Cooking Without Oil – And Knowing When It’s Useful

Cooking Without Oil – And Knowing When It’s Useful
Heather Nicholds, C.H.N.

When I was getting into healthy eating, I started reducing the amount of oil I used in cooking as I realized that I really didn’t need as much as what most recipes called for.

Then when Phil and I were traveling in Europe a couple of years ago, we spent 3 months moving from place to place every week and I started cooking without oil because I didn’t want to carry a jar around with me.

I started to experiment with oil-free cooking techniques like water sauteeing, and learned that I should dry-toast spices before using them when there was no oil because the bitterness made my tongue go numb.

It was fun learning new techniques, and to me the dishes tasted pretty much the same as if I’d used oil, maybe because I’d been cutting back on the amount of oil I used over time.

There were certain things that I couldn’t do, like pan frying a veggie burger, but there’s always some alternative, like baking the burger instead.

Reasons To Reduce Oil

  • concentrated calories add up quickly
  • 100% fat content can throw off balance with carbohydrates and protein
  • prone to forming toxins

Ways To Reduce Oil

  • avoid junk foods, prepared meals, restaurant meals
  • use small amounts – only need a teaspoon to saute vegetables
  • use oil-free cooking methods sometimes (with whole food fats in the meal)

Ways Oil Can Be Useful

  • in transition from diet heavy in oils to wean tastebuds to enjoy healthier foods
  • to carry the flavor of spices (whole food fats can also do this)
  • help with nutrient absorption (minerals and fat-soluble vitamins – whole food fats can also help)
  • flax oil is a concentrated source of omega-3 fatty acids if ground flax or chia isn’t digested well
  • if cholesterol levels are low, coconut oil (saturated plant fat) can help the body produce cholesterol and balance hormones
  • coconut oil also makes a fantastic skin moisturizer

Oils I Use

  • unrefined extra-virgin olive oil
  • unrefined sesame oil (toasted and untoasted)
  • unrefined coconut oil
  • unrefined cold-pressed flax or sacha inchi oil *never heated

Oils I Would Use If They Cost Less

  • walnut oil
  • almond oil
  • avocado oil
  • any other unrefined monounsaturated oil

Oils I Avoid

  • canola
  • soy
  • any other highly processed oil, especially polyunsaturated ones (except flax/sacha inchi)

I emphasize reducing oil because so many prepared and restaurant foods have too much, and lots of people cook with too much oil.

After getting back home, I continued cooking without oil for the majority of my meals because I liked it. It’s easy, you save money on oil, and the pan is usually easier to clean when you cook with water or vegetable broth.

But I want to be clear that fats are an important part of a balanced diet, because they’re necessary for us to be healthy. So I definitely always use whole food fats, like avocados, nuts and seeds.

And I also want to be clear that I don’t think oil needs to be avoided entirely – just used more consciously and sparingly than it usually is.

Do you use oil in your cooking? If so, which oils do you like? I’d love to hear your thoughts below.


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