As two plant eaters, the overarching principle that guides all of our food choices is simple: more whole plant foods.
When put up against this simple guideline, oil doesn’t really fit the bill. You probably read the title of this post and thought, “Huh, no oil?! What’s wrong with oil? I thought certain oils were healthy! And how in the world do you cook without it?” Today, I’m going to answer those questions.
The Case Against Oil
Oil is not a whole plant food. Think of oil like fruit juice. It’s a derivative of a whole food, which means that most of the nutrition is left behind. Most people can agree that drinking a glass of apple juice isn’t a particularly healthful choice compared to eating a whole apple. Think of oil in the same way. Something goes awry when we deconstruct foods from the way nature packaged it. Corn is great, but corn syrup is not so great; brown rice is nutritious, but white rice (stripped of it’s bran and germ) is not nutritious. Get the picture?
When you extract just the oil from a whole food- be it olives, flaxseeds, or any other plants- things start to go awry, mainly because you are throwing out most of the good nutrients and concentrating most of the bad nutrients. For example, olive oil is a whopping 120 calories for just one tablespoon! A lot of calories, not a lot of nutrition. Research shows that even olive oil may impair artery function (like other undesirable fat sources) and when compared to nuts, olive oil falls behind in lowering LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Most of the heart healthy nutrients that we associate with high-fat plant foods have been stripped away in oil, but remain in whole foods like nuts.
Does Oil-Free Mean Fat-Free?
No! Oil-free simply means that you try to eat fat packaged up in its whole food form. Think walnuts, almonds, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, avocados, and whole olives. Sure, these foods are high in calories. But each calorie comes with a powerful dose of nutrition.
How To Cook Without Oil
Trading a glass of apple juice for a whole apple is a simple swap, but we encounter oil differently- mostly as a cooking ingredient. Here are a few quick tips and resources for cooking without oil.
Use parchment paper or a reusable silicone baking mat to keep veggies from sticking during roasting. Toward the end of cooking, you can spritz with a little vinegar or vegetable broth and seasonings to add moisture and help the seasonings stick.
You can easily “water sauté” vegetables by adding a splash of water or vegetable broth to the sauté pan. This technique is more like steaming than true sautéing. Alternatively, you can try this nifty trick with stainless steel pans. Watching Chad Sarno perform this little magic trick at the conference is what converted James to oil-free cooking!
salad dressings + sauces
This one is easy! Dressings and sauces can easily be made creamy with cashews, nut butter, tahini, and avocado. We have many oil-free dressing and sauce recipes, but the Creamy Cashew Cayenne Dressing is our current favorite.
This one is tricky. When it comes to baked goods, the oil might be the least of your worries! You can experiment with replacing oils with fruit puree (applesauce, pumpkin puree, etc.), nut butter, and even avocado, but it will change the texture. I find that replacing half the oil with an equal amount of fruit puree or whole food fat works well. Try our Avocado Chocolate Chip Cookies, Double Chocolate Breakfast Brownies, or Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins – all of which use this oil reduction method.