Oil, What's the Skinny?

Heart Health 101..

I get a lot of questions from clients about whether or not to use oil in cooking. Most recipes, whether sweet or savory seem to call for oil, but there is little room for oil in a heart-healthy diet. Oils are 100% fat, can easily become rancid on the shelf (especially if not stored in a dark, airtight environment), foods fried in oil have been associated with an increase in cancer risk due to carcinogens formed at high cooking temperatures and many vegetable oils contain hydrogenated fat, which increases shelf life, but also solidifies at room temperature (hello, clogged arteries).

While oil isn’t as harmful in small amounts for those with healthy hearts, most lifestyle medicine physicians/experts recommend eliminating oil for those with diabetes and heart disease (including those with high cholesterol).  Reducing intake of oils helps with weight loss and improves cholesterol and triglycerides, thereby reducing risk of heart disease and strokes.  


Fat is not the enemy.

Well, trans fat is the devil and saturated and hydrogenated fats will take you down, but certain types of fat are essential.  Poly- and monounsaturated fats like avocados, whole olives, nuts and nut butters (without hydrogenated oil), ground flax seeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds are heart-healthy sources of fat and are much better for your waistline. Added bonus: there are vitamins and minerals in these whole food sources whereas oil is just empty calories. 

Fish oil or Snake oil?

Fish oil can contain lots of contaminants and toxins, increases risk for bleeding and really has no evidence base to show benefit for those with heart disease.  Fish do not produce omega-3 fats (which is an essential fat), but rather get them from the plants they consume.  Go straight to the source to support heart health and get your omega-3's without a side of toxins by eating ground flaxseed (rather than flax oil), chia seeds or taking an algae based DHA/EPA supplement. 

Coconut Oil, Superfood or Super Saturated?

Coconut oil is often hailed as a superfood.  While I highly recommend it for external use, I don't recommend consuming coconut oil on a regular basis.  New studies show that coconut oil works in the same way as other saturated fats (the artery clogging, diabetes causing fat found in meat, dairy and eggs) and it's really not that healthy. It may over time clog arteries and cause cardiovascular health challenges. Minimall use is fine, but don't eat it on the reg.  

Dressed with vinegar.

Dressed with vinegar.

So how do you replace oil?

  • Stir-fry and sautée food with low-sodium vegetable broth

  • Use a little bit of spray organic oil such as olive oil to a cast iron pan or a steel wok. Just use it very sparingly- a 1-2 second spray is enough

  • Use organic local honey and mustard, tahini, lemon juice or vinegar to dress your salads

  • Substitute mashed banana , mashed beans, or organic applesauce in place of oils in baked goods. These work great for just about any baked good. If the recipe calls for 1/4 cup of oil, add 1/2 cup of one of these substitutes

  • Try an Air Fryer, which crisps your food without the use of oil

Have any burning questions about oil?  Ask away in the comments below.