Update on “No Oil”

Thursday Feb 25 | BY |
| Comments (40)

Caldwell-Esselstyn-nooil

My last article on “Why no Oil” caused quite a stir. I’ve been called names, and I quote: “You are as dumb as they come,” and other names I wouldn’t want to repeat here.

Wow, so much emotion for such a small thing!

My recommendation to avoid oil is nothing new.

It goes back to 2002 when I first published my book “Raw Secrets.” I haven’t changed my tune on that in all that time, especially with the overwhelming burden of evidence that is piling up on the dangers of vegetable oils.

It seems that for many people, my simple recommendation is akin to nutritional heresy.

I’m far from being a lone crazy voice here. All of the experts in plant-based diets also recommend avoiding oil.

Let’s clarify a few things.

No oil doesn’t mean no fat

I never said: don’t eat avocados, nuts, seeds and other healthy foods that contain a higher percentage of fat.

I’m only saying: avoid oils because they are refined, liquid fat. In whole foods, you get the right proportion of everything: some fats but with plenty of fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, protein, and carbohydrates. In oils, you get only one thing: the fat.

Everyone agrees that refined sugar is unhealthy. Beets are healthy, but we get white sugar by refining beets to the point of containing only one element: the sugar. White sugar is unhealthy.

Why is it so difficult to understand that the same is true with any other food that we refine?

No, a bit of olive oil won’t hurt you. But most people should avoid it.

Yes, the Mediterranean diet included olive oil, and people were pretty healthy. But keep in mind that most of the research on the Mediterranean diet was done in Crete back in the post-war years. They lived on vegetables, whole wheat bread, beans, and very few animal products. They consumed some olive oil, but they also worked hard manual labor and walked over nine miles a day.

The benefits of the Mediterranean diet come from the entire lifestyle, not the olive oil. They were healthy in spite of the olive oil — not because of it.

If you walk nine miles a day and do hard manual labor, you could probably have some olive oil and stay in excellent health.

It made sense for the Cretans to do so when food was scarce, and they were burning a lot of calories.

But in today’s world, we have the opposite problem: we’re eating too many rich foods and not being active enough to burn those calories. Can you see how eating oil — the most concentrated source of calories on the planet — doesn’t make any sense for most people?

When you add liquid fat to your diet (oil), it doesn’t satiate you. You’re missing all the fiber and nutrients from the food.

A few more points about the Mediterranean diet:

– All the trials on the Mediterranean diets show that it slows the progression of heart disease compared to a conventional diet. But on the Mediterranean diet people with heart disease continue to get heart attacks and strokes— only at a lower rate. The only diet that I’m aware of that is proven to reverse heart disease is a diet of whole plant foods.
– Remember, olive oil only has benefits when it replaces butter and animal fat!
Read my article on the Mediterranean diet here.

Absolute Hogwash?

One reader wrote: I believe what your saying is absolute hogwash? Beef gives you blood sugar spikes more than literal cracked sugar? You get your omega 3s from veggies?

Let me clarify my statements.

  • I should have said, “Meat causes as much insulin spike than white sugar, and more than any whole carbohydrate.” This fact has been known for over 50 years. See this video.
  • Get your Omega 3s from veggies? Yes, you can get Omega 3s from your greens! Look at the greens that contain the most omega 3s.  Granted, they’re not a high source, but they’re a good one because the ratio is perfect, and because greens pack in more nutrients per calorie than any other food. Add to that some flax seeds and most people should be okay. In some cases, in may make sense to add an omega-3 supplement to the diet, or even flax seed oil. But in this case, you’ll be taking it as a supplement. This is not the same as pouring oil all over your food for no reason.

Oils Are Not Paleo

Proponents of the Paleo diet often promote olive oils, clarified butter and other sources of liquid fat. It’s clear that all of those foods are modern foods that date back from the beginnings of agriculture. Olive oil was first used as a fuel before it was used as food.

The Worst Oils

The worst oils are the vegetable oils used by the industry in food, dressings, etc. For example canola, corn, soy, sunflower, etc. Many of those oils are packed with Omega 6 fats and are pro-inflammatory.

And remember the research done by Dr. Vogel showing that olive oil injures the normal dilation of arteries. You can access this research here.

What was their conclusion?

(…) the beneficial components of the Mediterranean and Lyon Diet Heart Study diets appear to be the antioxidant-rich foods—vegetables, fruits, and their derivatives such as vinegar, and omega-3-rich fish and canola oils—not olive oil. (…) Dietary fruits, vegetables, and their products appear to provide some protection against the direct impairment in endothelial function produced by high-fat foods, including olive oil.

Translation: When it comes to heart health, olive oil is unhealthy. Fruits and vegetables are protective. In this study, fatty fish appears to be protective and so is canola oil, probably because of the omega 3s.

I still don’t recommend canola oil for the other problems that I’ve mentioned (being a liquid fat and a concentrated source of calories, and often a very refined product).

Is It All Or Nothing?

I don’t miss oils. When I do eat them, it almost feels like a foreign substance in my mouth. I now dislike the feel and taste of oil.

I understand that olive oil can add flavor to a salad or a meal. If that’s how you use it, then never cook it and always add it at the end on top of your food. Buy the highest-quality, most perfumed olive oil you can find and use only a tiny bit of it at a time, just for flavoring.

No matter how you look at it, there are dangers of cooking with any type of oil.

As for Omega 3s, before rushing into the latest supplements and fish oils, try eating walnuts and ground flax seeds for a while and consider doing a blood test to evaluate your ratio. By far, the most important thing you can do to improve your ratio is to get rid of those high omega-6 foods, such as vegetable oils.

Here’s the list of foods richest in Omega 6s.

Consider giving up oils for a while. I haven’t met anybody who felt worse by eliminating oils from their diets. I’ve only heard positive results.

Digestion gets better. Energy increases. You can eat more food and feel satisfied. And your heart will thank you for it! Most likely, you’ll drop a few pounds as well.

And if you don’t like it, you can always go back to oil. I leave you with Dr. Esseltyn’s words…

Frederic Patenaude

Frederic Patenaude has been an important influence in the raw food and natural health movement since he started writing and publishing in 1998, first by being the editor of Just Eat an Apple magazine. He is the author of over 20 books, including The Raw Secrets, the Sunfood Cuisine and Raw Food Controversies. Since 2013 he’s been the Editor-in-Chief of Renegade Health.

Frederic loves to relentlessly debunk nutritional myths. He advocates a low-fat, plant-based diet and has had over 10 years of experience with raw vegan diets. He lives in Montreal, Canada.

40 COMMENTS ON THIS POST

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  1. Susan says:

    TOUCHE! Well done and thank you!

  2. Lisa says:

    (Just for some balance to the “dumb as they come” comment.) Applauding you for the “no oil” recommendation, and for being a voice of reason in a world of mixed dietary messages. BTW, I also applaud you for modifying your recommendations as new information comes to light. (All raw to high raw, etc.). Well done!

  3. Lorraine says:

    Why would anyone question your knowledge gained from other experts? They are critical because their taste buds are perverted and they don’t want to give up their rich salad dressings! Keep up the good work. Your articles are greatly appreciated.

  4. Gail says:

    I loved your original blog and your answer here as well.
    Thank you for being evidence based in you approach.
    Thank you for having the courage to express the truth.
    Thank you for having the intelligence and dedication to express it clearly.

  5. Tim Miller says:

    Great followup, Frederic! I have been eating no oil for several years now and I am 40 pounds lower in weight (at my ideal weight now) and feel a lot healthier. I think your point about it being almost impossible to balance omega-6s and omega-3s without giving up oil is the clincher here.

    When I make a huge pot of greens, or other veggies for that matter, I cut in a whole avocado at the end, after the heat is off. Then I eat those veggies over a many day period, so I get like 1/7 of an avocado per day. Still, because the fat in avocado is slanted too far in favor of omega-6s versus omega-3s, I am thinking of changing my recipe. Instead I will replace the avocado with flax powder, chia seeds, and hemp seeds. I hope it still tastes as good.

    The other thing I do with veggies is roast them just as they are, nothing added, no fat, no spices, no nothing. I make enough to last days, just like with the greens. The roasted veggies are utterly delicious, especially on day 2 and following, and I would never want to roast them with any fat source or put fat on after. One added benefit is that the roasting pan is super easy to clean up when you use no oil. When I first tried it, I assumed it would be harder to clean, but it turns out that just soaking it in water for 5 or 10 minutes, then rubbing it with a wash cloth (including some soap), cleans it up fast and easy. No scrubbing to get those oil stains out. I find the tastiest veggies to roast are Brussels sprouts, baby bella mushrooms, and colored peppers, but broccoli, onions, asparagus, potatoes, sweet potatoes, zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant, and even celery are great too.

  6. Riley says:

    From what I understand, and it seems like common sense, eating steak or something high in saturated fat is very healthy and certainly tremendously more healthy than eating sugar. Obviously, breaking down a steak will produce more insulin, but the key is that it gets released slowly over time because the fat takes a long time to break down (which is a very good thing, contrary to what you were arguing in your original article). Sugar on the other hand, while not causing as much insulin to be released overall, creates a sudden spike in insulin since it gets digested almost instantly, and THAT is what is so dangerous. I assume you’ve heard this argument before, so you must have a good reason for disagreeing. What is it?

    • I only pointed the insulin/meat connection because the theory of insulin as a cause for obesity is often used by advocates of low-carb diets. Agreed that eating sugar is not a good thing.

  7. Steve M says:

    Most people in the health food world agree that refined or fractionated foods aren’t as good for you. So why doesn’t that apply to fats and oils as well?

    A lot of people are really offended when you tell them to change something they grew up with, and that their parents were also wrong for doing it.

  8. Jacek says:

    Frederic, just live your life the way you see it. You are a young, intelligent person who is on a quest to find out what is the most optimal way to live long, stay healthy, and enjoy life. I am probably twice your age. As I get older I realize that some people are never going to get these concepts. I sadly know people who go for dialysis and still drink pop and eat carry outs almost daily. I still love these type of individuals, but I am no longer on a personal crusade to try to get them to see things from a different perspective. Let those rude comments flow off you like water on a duck’s back.

    Before you even partnered up with Kevin, I saw that Kevin was into raw, and then changed his tune after investigating and using the trial and error method in his own life style. I believe you too, have went that route. Is that correct? To me, this is good that people like Kevin (and you) keep investigating and searching. Better to have done that than to schlurp down some Cokes, cheeseburgers, and fries, on an almost daily basis like so many young Americans do.

    By the way, is Dr. Essylston 82 years of age? That’s what I saw on some other sites. If so, he looks great.

    Best of good health to you and yours,

    Jacek

  9. Ema says:

    Thank you for the article! Very new to me, although I read a lot about diet etc.! I never thought about that oils are refined and concentrated! Why we need them? You’re right, for nothing! Your point about not how much, omega 3 or 6, but the ratio, regardless of the amount, is very new to me. And I agree, it is probably what it is abput. Your article was the best for me what I read in several years!

  10. Diane Haynes says:

    Frederic, it was generous of you to respond to the crab cakes. In my opinion, you’ve done beyond-enough work over the years not to have to justify the statements you make in your newsletters. The rationale is all there in your work, and your explanations are generally abundantly clear in your newsletters anyway. If you’d been wrong and felt you had to retract something you said, that would be different.

    Everybody else: as always, use your own body as your laboratory. Experiment for a week before you go crazy online. You’ll look less like an idiot.

    Fred, i have a question for you: What’s your take on the liver and gallbladder cleanse that requires drinking a large quantity of olive oil to flush out toxin-stones?

    Thanks for being an inspiration!

    DH

    • crosswind says:

      “crab cakes”…lol. Love that description. 🙂 ~~ Also, a good question on the sluggish liver and oil. I started taking a Chinese Medicine Herbal tablets for sluggish liver that my local Master Herbalist recommended. I love it. It helps move heat & anger, thus helping pms too. Certain gene mutations & chemical imbalances can cause more sluggish liver, so this will be my staple. It’s Blupeurum Calmative Compound by Planetary Herbals.

  11. crosswind says:

    Amazing how this topic took off. Whoever posted that “You are as dumb as they come,” was uncalled for. Hopefully they now understand what you meant. We have an Olive farm here in AZ, and the EVOO tastes as fresh as you can imagine. Many massage therapists use it on clients and I have made homemade skincare with it. They also sell whole olives. Studies show that Olive Oil is an anti-inflammatory, but your article has some great points to consider before we consume it. I need “some” fat or i feel off, but i do feel sluggish with eating more Olive oil, lately again. I already gave up Coconut Oil, because I’m sensitive to it. So, I will eliminate “Oil” first & see how i feel. I will find the fat balance for me. Thank you for explaining and sharing.

  12. I’d like to hear some comments regarding your view on coconut oil.
    Unless I missed it, it was not mentioned.

  13. Buster says:

    Hi Guys,
    A few years back the oldest person in the world lived in Jerusalem. She had a habit of drinking a glass of olive oil Every Day. To me that is extreme, but it worked for her.

    Pray that God will show you the way to abundant health in your life and drink lots of filtered water and avoid GMOs, pesticides, MSG… It’s not so much what you eat, but what you don’t eat that makes you healthy.

    Side note:
    If your ‘food’ has a label, there is a good chance it is not food.

    • Jackie says:

      I tend to agree with Frederic – oil is a processed food, and I’ve been trying to get my fats from whole foods rather than oil. That said, Jean-Louis Calment, the oldest recorded person (or woman?) who’s lived (age 122), did pour olive oil on everything, ate 2 lbs of chocolate a week, smoked (not much though), and drank. But she was happy and stress free.

  14. Nancy says:

    I want to get your take on Avocado oil. I like it on our salad along with vinegar, garlic, and himylayan salt. Nancy

  15. Kevin says:

    Of course you are right! whole foods are the only healthy thing to put into your mouth. As I always say if you can’t hold it in your hand and it is not recognizable as a food it is not food.

  16. Sarah says:

    It’s an interesting concept but I listened to a podcast interviewing Dr. John McDougall and it turned me completely off to the idea. I can’t stand listening to people who lack any humility and he was definitely one of those. Obviously, it does not mean that the science is wrong, but humans all too often claim they know it all and I’m getting tired of extremes in all directions.

  17. Claudette says:

    Dr. Esselstyn
    I think you have a great article on the bad fats and the good ones.
    The good fats with the omega 3s…..especially!
    I enjoyed your article, well done.
    Thank you!

  18. Suzanna says:

    Frederic, I completely agree with your analyses about the danger of consuming oils, only exception is flax seed oil that is rich in omega 3. I grew up in one of Mediterranean countries and I know that over consumption of olive oil over period of time can contribute to hart disease, LIVER disease and diabetes and other inflammatory diseases like cancer. I stopped using all oils except flaxseed oil and my liver condition has improved significantly.

  19. Rosemary says:

    I find I can be extremely flexible in the direction of my diet if it makes sense to me. Right now I’m trying to find a way of getting the calories my body needs without chewing on vegetables and greens all day. I already eat probably way too many nuts and seeds and because I’m presently following an Anti-Candida diet and thereby avoiding all direct sources of sugar, fruit, and limit starches sources, I find oil (coconut and MCT oils, primarily) and pastured, grass finished meats are my way to feel satiated and meet my caloric needs. I would be interested in your comments on this…

  20. Frederic,
    I agree with the no oil. Yet on a vegan diet with walnuts, some flax seeds, I was very low on my last omega 3 blood test. So following my naturopath advice, I started to take fish oils in capsules for the last 2 and i/2 months. He told me I was probably not converting the vegan omega 3 correctly. I am going to do another omega 3 blood test soon. I hate to have people press fish so I get oil (even the purest) but I feel a bit stuck.
    An optimal level of omega 3 for my brain (as I suffer from depression and had some bipolar episodes) is vital for me.
    Any suggestion? Je suis ouverte. Merci d’avance,
    Isabelle

  21. Peter says:

    As always Frederic, thanks for all your best!!!

  22. Mary Kay says:

    Your response is a point well taken. Could have been a little more clear in the beginning that you meant just no to oil, not to fat. Thanks.

  23. I don’t think you are crazy Frederick. I truly believe you’re position is the correct one. It’s just pretty difficult to totally give up oils completely. My wife and I are trying to do the Starch Solution diet of Dr. John McDougall, and it’s hard to eat roasted potatoes without squirting a little olive or coconut oil on them. We are trying our best though. So forget the doubters. We know you and McDougall and the Rave Diet folks, and others are right on.
    Josh

  24. Great reply Frederic. The most unfortunate thing of all is that experience never goes hand in hand with controversies, debates, and harsh comments from haters who think they know it all. It’s so simple: they simply lack any experience in the proccess itself. They can only parot what they believe, instead of actually being aware of; and having actual experience with, their own bodies.

    The body is the ultimate boss after all. That is whay the ONLY way to be absolutely 100% positive about whether a diet is really healthy is to 1) FIRST eliminate ALL other consumed foods for YEARS AND YEARS. 2) Add back ONLY fresh raw sweet fruits and dark green leaves as the main fuel and nutritition, along with small amounts of nuts and seeds.

    Then and only then, after perhaps five years at the least and decade on average, you can QUANTIFY your health and physical performance. ANYone who adds refined oil of any kind back in will no doubt experience a significant drop in health and performance.

    And then they will actually know what is what. If they do not experience this BASIC experiment with diet (which includes about three years of transitiional detoxing due to the removal of ALL FOODSTUFFS except raw fresh ripe fruits and vegeables, with some nuts and seeds), then they will never know what the heck health is to begin with, or how to truly measure it, since they will not have gotten rid of every single physical symptom (the ulitimate definition of true health).

    It is very easy to talk the talk. But walking the walk is a “whole” ‘nother story. There exists ZERO controversies or mysteries about health and diet. That empty talk is reserved for the inexperienced.

  25. Sarah says:

    Spot on Frederic! You are far from dumb, very, very far!!! Some people simply don’t read or they skim read and they absolutely DON’T THINK!! Plus, their ego gets the better of them and they refuse to acknowledge that someone else could possibly have a better idea than them. You keep going – love your philosophy.

  26. Jack Powell says:

    Does “No Oil” include Flax Seed Oil” ? If so I guess you think Dr. Budwig and Bill Henderson are wrong/ Flax Seed Oil is the cornerstone of this protocol. It has worked for me as a Cancer survivor for over 6 years without problems. I am now 80 years old and hope to make it to 100. Thanks for putting your opinion out there for discussion.

    Jack Powell

    PS: My last posting didn’t get accepted?

    • I don’t see any other post from you Jack. I’m open-minded about flax oil used as a supplement. We’ve talked about this in the past on Renegade Health. This is different than using it as a condiment or to fry items in it. Algae-based DHA supplements can also be useful for some people. I prefer them to fish oil.

  27. DM says:

    This is a very misleading statement: I should have said, “Meat causes as much insulin spike than white sugar, and more than any whole carbohydrate.” This fact has been known for over 50 years.

    This is misleading because you imply this is negative when in fact it is not. You fail to analyze the whole response of the body with meat versus sugar (or any carbohydrate) which is very different when consuming meet versus sugar. You also fail to differentiate the reason the body creates so much insulin in response to sugar versus meat. The reasons are very different and make all the difference in the world. First, the body has to spike insulin when you eat meat so you can absorb the amino acids into your muscles for growth and repair! Generally, the better quality the protein, the larger the insulin spike – because insulin spikes can quite often be a GOOD thing. Without insulin, you don’t grow, you don’t heal and you die very quickly. So insulin spikes can be good, it’s chronically high insulin that contributes to and causes metabolic dysfunction. Now the reason sugar spikes insulin is because it causes huge spikes in blood sugar, very unlike meat which causes very little spike in blood sugar. I will not go into why spiking insulin from spiked blood sugar is much worse than spiking insulin for amino acid absorption. One important difference is the inflammatory effect – sugar is much more inflammatory than meat (unless the meat is toxic grain fed meat). But suffice it to say it is a world of difference and you mislead people by not clarifying the facts and giving the full picture!!

    Furthermore, insulin spikes from high quality protein are also followed by a big glucagon spike – insulin’s anti-hormone – so it’s a much different reaction than eating a bowl of pasta or sugar, which do not NOT have glucagon responses at all. Remember, the insulin from high quality protein isn’t storing sugar as fat, it’s storing animo acids in your muscle for growth and repair. Again you mislead people when you fail to mention these kinds of differences.

    You also make a lot of other misleading statements because you are very biased and present only one side of the picture as you did with meat, sugar, and insulin spikes.

    I agree with you that obtaining fats/oils from the whole food is better, but I disagree with you that all oil is bad for all people. There are plenty of good studies that show otherwise.

    I do have a question: I wonder what in the world you use for skin care, deodorant, toothpaste, soap, moisturizers, etc. Because if all oil is bad to consume then it is even worse to put on your skin because anything on the skin gets directly in to the blood. In fact, nothing should be put on the skin that is not healthy to eat – so they say. So what do you use as a healthy alternative? Or do you believe oil is healthy for the skin, which seems pretty contradictory??

    Regards.

    • Good points. However, the reason I pointed this out was not as an argument against meat per se. The Insulin theory of obesity is often used by Paleo bloggers to explain the obesity epidemic. As for oils, you can use them on your skin. They don’t get absorbed in the bloodstream. (If everything on the skin got directly in the bloodstream that we wouldn’t have a digestive track).

  28. As always, thank you for being a light that shines through the darkness of people’s ignorance. It’s crazy how defensive some folks become when they feel they need to justify their preference to consume an unhealthy item. My gratitude to you for being courageous and sharing your valuable knowledge! You are most appreciated!

  29. Richard says:

    Your article is totally right……….I must be the only grower of olive trees that eat not olive oil (from 1975). I eat my organic black olives(without salt,water and aditives) but never eat olive oil because I only eat whole foods (the only foods that we must eat).
    Congratulations for to have published an article as “Why no oil”

  30. Court says:

    Hi Fred, I love how you make me think outside the square and really think about things!! I have been taking Cod liver oil and have just decided to stop, no oil, no oil, no oil- haha and try and get my omega 3’s from Chia seeds. Could you please give me a ration of much i should have to cover my EFA needs, so much appreciated.

  31. Tina Atchley says:

    Frederic, can you address the omega 3 and brain health connection. I am sure you watched Dr. Hyman’s recent fat summit about oils and their role in the health of our brain function and preventing things such as Alzheimers. According to some of the studies those experts were discussing, healthy fats (which did include oils) seemed beneficial. Can you address this?

    • Healthy fats are beneficial, but these experts confuse people with their theories. It’s just about getting the right ratio from the right foods. Green vegetables, grains, beans, avocados and some nuts and seeds are whole foods that provide benefits way beyond the fats they contain. Eat those foods as the basis of your calories (along with fruit), and include some ground flax and walnuts. If that’s not enough for getting the Omega3s you need, consider adding a vegan DHA supplement to your diet (algae-based).

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