We need to talk about oil.
If you’ve read a few of my recipes, you may have noticed that I don’t use it personally, and I teach my clients to swap it out.
A lot has been written about culinary oils in the past, but when you start digging into the health claims of the Mediterranean diet and coconut oil, for example, you’ll see that things are not necessarily what they seem…
Let’s dive in!
Oil is close to 100% fat and the most calorie-dense food on the planet.
As an example, one tablespoon of olive oil (about 15g) contains about 120 calories, and 14g of fat! Sugar contains 50 calories per tablespoon and 0 fat, and yet you would never consider sprinkling a tablespoon of sugar over a healthy salad!
How do other foods compare? Per tablespoon, avocado contains 22 calories and 15g fat; maple syrup contains 40 calories and ~0 fat; balsamic vinegar contains 14 calories and 0 fat.
If you want to lose weight, removing oil is an excellent first step.
Oil is essentially nutrient-free.
It is true that some oils contain some nutrients. Olive oil, for example, does contain a fair amount of Vitamin E. The problem is that oils tend to have incredibly low concentrations of nutrients, which means you would have to consume a large amount of oil per day to meet your nutritional needs.
Using our example above, you would need to drink about half a cup of olive oil each day to meet your recommended daily allowance of Vitamin E. Half a cup of olive oil would unfortunately give you almost double your daily fat intake, and about 1,200 calories – more than half of what an average woman needs per day.
As a simple rule of thumb: The nutrients found in oil can always be found elsewhere, in much (much) healthier ways. For example, ~40g Sunflower seeds or ~60g almonds would both meet your RDA of Vitamin E, and both are much lighter in fat and calories, and packed with other nutrients.
Oil is not heart-healthy.
All kinds of oil are harmful to the endothelium, the inner lining of your arteries. Injury to this lining is the gateway to vascular disease.
When you see an article online about “oil for heart health”, for example – pay close attention to the writing. Some oils – low in saturated/trans fatty acids – are praised as being healthier (never healthy), essentially saying some oils are less bad for you than others. Not sure about you, but “Eat this because it will kill you slower” is not a great way to sell me on the health benefits of eating something.
Oil doesn’t satisfy hunger.
When it comes to filling up, fibre and water are what creates bulk to make us feel full. Oil contains none of either, we usually over-consume it and still feel hungry.
Oil doesn’t taste good on its own.
Well, have you ever relaxed with a mug of warm oil? Me neither.
It’s important to note the above points apply to all kinds of oil. While there are obviously differences in different types of oil, there is no such thing as a “healthy” oil: oil is oil is oil. This includes the so called ‘super food’ – coconut oil. The only thing super about it is its many uses OUTSIDE of cooking (try it as massage oil!)
Like any change, the thought of cooking without oil can be a little scary if you haven’t done it. But take a big breath and trust me. It’s quite simple.
Here are some suggestions for how you can break up with oil too:
When you are sauteing vegetables on the stove top, simply replace the oil you normally use with water or vegetable stock. Vegetables naturally have a lot of water in them, which releases when they are cooked, so this is why we only need to add a small amount of water or stock. Just keep an eye on your pan so that your vegetables don’t stick – I keep a glass of water nearby.
Vegetables: Roasting & Baking
If you are roasting or baking vegetables, you also do not need to use oil. These foods will still cook, and if left in long enough, they will lightly brown. See the recipe below for a slurry you can make to protect the veg while roasting.
Oil can be replaced in many ways for baked goods. Oil gives baked goodies a rich taste and acts as an emulsifier and softener. Instead of oil, use other moist foods, such as bananas, apples/applesauce, soaked dried fruit (like raisins or prunes), dates and tofu.
Simply omit the oil altogether and leave it at that. Alternatively you could try to add a little water or juice to make up for the lost volume.
It may be hard to imagine food without oil, but it won’t take long before your taste buds will be enjoying tasting the food for its natural flavours without the slipperiness of nutrient-devoid, unnecessary saturated fat.
Oil-Free Roast Potatoes
While these don’t taste quite as good as traditional roast potatoes slathered in all that nutritionally devoid oil, they come a close runner up. Simple to make, all you need are 3 ingredients plus your favourite seasonings.
Oil-Free Roast Potatoes
- 900 grams potatoes
- 1/3 cup aquafaba ((liquid from can of chickpeas))
- 3 tablespoons chickpea flour
- salt and pepper (to taste)
Preheat oven to 450F/230C
Peel the potatoes and cut into chunks. Timings here are based on a medium potato being cut into about 5 pieces. Make sure all pieces are as even as possible.
Place the potatoes in a pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Once boiling the should take about 5 – 6 minutes to become just fork tender. As soon as they do, drain through a colander then leave for a few minutes to steam dry before returning to the pan.
Line a baking tray with parchment paper. This is essential because no oil is used.
Add the aquafaba and chickpea flour to the potatoes, put the lid on the pot and shake vigorously a good few times to rough up the potatoes. Then stir them around with a spoon to get the potatoes coated by the slurry.
Tip the potatoes onto the lined tray and spread them out so they are not touching each other then season with a generous amount of salt and freshly ground pepper. Add any other favourite seasonings e.g thyme, paprika, rosemary.
Place in the hot oven and cook for 25 minutes. Remove, flip them all over then return to the oven and cook for around another 20 minutes or until golden brown. The time will vary a little depending on your oven and the type of pan you are cooking them in. Serve immediately.
Wishing you a lighter week ahead – one that’s free from oily food.