Like olive oil has become popular, because adding olive oil to whatever else you’re eating is easy and it’s tasty and people like to do what’s easy and tasty. And doesn’t change much in their diet, you know? People think that olive oil is particularly healthy because they’ve heard it in the media, and they just pour it on top of their crappy diet. And that’s exactly like you said. So the question of, is it healthy, and then there’s the question of, would it make a healthy diet even healthier?

I think…I personally think that the answer is “no” to both questions, in the case of olive oil…and I am not talking about fat in general. I’m not talking about fat like from whole food sources, like you’re eating nuts and seeds. We could have a debate on that and how much is too much and so on. And I think the more active you are, as a person, the more you can eat. It might be very difficult for someone who is very active, who is very athletic, to thrive on a very low fat diet, because of the calories, because you just can’t get enough calories without consuming some of those calories in a concentrated form.

I think, on the other hand, that if somebody is trying to lose weight, that you should avoid calories that are in a concentrated form, that are very concentrated.

This kind of math kind of makes sense to me, and I think the science is also there to prove that it works in the sense that if you eat foods with a low caloric density, you’re going to lose weight. Meaning by that, fruits, vegetables and beans and things like that that have like between 100 and 400 calories per pound. I mean, you’re going to lose weight because there’s just not that much space to fit everything in your stomach, so you’re fitting lower-calorie foods.

And the one thing that a lot of people don’t get about oil is that it is the most concentrated source of calories ever. I mean butter, oil and so on, you can’t have more of a concentrated source of calories. It’s almost three times as concentrated as refined sugar, in terms of how much, how many calories are in a tablespoon. It’s about 120 calories in a tablespoon; I mean, a tablespoon of sugar is 50 calories. It is a very concentrated source of calories. I think that’s one of the biggest problems with it.

Kevin: Nine calories per gram. I mean that’s the best math you can do.

So Fred, you mentioned weight loss, and I want to just say one more thing about that, because I think what you said was really important. When people go on a weight-loss diet, they do take out a lot of concentrated sources of calories. If you’re on a weight-loss diet, one that’s working for you, you probably took out processed sugar, you probably took out processed wheat, you probably took out processed corn chips, you probably took out all of these things. But a lot of times the diet, or someone is telling you, “Hey, why don’t you add in healthy oils?” And that’s a processed food too. You have to be very clear about what an oil in a bottle is. It is a processed food.

And now, it’s almost like looking at people saying, “Well don’t eat white sugar, but you can eat like pure cane sugar something like that, or coconut sugar.” I mean, yeah, but it’s still sugar, and it’s still a very highly concentrated source of calories.

So the oil is the same way. Yeah, olive oil is a healthier oil than canola, but it’s still a lot of calories that are going into your body. Again, nine calories per gram. That’s a lot of calories. And if you’re going to try to do weight loss, if you’re going to try to reach some of your health goals, then maybe back off on it. I mean, that’s kind of what we’re saying.

I eat oil. I do eat some oil, but I am saying that this is one of those things where when you look at the whole picture. If you want to improve something, just cut back a little bit on the oils, because I think that people are definitely eating way too many of them. particularly the whole coconut oil thing where you take a tablespoon or two and scoop it into your smoothie or something like that. No one needs that much coconut oil. I mean, yeah, there are some health benefits to it, some of the medium chain fatty acids, some omega-9, all these, the anti-microbial aspects of it, too. Yeah, it’s okay, but you don’t need to eat this concentrated oil in the name of health, because chances are you’re not going to see that much benefit from it, if you’re already eating a healthy diet.

Fredric: Yeah, I think it goes a little bit further, too, in the sense that people have been brainwashed into believing that certain kinds of oils are going to do things that they’re actually not doing, like improve the health of your heart. That’s what we’ve heard about olive oil is that if you consume olive oil, you’re going to reduce your risk of heart disease. And that’s absolutely not true.

What the studies actually say is if you replace butter with olive oil you will lower your risk of heart disease. That’s what the studies say. But they don’t say that if you take a healthy diet that doesn’t contain a lot of butter and then you pour olive oil on top of it, it’s not going to lower your risk of heart disease. In fact, it’s going to increase your risk of heart disease.

So the studies have been totally misinterpreted. And one big study was the Lyon Health Study, and the way the media kind of took the story and described the results of the study was totally distorted, because they had a group of people that they called a “Mediterranean diet kind of…that was the group, and then there was the control group that was eating a low-fat diet, and then of course the Mediterranean people did a lot better, but the low-fat group ate 30 percent fat, so that wasn’t really low fat. They were consuming over 300 milligrams of cholesterol a day, so it wasn’t really a low fat diet. It was just like a regular American diet. That’s what it was.

So they compared a regular American diet to a diet that had less fat, a little bit less fat, 30 percent, that had less saturated fat, less cholesterol, and then replaced all that butter and so on with olive oil, and they had fish instead of adding so much red meat, and so on. Of course, they did better. In fact, they did so much better that they had to interrupt the study because they feared for the life of people in the control group. It was a landmark study. It really made a lot of headlines, but the fact is that it never proved that olive oil was healthy itself. It just proved that this pattern of eating that we call the Mediterranean diet is healthier than a standard American diet. It’s way healthier, but it’s a combination of a lot of things.

But by itself, olive oil is the opposite of a health food for the heart. It’s just not true. I’m not saying if you consume like one teaspoon in your salad that it’s going to make a difference, but the way people are consuming it, the way they’re pouring it on top of everything, like the way Jamie Oliver uses olive oil is not healthy at all. Let’s be clear about that.

Kevin: You mentioned that Lyon Study, and I was talking to Chris Kresser about something they call the “healthy bias,” which goes into a lot of studies. And when you look at a group of studies or you look at the people that are in the study, it comes down to who is eating olive oil, and generally someone who switched from butter to olive oil is someone who is already thinking healthy, so they’re generally going to have better results regardless, no matter what they’re being compared to.

It’s just another interesting way to look at some of these studies. It’s like yeah, you know, if someone has not eaten red meat, generally, and the reason why is because red meat, in the past, has been so revered…wait, what’s the word I am looking for?

Fredric: Revered, yeah.

Kevin: Is revered the word that’s like it has been shunned? Shunned.

Fredric: Oh, okay.

Kevin: No, revered is the other way. [laughs]

Fredric: Yeah, I thought you meant the other way.

Kevin: Yeah, no. It has been shunned in the media, so people who don’t eat red meat generally are healthier to start, because they’ve heard in the media that they’re like, “Oh well, I shouldn’t eat red meat because it’s so bad.” They have made…they’re a conscious health decision-maker already. So generally, in many cases, the other factors of their diet could contribute to their health, not the fact of like red meat to other types of meat or something like that. You know what I am saying?

Again, we’re holistic here. So we’re always thinking, what’s the holistic outlook of all this? Well, if you’re eating a super healthy diet. and you are getting some good fats from whole foods, you’re eating, if you do happen to eat meat and you’re eating grass-fed, grass-finished kind of meat, you’re going to get a lot of healthy oils from those foods, and you can add a little bit of oil into your diet. It’s not going to make or break your health. The challenge is when you switch from butter to olive oil, but you’re still eating all of these other processed foods, and you’re causing this whole influx of highly concentrated calories and nutrients, macronutrients, into your diet.

Fredric: Yeah, definitely. And I think one more thing also that we should cover is the fact that a lot of the vegetable oils are very rich in omega-6 fats, and they contribute to inflammation in the body. I think they’re really evil. I think we can say that. Like olive oil is more an oil that’s rich in monounsaturated fat and it does have quite a bit of saturated fat as well, like 13 percent, I think. I think you have to be careful, but it’s not rich in omega-6 oils compared to the other polyunsaturated oils.

Where it gets dangerous is when you start using a lot of the processed oils, like safflower, corn, etc., and you might be thinking, “Yeah, well, I don’t eat these oils, right? I don’t buy those oils.” But every time you go to a restaurant, you don’t know what oils they’re using. And generally, they’re using those types of oils, in something.

So definitely, I mean, that’s a big issue I think to the health problems that many people are experiencing is the omega 6:3 ratio. And it’s been proven that some of the oils in, let’s say, fish or flax, etc., actually they’re good for you. But the other oils, like the oils…generally vegetable oils, in general, and I am going to put olive oil as a separate category, but most other vegetable oil except canola, because it’s more omega-3, but most vegetable oils kind of fall into that high omega-6 category that’s really bad for you. It causes inflammation. It messes up the ratio of omega 6:3. It can lead to heart disease. It can lead to lots of problems.

Kevin: For canola, you don’t really want to mess with canola, just because it’s genetically engineered. It’s rape seed oil is what it is.

Fredric: Yeah, but just putting in for understanding the different kinds of oils.

Kevin: Two oils that are significantly higher in omega-3 than other oils—it doesn’t mean that they’re off the charts in terms of omega-3. They have…at least for one of them, it’s almost 1:1 ratio. Plant oil, sacha inchi oil, that’s from Peru, so that’s the Incan peanut, S-A-C-H-A I-N-C-H-I. That’s one that has a decent ratio between omega-3 and omega-6. And then chia. Chia seed oil, if you can find chia seed oil, that also has a decent ratio as well. But keep in mind, once you put, once you squeeze the oil out of a nut or a plant, particularly the omega-3 oils, they can go rancid very quickly. So again, that’s another thing to think of. If you’re getting these plant seed oils, you need to make sure they’re in dark glass to protect from the sun or any sort of light element, because that can cause it to go rancid. You need to make sure that they’ve been bottled fairly quickly and not sitting on supermarket shelves for too long. Making sure that they’re always closed tight. Making sure that you either put it in the refrigerator or the freezer. There is a lot to know about, and never to cook with them, particularly the high omega-3 plant oils. You don’t want to cook with them because that will destroy all your omega-3s.

You really don’t even want to cook with olive oil, because that starts to disintegrate. I mean, it’s kind of weird, right? Everyone cooks with olive oil, but it does start to disintegrate the good fats. But again, if you’re eating a really healthy diet and you’re going to put a little bit of olive oil in your sautéed kale that you picked from your garden, you know, it’s something that will be okay, because you’re getting your healthy omega-3s, your anti-inflammatory fats, from some of the other foods that you’re eating.

One other thing that I found just to kind of at least wrap up the omega-3 side, the high omega-3 oils, is researching for the book that I am writing, there can be a significant difference in the amount of inflammatory omega-6 oils and anti-inflammatory omega-3 oils in grass-fed, grass-finished beef, lamb. What’s really interesting is that it’s almost like the same medium, like so a piece of meat, right? The same thing can either be inflammatory or anti-inflammatory, and I think that’s where a lot of the confusion about meat is coming from. At least, from a lot of the studies that people talk about meat being inflammatory. Well they don’t talk about meat being inflammatory, but they say it’s the cause of disease. Well yeah, if you have 7:1 omega-6 to omega-3, then that’s a higher inflammatory type food than it would be if it was a 1:1 ratio, which you’ll find 1:1 omega-6 to omega-3, which you’ll find in a lot of grass-fed, grass-finished animal foods.

So a huge difference; 7:1, 1:1. I mean, 7:1 is like, okay, that’s inflammatory; 1:1 is a great ratio of omega-3 to omega-6. It’s not just black or white, when it comes to, not only when it comes to meat, but when it comes to oil, is the whole concept of this podcast right now.

Fredric: Yeah, and I think finally, I’d just like to kind of add something and also propose like a challenge to people. I’d just like to add the idea that oil is not like a necessary food. Nobody needs oil. You can get fat from foods that were used to make oil, but nobody needs oil in their diet. It’s not like a necessary food or nutrient.

I would like to kind of propose a challenge to people. If you’re someone who is consuming oil, maybe you don’t like this idea that we’re talking about, of eating less oil, that you try going 30 days without any oil. No olive oil, nothing. And you see what improves or gets worse in your health. I can predict that you will see improvements in terms of your weight and so on. It’s just a little idea. Maybe some of you can try it.

Kevin: Sounds good. Do Fred’s challenge. Let us know how it turns out for you.

Fredric: Bye everybody.

Kevin: [laughs] I don’t think we need to say bye.

Kevin Gianni

Kevin Gianni is a health author, activist and blogger. He started seriously researching personal and preventative natural health therapies in 2002 when he was struck with the reality that cancer ran deep in his family and if he didn’t change the way he was living — he might go down that same path. Since then, he’s written and edited 6 books on the subject of natural health, diet and fitness. During this time, he’s constantly been humbled by what experts claim they know and what actually is true. This has led him to experiment with many diets and protocols — including vegan, raw food, fasting, medical treatments and more — to find out what is myth and what really works in the real world.

Kevin has also traveled around the world searching for the best protocols, foods, medicines and clinics around and bringing them to the readers of his blog — which is one of the most widely read natural health blogs in the world with hundreds of thousands of visitors a month from over 150 countries around the world.


Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Myra says:

    I can relate to this discussion on oils on a variety of levels.

    Being naturally estrogenic, flax does not support my health despite its touted health benefits.

    I feel synergy is an aspect to health rarely discussed. I learned a great deal about synergy and health in the work of Dr. JE Williams, OMD (differing diets of Siberian Eskimos and the High Andean People) and in Jungle Effect by Daphne Miller, MD.

    We need think about the ecosystem in which we find ourselves in and the relationships within that system in our approach to healthy living.

  2. jj says:

    cooking/temperature destroys omega3s in grass fed beef/goat,
    wild fish, doesn’t it ? so, what is the point of consuming those ?

  3. Jeanette says:

    What do you recommend that I cook my grass fed meats and veggies in if I’m not going to use oil for the 30 day challenge? I eat some raw veggies and some slightly cooked ones. I’m not able to use butter because my body can only handle raw dairy. Thank you for the radio show.

    • Veggies are easy: you can steam them, dry-roast them, bake them, etc. For the meat, the slow-cooker method is great. Also grilling without oil works if you do it at a low temperature and marinate it first.

  4. Bruce says:

    Good show and interesting info. But, I personally disagree with your general opinion about oil. The reason is that for me personally oil has been a good thing. I have for the last seven month been eating a basic Ketogenic diet, 15-20g of carbs/day and >90g of protein/day. This totals out at less than 500 calories/day, which is way below starvation level. So to make up for the 1500-2000 (depending on your size, activity, etc.) calories I’m short on, I take in roughly ¾ of a cup of oil per day. My sources of oil include MCT (while in nutritional ketosis this stuff is like liquid energy), coconut, and avocado oil. By eating like this I have lost over 50 lbs. so far, have good energy most times of the day, little to no cravings, and just generally feel good.

    One interesting point you do bring up that makes sense to me and seems to apply to me is the point you brought up about how the rest of your diet can affect how your body uses oils you take in. I can say that the way I’m eating now is cleaner, and I mean crazy cleaner, then any other time in my life. I believe this is the main reason I am not suffering from ANY cravings. Kind of sweet after struggling with that sh*t for more than 35 years. : )

    How long will I do this remains to be seen and depends on how my body adapts. It’s strange how the body seems to have the ability to adapt to nearly anything we throw at it, good or bad. As my results appear to slow down, both wt loss and strength gains, I have had to adapt. I have found that by adding carb back loading on the days I do heavy resistance training I can keep my energy up for more heavy lifting. And so the challenges continue. I think we have to be willing to experiment on ourselves to find out what work and what doesn’t. And just because it works today doesn’t mean it will work next week when your body has adapted to whatever your doing. It’s all an experiment of one.

    Again good show, & keep up the good work!

  5. Yvonne says:

    I am reading on my supplement bottles here…
    Carlson Norwegian Cod Liver Oil 1000 mg, omega3 = 230 mg (1 softgel)
    NatureMade Flaxseed oil 1000 mg, omega3 = 500 mg (1 softgel)
    Nature’s Way Mega-DHA 1000 mg, omega3 = 750 mg (1 softgels) (source: sardine and tuna fish oils)

    It looks like the Nature’s Way product is a winner regarding the omega3 amount… but tuna has a lot of mercury, no??

    I am 59 yrs old and my whole life I was on a low fat diet b/c it was suposedly the healthy thing to do. Then I stumbled upon the book Grain Brain where the author, neurology specialist David Perlmutter, MD, says the brain needs fat! And Alzheimer’s patients are low in omega3. So that’s why I have been having memory problems for 4 years or so! *sigh* I am taking omega3 n-o-w and my memory function seems to be improving. 🙂

    I am wondering what kind of book you are writing, Kevin? About fats? When will it be published? How did you come up with the idea?

  6. Karl Losken says:

    John McDougall used to say — referring to oils “The fat you eat is the fat you wear”
    I recently discovered the virtues of purslane that invades my Deep Cove N. Vancouver garden every year, I slowly have gotten to like it see quote from web — “Purslane just happens to contain alpha-linolenic acid, one of the highly sought-after Omega-3 fatty acids. Why pay money for fish oil when you can grow your own Omega-3 fatty acids as part of your edible landscaping? Especially when it takes little effort to grow purslane, since it does grow like a weed.
    Not only does purslane have five times the amount of Omega-3 fatty acid that spinach has, but it also has stems high in vitamin C. Omega-3 fatty acids are instrumental in regulating our metabolism. Purslane also contains alpha-linolenic acid (source

  7. Carol says:

    I have been showing symptoms of not digesting my fats for the past 6 months. I have been pouring olive oil with apple cider vinegar on my salads for a long time. I went to my doctor and he said to eliminate the fats from my diet and take metamucil capsules daily. My liver enzymes were normal. I had a colonoscopy 6 months ago and I swear all the Meralax I had to drink for the prep did something to my bowel because it was after that I had problems with digesting the fats. I use coconut oil a lot also. I tried digestive enzymes that didn’t help.

    • Bruce says:

      You could try taking HCL tablets just before you eat. Low HCL is a common problem in general and there fairly cheap I think : )

  8. Velda says:

    Thank you for airing this topic. It does seem to be a mystery for people. It seems to me that all types of food were originally created to nourish our bodies on a cellular level – but it needs to be done in balance and in moderation. According to Shawn Stevenson (and other health professionals), it is necessary to have oil in your diet in order to protect the electrical impulses of the body – especially the neuro-connectors of the brain. Oil works in our bodies much like the protective coating that you see around wires that we plugs electrical appliances in with. If the coating was not on the wires, they would short out. Also, butter has a lot of health benefits as well. That’s not to say that it doesn’t have a lot of calories, but grass-fed butter is still very healthy. Thank you again for your efforts in educating people in health – it is more important to be educated about what we eat in today’s world than any other time.

  9. Dana Orten says:

    Do you have your information as text? I prefer text to voice for nutrition/diet information.


  10. Brian says:

    Can someone maybe comment on grass fed butter and ghee as a cooking alternative, I’ve found that a little of this works well for most anything.

  11. Ryan says:

    Kevin the sound quality (on your end) this needs improving, I can hear so many low bitrate digital artifacts whilst listening to your voice that I can’t hear when the other speaker is talking, please improve your audio quality it’s quite distracting to listen to audio that sounds like it’s from RealAudio player in 1995.

  12. I’m loving the podcast so far… Keep up the great work! The only problem is the episodes aren’t automatically downloading to my iOS podcast app like they do for the other shows I subscribe to. I’m using the Apple app. Anyone else having this problem?


    • Hi Jesse, I checked and you are absolutely right! There’s a problem, and I can’t figure it out. I’m going to hire a programmer to fix this issue. Stay tuned! Once it works, we’ll update it in the next ezine.

  13. Lilija says:

    My experience is different. I feel better when getting most of calories from fat rather than carbohydrates. I would definitely choose avocado over banana.

  14. I don’t know if what you are buying in the States is real olive oil. So it is hard to judge olive oil. Because sometimes it is mixed with other oils. It’s not pure olive oil here in Italy there are alot of scandles on matter.
    So you may not be buying a real olive oil after all.

  15. Irina says:

    What about grape seed oil? Is it better to cook with grape seed oil compared to other vegetable oils you mentioned?

  16. Joe says:

    Hey – thanks for answering my question! It was a good podcast with a lot packed in…

    For me the most interesting points covered dietary context.

    Here in Italy, people still consume a ton of olive oil – but food here is defined by a strict cultural backdrop. Fruits, vegetable and pulses and fish feature a lot. There’s a focus on whole foods, eating socially, and not eating too much.

    I don’t know how long this will last – with the influx of different cultures and globalization in general. We’re already seeing supermarkets and shops switching to cheaper vegetable oils, and more and more processed and fast food.

    Still, it reminds me of the power of cultural knowledge, and choosing a diet in context with your surroundings and activity level.

    Keep it up!

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