A Slippery Situation

Do you consider oil as slippery? Maybe? I try to keep up with these clever titles, but come on, give me a break here.

About a week or two ago, all over the morning news, the health gurus came out, as they routinely do, to give the world an update on whatever claims they’ve made in the past. This time it involved the “health food,” great choice of coconut oil. Turns out, it’s not as great of a choice as we once thought, at least for eating. Nobody can deny that using it as a body moisturizer is top notch.

Now this update should really come as no real surprise. Why? Because of the key word in the name: oil. I don’t necessarily want to be a stickler and be enough as a oddball out when it comes to eating with others who are not vegan, but the fact is, oil isn’t as great as we might assume it is. If you’re somebody who believes in the immense benefits of a whole foods, plant-based diet, then oil is not your friend.

Using oil, whether that is roasting vegetables, having food not stick to its baking pan, or adding moisture to a baked good, is just something that has become second nature. Rarely do I think of many full-out recipes that don’t ask people to oil up a skillet or pan, or desserts that don’t need some sort of butter or oil to ensure a fluffy product. For those purposes, it’s obvious that oil does the job.

Not just from a restrictive dietary choice, but as a personal preference, I’m already not a big fan of oil. I don’t enjoy eating fast food or anything fried just because it makes me feel sluggish and throws off my digestion. I’m not a huge fan of feeling like my fingers or mouth are oily from eating. When you see food as a primary means of self-care, of maintaining a healthy body and mindset, then extra oil doesn’t fit into the equation.

But I’m not entirely off my rocker with my stance on oil. Despite claims promoting different types of oils as health foods, oils are the opposite. Oil is a refined product from a whole food, whether that’s a coconut, olive, or vegetable. Oil is stripped from the original source of all the other nutrients naturally found in whole foods, leaving a single macro-nutrient left: fat. Don’t get me wrong, we all need some fat in our diet, but it’s much better to consume that fat in its original form to also get the carbs, protein and micro-nutrients included in olives, nuts, and avocados. If there are any special nutrients you’re trying to obtain from using an oil, then the whole food will inevitably have the same benefits and then some. The nutrition from consuming an oil compared to a whole food really throws off the balance, as the fat content in one tablespoon of oil equates to twenty-four pitted olives.

So when isolated on its own, oil just seems pointless and unnecessary. However, when realizing how accustomed we are to using it every day, that’s when it gets tricky to change. How can we stick cook and bake like we always have without that “essential” ingredient?

When preparing food at home, the best first step is to equip yourself with the tools you need to reduce common situations that require oil. For example, nonstick dishes and silicone baking pans and mats work wonders for sauteing, roasting (just use the broil setting to make veggies extra crispy), and baking without worrying about a mess. When using a skillet and want extra moisture, water or vegetable stock work just as well as oil. Depending on the purpose of oil in a recipe, you can substitute plant-based milk, apple sauce, oil-free nut butters, and more for a desired texture. If you want a little more fluffiness in a baked good, adding a little apple cider vinegar or aquafaba (the liquid in a can of beans) works well.

Now admittedly, not every recipe is going to turn out the same or at all when experimenting with an oil-free lifestyle. The health benefits versus certain textures are pros and cons worth weighing out for yourself. Some recipes, unless you have a fancy air-frier, will just not happen without oil. Again, the choice is yours. And don’t think you have to be perfect about this. The most important thing is that you’re aware of what you’re eating. Don’t feel guilty for going out on occasion for some oily foods or having any food with oil. The goal with anything is life is moderation.

The point I especially wanted to get across today is that how scientific studies and news stories proclaim certain foods is not always the best source for information. You really need to do your own research to figure out what is best for you. As I frequently tote, health is wealth. We have one life, one body. While it’s great to enjoy the crazy dishes available out there, regardless of the nutrition facts, one of the most crucial factors affecting our overall well-being is the food we eat. It’s disheartening to know that marketing ploys and faulty experiments can spread like wildfire and really manipulate our views, but that’s an inevitable struggle that I alone have no ground to stand on preventing. All I can do is hope I make the best choices for myself, teach others the accurate information I know, and hope others also take care of themselves.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

 

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