I’d always believed that things like coconut oil and olive oil were part of a healthy diet. I ate them regularly with just about every meal — I cooked with olive oil, spread coconut oil on my toast, and drizzled avocado oil on my hummus. A few months ago, though, I learned that oil is technically not part of a whole-foods, plant-based diet. I was shocked to learn that there was virtually no nutritional value to the oils that we’re so used to eating on a daily basis.
Julieanna Hever, MS, RD, CPT, a plant-based dietician and health and fitness expert, confirmed that this is true. “Oils are a processed food,” Hever told POPSUGAR. “Basically, the fat is stripped out of the intact food (be it an olive, coconut, or avocado), leaving behind the fiber and many other nutrients.”
Hever also reminded us that oil “contains 120 calories per tablespoon, almost 2,000 calories per cup!” But even worse than that, there isn’t any satiating fiber in oil, so eating oil regularly is an easy way to consume way more calories than your body needs — and that can quickly lead to weight gain.
This was hard for me to believe at first, but I decided to go cold turkey and cut out all oil from my diet. It was strange at the beginning. I thought I wouldn’t be able to roast vegetables or even sauté an onion. You’d be surprised, though, to find that lots of foods release their own natural water or oil, so you don’t even need something like olive oil to cook most things. For example, onion naturally contains oil that’s responsible for its smell and taste, and you can see it being slightly released when you sauté it in a pan with nothing else. Besides, if I felt like some foods were sticking too much to the pan while I was cooking, I would simply add a little bit of water.
After two months of eating no oil at home and very little oil while eating out, I noticed my belly was a bit flatter than it was before. It was a small change, but it was a gradual one that became more noticeable over time.
That being said, healthy fats are an important part of our diet, and Hever says we shouldn’t ignore them completely. “The best food sources of healthy, disease-fighting fats are nuts and seeds,” she said. “We only need about one to two ounces a day to meet our essential fatty acid requirements.” You can also opt in for some avocado in your dish rather than cooking with oil.
I upped my intake of avocado after I gave up oil, while also logging in all my food to the macros app on my phone to make sure I was getting enough healthy fats. Between avocado, almonds, and chia and flaxseeds, I was getting more than enough of what I needed.
“Because of their high caloric density, I recommend minimizing intake of oils,” Hever said. It could save you a lot of empty calories that you really don’t need.