Olive oil and other oils: beyond the contradictions

Vegetable oil @ sanse293

Vegetable oil @ sanse293

Just one liter of any vegetable oil contains 8000 calories of pure fat while just one tablespoon contains 120 calories of pure fat. Some of the most commonly used vegetable oils around the world are sunflower oil, corn oil, canola oil, palm oil, coconut oil, and olive oil. In this article, we are going to find out how vegetable oils are produced, what they are composed of, and how they affect our health.

How is vegetable oil produced?

There are two types of vegetable oils: refined and unrefined.

Refined oil is oil that is extracted from plants using very unnatural methods using bleaching, deodorizing, and treatment with chemicals and additives. To extend shelf life, sodium hydroxide is added. To extract as much oil as possible, chemical solvents are used. Refined oil often contains hydrogenated oil which means it contain trans fats.

Unrefined oil is oil that is obtained by the cold pressing method and it is called virgin because it is pure, unrefined, and unprocessed.

Let’s take olive oil for an example. Major producers of olives in the world are countries that border the Mediterranean Sea. The quality of olive oil is determined by its level of acidity which is determined by the amount of free oleic acid it contains. The traditional method of production of unrefined olive oil is the cold pressing method which produces virgin olive oil. Virgin olive oil can be called extra virgin if it contains less than 1% free oleic acid, so the word extra in this context really means best or highest quality.

The cold pressed method is a method where oil is obtained by mechanical pressing. During the harvest, the olives are hand-picked. A picker picks about 7,1 kilograms or 1775 olives per hour, with each olive weighing 4 grams. Olives that have already fallen to the ground are placed in a different basket and separated because they are considered inferior and because of that, the oil obtained from them cannot be labeled as extra virgin oil. After harvesting, olives are placed in a millstone and crushed by huge stones weighing more than a ton. The crushed olives are then put into a machine and pressed using strong pressure in order to squeeze oil and water out of them. The oil is then allowed to settle and the water is removed by centrifuge or by decantation (a process of separating mixtures).

What is vegetable oil composed of?

Vegetable oil is the most caloric food on the planet and it’s composed of 100% pure fat.

Most vegetable oils including olive oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, and soybean oil are comprised of approximately 75% monounsaturated fat, 10% polyunsaturated fat, and 15% saturated fat, while palm oil is comprised of 50% saturated fat and coconut oil of 90% saturated fat. How ironic? The vegetable oil that is generally marketed as the healthiest is actually the most harmful. That’s the power of good marketing.

In addition to that, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in vegetable oils are isolated and when consumed isolated, they may be pro-inflammatory and act contrary to the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that come packaged in whole plants.

Composition of fat in vegetable oils / Source: USDA Nutrient Database

Composition of fat in vegetable oils / Source: USDA Nutrient Database

For only 1 liter of olive oil it takes 1375 oils squeezed to exhaustion and deprived of all protein, carbohydrates, fiber, and most nutrients. One liter of any vegetable oil contains 8000 calories of pure fat while just one tablespoon contains 120 calories of pure fat. Just three tablespoons of vegetable oil contain 360 calories of pure fat, and many people consume more than that. And if they do this every day throughout the month, that comes out to 10800 calories which is 1,2 extra kilograms a month of pure isolated fats which don’t work the same as fats that naturally come packed in whole foods.

Crushing of olives with a millstone @ dkaubo

Crushing of olives with a millstone @ dkaubo

How does vegetable oil affect our health?

Your body, brain, and muscles are composed of about 70% water and feed on a variety of nutrients; and plants are full of water, fiber, and nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and beta-carotene. If you eat whole olives you consume water, fiber, and calories that are rich with nutrients, but if you consume olive oil then you consume calories made up of pure fat deprived of water, protein, carbohydrates, fiber, and most nutrients.

If someone tells you that some types of vegetables oils contain all nutrients because they are produced using some special methods, you can confidently tell them, “I respect your opinion, but I disagree. Let’s look at the scientific data.” All vegetables oils are pure fat deprived of all components and most nutrients.

Nutritional value of whole olives and olive oil @matija.rs / Source: USDA Nutrient Database

Nutritional value of whole olives and olive oil @ matija.rs / Source: USDA Nutrient Database

As soon as we consume vegetable oil, whether with a salad or fried with some food, it reduces our body’s ability to dilate our arteries and that reduces blood flow. Vegetable oil also damages and significantly impairs the endothelial function for up to three hours from the time it’s consumed.

Short term it worsens the endothelial function, long term it contributes to clogged arteries. If you are interested in details and scientific evidence, take a look at the article What about Coconuts, Coconut Milk, and Coconut Oil MCTs and article Olive oil and Artery function which are backed up by 29 scientific research studies.

Clogged arteries, platelets, and plaque @ ralwel

Clogged arteries, platelets, and plaque @ ralwel

Because vegetable oil is the most caloric food in the world, it also easily leads to the accumulation of fat and obesity. And since the consumption of too many calories that are rich in saturated fats leads to insulin resistance which is the cause of type 2 diabetes and since vegetable oil is pure fat rich in saturated fats, this means that consuming vegetable oil increases the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Just three hours after consuming a high amount of fats, the body’s cells become insulin resistant and inhibit the uptake of glucose which leads to high levels of glucose in the blood vessels.

And contrary to popular belief, the Mediterranean diet is not healthier than many other diets because of vegetable oil, but in spite of vegetable oil. That which makes the Mediterranean diet healthier is the fact that it is rich in fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and whole grains. What is healthier to eat: a whole plant rich with water, protein, fiber, and various nutrients or vegetable oil whose calories contain only pure fat?

Conclusion and solution

With this information we can conclude that vegetable oil is an unnatural product that harms our health, whether it’s refined or unrefined oil, olive oil, coconut oil, or any other vegetable oil. What about extra virgin olive oil?

 “NO OIL! Not even olive oil, which goes against a lot of other advice out there about so-called good fats. The reality is that oils are extremely low in terms of nutritive value. They contain no fiber, no minerals and are 100% fat calories. Both the mono unsaturated and saturated fat contained in oils is harmful to the endothelium, the innermost lining of the artery, and that injury is the gateway to vascular disease. It doesn’t matter whether it’s olive oil, corn oil, coconut oil, canola oil, or any other kind. Avoid ALL oil.”

Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, a surgeon who is on a whole food plant based diet since 1984, a gold medalist in rowing at the Olympic Games, and the director of the cardiovascular prevention and reversal program at The Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. He is an author of the book Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease.

It is almost impossible to avoid vegetable oil when buying some processed plant-based product or when we are out in the city, visiting friends, or traveling, but that’s why at home, instead of using vegetable oil that’s deprived of fiber, protein, and water, we can use whole foods that are rich in healthy plant fats such as nuts, seeds, avocado, and olives.

For salads, instead of oil we can make our own salad dressing in a minute by combining lemon, ground garlic, ground cinnamon, ground pepper, and parsley. If we order a salad in a restaurant, we can request oil not to be added.

For frying, instead of oil we can use diced tomatoes or water. Pour one to two tablespoons of water in a pan to start with and then add as many tablespoons as needed. Stir the food from time to time so that it doesn’t burn. The whole process is easy, uncomplicated, and healthy. For baking, instead of oil we can use spices. When we bake food in an oven, there is no need to pour oil over it.

With that said, it’s good to remind ourselves that nutrition isn’t a competition and that we should strive to make as much of our daily diet as possible centered around whole foods that naturally contain healthy fats and other nutrients. For a big selection of delicious oil-free recipes check out the Nutrition Studies website.


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