Why I’ve Finally Stopped Eating Oil

Aceite de oliva Olio d'oliva ελαιόλαδο Olive oil

There was a time when going vegetarian seemed extreme. Impossible.

Where will I get protein?

Forget protein, where will I even get the calories?

Then I did it, and it turned out not to be so hard.

Vegan, though … that was different. Too extreme. I could never do it.

How will I eat out at a restaurant? What will I tell my friends? Where are the calories going to come from now?

And as you know, that turned out just fine too.

But for the past few years, there’s been another “should I or shouldn’t I” conversation in my head — and this time, it’s been about oil. Olive oil, grapeseed oil, coconut oil.

I know it’s not a whole food … but it’s not that processed.

All the vegan doctors say it’s bad, but they mean for overweight people. Not for me, I’m an ultrarunner!

And, one more time: Where will I get the calories?

Keepin’ it Real

I don’t expect this to be a popular blog post. It’s easier to make a made-up “chocolate helps you lose weight” story go viral than a “how I removed the last possible tasty thing from my food” angle. (That’s actually not the case, but I used to think it was.)

In fact, last time I wrote about giving up oil for a few weeks, I got emails from several people calling me irresponsible for suggesting that “heart healthy” oils might actually not be so good for us!

But I’m okay with that. People tell me one of the reasons they read my blog is because I’m transparent — so no sense trying to hide what for me is a sensible next step towards maximum health and energy through food.

Why Oil Doesn’t Fit

When it comes to healthy eating — leaving ethics completely out of it — here’s what I believe:

  1. Whole foods are good; partial and processed foods are not.
  2. Too many calories are bad — our health problems are largely the result of chronic overnutrition.
  3. A simple formula for health, as best there is one, comes from Dr. Joel Fuhrman: “health equals nutrients divided by calories” (H = N/C). In other words, the more (micro)nutrients you can get in the fewest number of calories, while still eating whole foods (per #1, above), the healthier you’ll be.

(Notice that there’s no explicit exclusion of animal products there, by the way. But although “whole,” animal products are calorically dense and, compared to plants, they typically score pitifully on the H = N/C scale.)

So let’s look at how oil fits in with this philosophy:

  1. Oil is not a whole food (it’s the fatty part of what was a whole food).
  2. Oil is extremely dense in calories: while vegetables typically have around 100 calories per pound and fruits 300 calories per pound, oil has 4,000 calories per pound.
  3. Even with all those calories, oil contains little in the way of micronutrition. Valuable omega-3 fatty acids, sometimes, but virtually nothing else.

Once I understood this (about a year ago), I was done with oil.

Except, I wasn’t. Because oil makes food taste really, really good.

How the Change Finally Happened

Like the previous changes, this one started slowly. A big drizzle of oil a few times around the pan to start cooking a meal became a tablespoon. Before too long, that became a teaspoon or two.

But I just couldn’t go all the way.

What finally pushed me over the edge was the vegan Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise that my wife and I went on in March.

There, I listened to doctor after doctor (Barnard, Greger, Campbell, Esselstyn) talk about the “whole food, plant-based diet.” And when they say whole food, they mean no oil.

Then Chef AJ’s talk was where I first saw the caloric density comparison. Here’s a more detailed listing:

Vegetables – 100 calories per pound
Fruits – 300 calories per pound
Unrefined complex carbohydrates, potatoes, whole grains, legumes – 400-600 calories per pound
Avocados – 750 calories per pound
Refined complex carbohydrates – 1,200 calories per pound
Sugar – 1,800 calories per pound
Chocolate – 2,500 calories per pound
Nuts and seeds – 2,800 calories per pound
Oil – 4,000 calories per pound

(These are very rough averages; see this caloric density post from Jeff Novick for some specific ranges.)

For people aiming to lose weight, this is huge. The more calorically dense a food is, the less room it takes up in your stomach for a given number of calories, so the more calories you’ll need to eat before you feel full. And yes, I understand that nobody in their right mind eats a pound of oil, but for me, the point was simply that this demonstrated how poorly oil fits in with foods that truly are whole — it’s almost 50% more calorically dense than nuts and the seeds, the next closest foods on the list!

But perhaps more than the information, it was the menu on the ship that changed my tune. Even if you didn’t choose the oil-free menu (we didn’t), many of the dishes were in fact oil-free. Salad dressings, black bean soup, lasagna … even some desserts! And while I’m not going to say “Oil-free food tastes every bit as good as food that’s loaded with it!”, I can say that it doesn’t taste all that different.

This was crucial for me. I’ve loved the actual act of cooking for close to 10 years now. But with each new limitation on my diet, I’ve loved it less and less. This is different from many other vegans’ experience, I know. And that’s wonderful, but if I’m honest, this is how it has been for me.

So the thought of giving up oil, too, was difficult. I just couldn’t bear to start cooking a meal by sauteing lovely, fragrant onions and garlic … in water.

But on the cruise, I ate a lot of oil-free food. And if I hadn’t have known, I wouldn’t have noticed.

That was what I needed. Proof that oil-free food could taste good. And I got it.

A few other factors have helped, in making the change, and making it stick. To avoid making this post too long, I’ll just list them briefly:

  • Since oil isn’t an ethical issue for me, I didn’t feel a need to say “no oil, ever.” I committed only to giving it up at home. This represents 90-95 percent of the time (we have young kids and we’re pretty lame) so I get most of the benefits of eating this way without having to feel like I’ve lost something special (i.e. really delicious food every now and then).
  • My wife was completely on board (get it? cruise joke?), and set her own health goals after the cruise. She’s lost 18 pounds on this oil-free diet, and has more energy than ever. She’ll be a guest on NMA Radio to talk about this soon, so subscribe if you don’t want to miss that one.
  • I gave up oil, not fat. So nuts and avocados — whole-food fat sources — are still very much a part of my diet, though a smaller part than they used to be.
  • I haven’t lost a pound, which is a good thing! I was worried that I would drop weight like crazy, especially since I’m training for a marathon again. But nope, apparently my weight is a fighter, and he’s hanging in there. Maybe it’s that I’m still eating the same amount of calories, just getting more nutrition in the ones I do eat.

(By the way, if you want to listen to the podcast recap I did about the cruise and more about oil, listen to that here, the 3/26/15 episode. I’ll be back on the cruise next year, too, this time as a speaker.)

A Final Word

Actually, 170 words:

By now you know that I’m a gradual change, small steps, something is better than nothing kind of guy. I try hard to make NMA content appealing, helpful, and welcoming to people who are at the very beginning of their healthy-lifestyle journey, like I was when I started the blog.

So the last thing in the world that I want is for a post like this to make someone say, “Well, if going vegetarian isn’t enough … and even going vegan isn’t enough … then why should I even bother?”

If that’s you, my answer is that you should still bother. Please, still bother. Don’t do nothing just because you can’t do everything.

This has been a six-year journey for me, and I still eat (well, drink) some foods that I don’t think are healthy *ahem beer wine coffee ahem*. Why? Because I’m not ready to give those up. Yet, or maybe ever.

It’s a process. Do what you can. And keep an open mind.

Something is better than nothing.

Really Final Words (about the New Content Schedule)

I wrote last week that I’ll be publishing two blog posts and two podcast episodes for the foreseeable future. Here are the specifics:

  • A new blog post will go out every Wednesday and Sunday.
  • A new podcast episode will go live every Monday and Thursday.

If you’re on the NMA newsletter list, you’ll get an email about each new blog post, and one email each week about a new podcast episode. Not everyone is a podcast listener, so I don’t want to email about all the episodes — if you want to get them all, you should subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or Stitcher.

And yes, this means that unless you count the coming Sunday and Monday as “this week,” then I sort of dropped the ball already on the new schedule. It took a little while to get on track, but now we are.

See? It’s not just you who sometimes has trouble with change. :)



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  1. Interesting. I enjoy oil in moderation. However, I do not drink coffee, beer, or wine. I don’t love coffee, so I choose to avoid it. I am a Muslim, so I do not drink anything alcoholic.

  2. Hello, Matt! Nice article! I am in the same boat as you. Went fast food vegan 3 years ago, then plant based vegan soon after. About 6 month ago i ditched oil. I love to cook, there are times when i go home from work at lunchtime just to cook something for my husband and myself, then back to work:) but ditching oil was hard. Nowdays i have serius stomack ache when i eat something oily at a restaurant. The newest thing, on the top of being vegan now is that i decided to go gluten free. Well, i have to tell you, being low fat, whole plant based and gluten free is a real challenge now! But i guess it will be ok once i am comfortable with it. It is scary now, just like it was when i decided to live oil free!

  3. Thanks for this. Because of your personal experience with this and the guests on your podcasts, I’ve started thinking about reducing oils, where I never had before. For me this would be mostly swapping out salad dressings and finding alternatives for cooking – I’m still trying to refine my vegan baking and I don’t want to mess with that too much lest I have a complete riot in my household (my husband and kids are not vegan). Oh yes, and not using Earth Balance on my potatoes, sigh. I would appreciate hearing more about some of the changes you end up making as a result of this!

  4. John Warner says:

    Thanks for the info, I’m not into adding oils and now that I’ve read this, am less into it. I’m 66 years old, have been running for the past 10+ years. Have given up wine and beer(took up running), and no longer miss them at all. Coffee is another story, hah! Main thing I see being a vegetarian for over 40 years, and leaning towards being vegan, is that I am so much more adaptable now(a real survivalist). I won’t suggest that anyone has to do anything alarming, such as giving up beer and wine, however, there is only one way to find out how that impacts you, is by doing it, hah! Keep up the good work, enjoy your blog! John

  5. Michelle Dukes says:

    I have to agree, when I first went vegetarian and then vegan, I enjoyed cooking and creating recipe’s. Now with so many restrictions, because I too know that a multitude of health issues and diseases are not only caused by, but can also be cured by one’s diet, I have started dreading it sometimes. But you are right in saying that you wont notice a difference in taste (I sometimes use vegetable stock to sauté vegetables for a little extra flavor). My question to you is, what type of cookware do you use? I find sticking to be an issue, especially when I bake my vegan, healthy, clean (super awesome) carob chip banana muffins. Even “non-stick” sometimes lies, I need to get new cookware, any suggestions?

    • If You Care parchment muffin liners work awesome for muffins and baked goods without oil. I find that baking in glass seems to stick less than metal. And using a cast iron pan. I am whole food oil-free gluten free vegan and loving every minute!

    • I was the Executive Vegan Pastry Chef at a restaurant for many years and I never used oil. I’m baked everything in silicone bakeware and my desserts were quite well known. I use stainless steel or waterless cookware, no oil needed.

    • KathrynB says:

      USA Pan makes a nice line of silicone-coated bakeware that I’ve found to be pretty non-stick. Also, using parchment paper, as already suggested.

  6. Richard says:


    I have been following your blog for the last couple of years and I must say this is the best post yet.

    It’s funny when you think that the Tobacco industry has been punished for it’s products and governments have taken huge steps in educating people about the dangers of using tobacco products and also other restrictions imposed on the industry.

    Yet the largest killer by far in the world is heart disease. The largest contributor to that is processed foods and cold pressed oils. Yet nothing has been done to educate people nor restrict the industry, despite the medical advice (that is backed by research) to do so.

  7. Yes, you are a step by step, gradual sorta guy when it comes to adding/changing habits, Matt, and that’s why they stick. Reminds me of Stanford University’s BJ Fogg’s research on the matter. In a nutshell: “tiny habits” stick and the grow up into big ones.

    Anyway, this “no oil” position — irrespective of the type of oil — really needs more exposition, IMHO. The debate on this pits very credentialed and smart people against that hypothesis, and thereby leaves us wee mortals quite confused.

    I, for one, have been writing a health blog for over six years and read up on nutrition extensively, yet I’m confused. Whole food or not, certain oils get high marks from researchers. If you’re not a vegan, fish oil, for example; if you are, flax seed, or hemp seed oil, etc., etc.

    So, my vote is for a follow-up post that digs into the science. I may do one myself, tho a lot more people would read and benefit by one authored by you.


    • Thanks for this post, Joe. I am in the same boat as you… I am an avid reader of nutrition articles, and as a mom of 3 vegan kids, it is important to me that I am feeding them a healthy, balanced diet. I’ve excluded oils from my personal diet off and on for the past few years. After my most recent experience of being off of oil for over 6 months, I added small amounts back in. I am just not convinced (yet) beyond a reasonable doubt that they are harmful, and, like you, I’ve read some compelling articles from sources in the non plant-based world that are persuasive to me (Harvard School of Public Health and Dr. David Katz, most notably). I cook with olive oil and occasionally with coconut oil (small amounts of both) for my kids and do not think twice about it.

      I would agree that people with advanced heart disease may benefit from an Esselstyn/Ornish approach and omit oils and nuts, but I have not seen persuasive evidence that those in good health should avoid it.

      The discussion continues!

      Great post, Matt!

  8. Would you be willing to share on your blog the new ways and methods you have discovered of cooking with no oils ? I would love to know more about this please !!! I recently discovered the local Asheville brand Roots no oil hummous and it is so completely yummy.
    Thank you!

  9. Trevor Smith says:

    Hi. I have done no research on this, and your post surprised me. I am not claiming to be right, but I question your logic regarding “whole” “foods” because one seems to be an arbitrary definition (“food”) of the “there’s no real scotsman” argument (i.e. that if you don’t say it’s food, it’s not food) and the other is an arbitrary limitation on what parts of the food you must eat.

    1. People only eat part of an oyster, for example, or a banana, or a pumpkin, or an avacado, or broccoli, or an orange, etc. Or animals, for that matter (we don’t eat the bones, and most don’t even eat the bone marrow anymore; many of us don’t eat the skin). There is no argument that I am aware of yet about why a “food” is only good if you eat all of it. Saying that eating only part of something, instead of the whole food is bad is arbitrary.

    2. This leads me to question your definition of “food” itself. Maybe you will say that a coconut husk or an orange peel is not “food” because it’s inedible. I doubt that’s strictly true though. I think it was Rich Roll who wrote that he blended an avocado pit and drank it when he became vegetarian. That’s food. Some things are hard as hell to eat–maybe a coconut husk or a peach pit is beyond our capability altogether–but so probably is a raw turnip. I believe that there is evidence we ate many much harder things when we were wild, and certainly there is no reason we cannot eat a banana peel or an apple core now (some people do eat apple cores still).

    In short, there are lots of things we don’t eat parts of that are edible and those parts are, technically, “food”. So if we don’t eat those parts are we claiming they are not “food” or are we admitting that not eating the “whole” food is not necessary?

    I get the argument that squeezing out the most calorically dense part of a food (i.e. the oil) and eating only that part can be problematic because it gives you tons of calories without filling you up.

    But is there any other health issue associated with oils?

    I have seen references to research that says many of the fats that are abundant in oils are necessary for lots of proper function, like brain function. If you are not getting enough fat-rich foods, eating the oil may be beneficial to you.

    P.S. If we accept your logic that our health problems are largely the result of chronic overnutrition (which I do accept), and we know that “calories in” need to be equal to or greater than “calories burned” to prevent weight loss, then how did you manage to not lose weight when you cut out oil, while training for a marathon? That math doesn’t add up, unless you were getting a very small % of your calories from oils in the first place, which would seem to suggest that oils were not really an issue in your diet.

    Unless you increased the amount of something else you were eating, but that wouldn’t fit with the “oils take up less space per calorie and leave you hungry” argument, since you would need to be eating way more volume of nuts and veggies to compensate for the calorie deficit from cutting out oils, if the oils were a significant % of your calories in the first place. You’d presumably be feeling pretty full, no?

  10. I have been an overweight vegan for 4 years, except for a wonderful 5 month period when I adopted a very low fat eating regime. Despite eating an enormous amounts of fruit and raw vegetables, I lost over 40lbs and took up running.
    Unfortunately, I reacquainted myself with the fattier foods I crave, and have addictive tendencies towards, and regained much of the weight I lost. This article has inspired me to get back on track, so thank you. I’m also pleased that someone with a voice is saying this. It isn’t popular, especially when some health gurus can be seen pouring olive oil into their blender, and there is so much conflicting information out there. Esselstyn and Campbell have both shown clear evidence that added oils are never healthy, regardless of what is claimed for them, and that removing added oils from the diet can reverse heart disease, the clogging of the arteries, as well as reducing the risk of diabetes – (which is more commonly associated with the intake of sugars). I’m determined to do my first half-marathon in September and this information has helped to reaffirm my conviction and desire. Thanks again Matt.

    • Suzanne says:

      PeterP, I could have written your post. It describes exactly where I am, in mind and body, right now. I am also training for a half (tapering, actually) on June 13th, and wish Matt had posted this two months ago – I could be running my race 10 lbs. lighter. Will say goodbye to Earth Balance and EVOO and all other oils today and see what happens. Keeping beer, wine and coffee :)
      Matt – thanks for your excellent blog and Peter – thanks for making it personal to me.

      • Thanks Suzanne for saying this.
        Congratulations on all of your efforts – wishing you all the very best for your half marathon on the 13th. Well done.

    • Similar story here- I’ve been eating very clean for years and began incorporating a lot more fats/oils into my diet early last year, particularily coconut oil (the benefits, they said!) I’ve always been a little overweight but suddenly gained 20-30 lbs “out of nowhere”, my anxiety shot through the roof, and my digestive system went haywire. Took a look at how my nutrients broke down and saw I was getting well over 50% of my daily calorie intake through fats and very infrequently felt satisfied, and it triggered my tendencies towards an unhealthy, scared relationship with food. I’ve since started being more mindful of the kinds of foods I’m eating and have dropped almost all of the weight- I think I am even drinking beer more frequently than I was before!
      Anyways, I know it’s not all so black and white for everyone and I know that some can thrive on diets with a lot of oil, but my experience shows me I need to keep fat intake VERY reigned in.

  11. Makes so much sense…nutrient dense fats instead of calorie dense oils! Easy to make dressings with avocado, seeds, fruits, herbs, chia seeds and fruit.

  12. Ian Davey says:

    Apart from the content of the post Matt, which by the way was excellent as it almost always is, this time your writing style was more engaging than ever. I and so many others have learnt so much from your journey and was excited to know there will be (mostly) 2 stories per week.
    By the way when do the new singlets arrive, I want to wear mine at the Cambodia Angkor marathon in August?


  13. Howard Veit says:

    Thanks for writing about oils. I started as a vegetarian in the mid-80s and thanks to my introduction to Drs. John McDougall, Joel Fuhrman, Caldwell Esselstyn and some others, I switched to a whole foods plant-based eating style in 2006. I am a cold turkey kind of guy and do best just saying no when I decide something is not good for me. I did that with cigarettes in 1963. Oils have been the exception. My wife does most of the cooking in our family, and she was reluctant to completely abandon oils in her cooking, however, in the past couple of years she has mostly done so. She usually uses vegetable stock to saute. Restaurants are a different matter. It is very hard to find a restaurant meal with no oils, especially in vegetarian and vegan restaurants. My approach is to eat very little, if any, oil at home, but I do loosen up in restaurants. I was in an Italian restaurant recently. I ordered ww pasta with marinara and vegetables. I said to the waitress, “Please eliminate, or at least minimize, the olive oil.” She responded, “Sir, if you don’t like olive oil, why to you come to an Italian restaurant?” Guess she had a point. So, I am sure the sauce had ample olive oil. So with oil my approach is ‘once in awhile will not hurt’. Actually, I use that philosophy with dark chocolate as well (:–. My favorite restaurants are Asian. I can usually get an oil-free meal with veggie sushi in a Japanese restaurant. Other than that, most of my restaurant meals have a little oil, as little as I can negotiate.

  14. Sandra liliana Pucci says:

    I am Italian and will use olive oil, a healthy substance, daily, until I die.

    I am not vegetarian. but moderation, a balanced diet, portion control, and thoughtfulness are at the heart of a healthy diet.

    I respect your perspectives, but to say, directly or indirectly, that something like olive oil should be eliminated from ones diet flies in the face of thousands of years of civilization, especially in Mediterranean nations.

    I love your stuff, but this sounds like you are sliding into unwarranted extremism. I think I will stick with my people and my culture, who overall are far more healthy and balanced than Americans.

    • Sandra, you need to understand that Matt is a self-flagellant, always looking for new ways to punish himself and he will continue to do this until he dies……This blog on oils being harmful is arrant nonsense…..Jesus just 2000yrs ago proclaimed the value of olives, so presumably the oil they contain, and, the amount of oil used in cooking is so small as to be of no effect, even if it was unhealthy……Use olive, coconut and bran oils without any fear of harmful effect.
      Incidentally, real fresh barista-made coffee has multiple health benefits and this is well documented, but, the stewed on the stove rubbish that Americans drink is harmful.
      Am I qualified to comment? Yes, a medical scientist who spent years working amongst primitive ppls in Third World countries and for my 82nd birthday last week, I did a skydive from 12,000ft and an abseil of 50m down a jagged cliff face followed by a Boot Camp session.

      • If I had been given permission to speak at The Mount of Olives, I reckon I would big-up the local produce too.
        Congratulations on being so adventurous, healthy and living life to the full at age 82. It is something we can aspire to.

    • Sandra,

      As a person of Spanish, specifically Catalan heritage olive oil was in pretty much every Spanish meal my mom or grandmother cooked for us as children and adults. As a teenager my parents were supportive of my vegetarian lifestyle and many of the peasant foods my grandmother grew up on were naturally both vegetarian and vegan, but not oil-free.

      However, you should have seen the look on my mother’s face a few years ago when I made the comment that olive oil was not as healthy as they claimed it to be. You would have thought that I had made the most personal insult about something she held dearly, and to a degree I had. At that point it became clear to me how deeply entrenched certain ingredients are in our heredity and cultural identity. I don’t think olive-oil will go the way of cigarettes where it is universally vilified. On occasion, if the occasion and quality of food is right I will have oil, and you better believe there is only one type of oil for me. I say on occasion because after struggling to increase my HDL and lower my Triglyceride levels on first a vegetarian, then vegan diet I finally achieved a dramatic turn-around by not consuming oil, or products that contained oil. I lost over 60lbs, all gained from when I when back to eating meat for a 5 year period. For me this works, and while it is difficult and I have to say no to foods I love, it is worth it.

      I think many are tired of the back and forth from researchers and scientists and resent being told to do one then, then years later be told the opposite. The very foods we are told that are bad are often the same foods that our extended family trees consumed for years without problems. The problem is that their portions, activity levels, and quality of food vastly differed from what we have here today. In our modern world oil is used as a cheap filler to boost flavor and mouth-feel. I now view store-bought crackers and breads contain oil as beneficial only to the bottom line of companies that make them rather than the market that consumes them. The majority of these products contain the cheapest of oils, yet are priced if they contained Denominazione Origine Protetta-labeled Italian Olive Oil. Our ancestors did not have their health impacted by these cheap and plentiful foods. In the end no food, practice, or habit should be banned, but it is important to note that a cultural identity is not rooted in, nor does it collapse by a single ingredient.

  15. I don’t know. Love your philosophy and I totally hear what you’re saying about oil. But I look at it this way: I’m 56, have been vegetarian for over 30 years and I run over 50 miles a week. I’m a hair’s breath from begin vegan. I don’t do coffee, beer or wine so I see it as an equal exchange. I’ll eat my veggie’s sauteed in coconut oil but forego the coffee, beer and wine and you can drink your coffee, beer and wine and forego the yummy oils. Deal? P.S. I’m probably the only person in the world who has never drunk a cup of coffee-ever. Just never had the urge plus the taste is dreadful to me. Ditto beer and wine. Again, just never had the urge. But my oils–oh, oh, my!

  16. As a committed vegetarian for over 30 years, have always been “on the fence” about oils. Have cooked with water but my family complain…….they are teenagers!!!!
    But after reading this post, I’ll be back on the oil-free wagon as heating the greasy stuff has never inspired as a healthy way of life.

  17. Thank you for this post which really makes me think about my oil/fat consumption. At the point I am now, I cannot imagine giving up oil for sautéing, but I guess that’s just a point of adaption. But I really love salads, which means I usually eat a salad for dinner. For the dressing, I usually combine one table spoon of oil and vinegar (plus salt and pepper). What would you recommend as an oil subsitution in dressings?

    • Fran Ehrhard says:

      Whole Foods actually has oil free dressings and the Engine 2 Diet and My Beef With Meat have a number of oil free salad dressing recipes. None of their recipes use oil.

    • KathrynB says:

      Doro: you can blend up some avocado and water (or zucchini) to use as a no oil, but not no-fat sun for oil. For a no-oil and no-fat option, blend a bit of guar gum with water. Balsamic vinegar makes atasty dressing on its own, with no oil (or sub) needed.

  18. It’s about time!

  19. I remember reading a book by Joel Fuhrman saying the same thing about oil not being a health food.

  20. I keep flirting with becoming oil-free but the habit has yet to stick for more than a couple of weeks at a time. I can do without most oils but I only just recently discovered the wonders of coconut oil and it just keeps luring me back. Vegan baking also doesn’t feel the quite same when subbing applesauce for oil. Sigh… maybe someday.

  21. Delilah says:

    I’ve been inching away from oil as well. I hadn’t bought any in ages, and I brough a bottle home with me not too long ago. I use significantly less than recipes call for. The taste isn’t what it used to be. Last night I went to a restaurant and ordered my favorite dish of roasted veggies. Good heavens they were doused in oil, my poor veggies. At home, sometimes instead of plain water, I’ll add veggie broth for some flavor mmm better than oil by a long shot.

    • KathrynB says:

      I often use a vegan “chicken”-style broth to saute. And if sauteeing just water-rich veggies, like onions, I often don’t need anything: just cook over medium heat and don’t stir too soon (stirring seems to relese some of the moisture that keeps things from sticking).

  22. Thank you for this post! I’ve been listening your podcast for some months and started to use less oil since you talked about your experience in the cruise.

    I don’t usually need to make changes slowly: I went vegan from one day to another more than a year ago, and it was easy for me to stop taking sugar.
    But with oils… I am Spanish and my family produces its own extra virgin olive oil, so I always have had amazing quality olive oil at home (almost for free). I am living now in the US, so no more free olive oil :( Maybe it’s a sign. I have been using less oil in my recipes and I have to say it’s going better than I thought, so far.

    I love cooking and trying new recipes, and with every “limitation” in my diet, I see a new opportunity to try something new. I don’t think I’ll go completely oil-free, but I’ll definitely continue using less in my cooking.

    Thank you for sharing with us even your “less popular” experiences and thoughts.

  23. Katie C says:

    YAYYYY NO OIL! I’m a loyal herbie and am so happy to see this post! I lost weight effortlessly just by cutting out oil, and my body is so happy with the change.

  24. Thank you for the great post. I recently did a 9 day juice fast which resulted in a sense of having a re-set button pushed on my energy, clarity of mind and attitude that goes back 30 years.

    During the fast I learned it is fun to juice whole lemons and limes and grapefruit. I have thought about the oil aspect of healthy eating for a while now and realized there may be natural sources of oils (like citrus fruit skins) in whole foods that we don’t really think of. I did allow myself my morning tea (am allergic to coffee – darn it) and after day 6 I just didn’t want or need it. It’s been a few weeks and I’ve only had tea socially, but it is no longer a part of my morning habit. I didn’t set out to have that change, it just happened.

    Anyway, I loved your post and a 95% kind of gal on my whole-foods plant based diet and am loving my food more than ever. YUMMY:)

    Run on!

  25. Julie Greene says:

    I have followed your blog for a few years now since I became vegetarian and recognize that you report honestly on your own personal findings without trying to push your beliefs/findings as “gospel”. Thank you for that refreshing delivery of news! After much experimentation on my part, I find I do best with a nice mix of oil-free meals and a small amount of oil in just a few of my meals. If I cut it out entirely, my energy lags and I crave more sugar. I do a lot of high intensity interval workouts and lifting more than I run now and find that if I switch to more running, I don’t miss the oil as much, but I do start to get more achy joints (and I’m only 27, but with a knee repair from a soccer injury years ago). So I have adopted the mindset that each person thrives on a slightly different diet. Though the basic formula, as you’ve said, is nutrient dense calories as much as possible.

  26. Each to their own, but really unhelpful not to compare serving with serving, rather than slightly absurd lb to lb comparison! In moderation it will do no harm. Yes, it is processed but let’s be honest/confrontational – some processing does little harm. The biggest ‘processing’ of all is cooking food – it changes the taste, texture and structure of food. But few (though there are a few!) criticise it because it releases more nutrients. So I think the demonisation of oil is a little puritanical, and really just touching at the edges. A generally healthy lifestyle with an occasional indulgence (like your beer) can lead to a happy life! Still love your blogs though!

  27. Hey, Awesome! I have been secretly, and patiently waiting for you to reach this conclusion!!:) I think it took me three years to make the switch due to the darn hormones. However, I have been eating low-fat, gluten free, plant-based for the past three years, and have never felt more awesome. My goal was to have daily bathroom visits. (On the standard American, and standard Vegan diet I was averaging one every several days. I could not understand why a healthy vegan diet was giving me issues.) But, then, wonderful Rip entered the mainstream discussion on healthy plant based diets. I jumped in, and truly believe that going oil free, and low fat are true energy boosting, life-giving, “make one feel awesome everyday” additions to my life. So, thank you for this post. Hopefully the message will reach more minds.:)

  28. Hey Matt,

    Great post about the question of whether or not to consume oil (even olive oil!). I’m incrementally decreasing my consumption of olive oil, slowly but surely. I too watched a speech by Dr. Esselstyn (here’s the video if anyone is interested — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m8yikz5bOEQ) in which he talked about the consumption of oil for reversing heart disease.

    As a fit, college student vegetarian with a really clean diet my first thought was, “I don’t think Esselstyn is talking to me about the oil thing.” But then I thought, “Why not be healthier if I can?” So I’ve started slowly cutting it out. Not being too hard on myself though! :)

    Another thing Esselstyn talks about in the video is about the consumption of too many nuts. But that’s for another day…

    All the best,

  29. Terrific blog post Matt!!! So many of the great, elite vegan athletes and body builder shun oil (Rip Esselstyn, Robert Cheeke, to name a few) and look at them! Even if it weren’t so calorically dense and nutrient poor, it injures your arteries so why consume it? And even if there were something remotely healthy in the olive oil, the coconut oil of the flax oil, would it not also be present in the olive, the coconut or the flax seed? So eat the WHOLE FOOD, with all the fiber, water and micronutrients, and not the disease promoting refined and processed oils. Like salt and sugar, fat is addictive and that’s why people say they like it. If they really liked it they would drink it, but they don’t because it’s disgusting. What they like, and are addicted to, is they stimulation of dopamine in their brains from eating such a calorically dense food. If you are worried about getting enough fat (and how many Americans do you know that are fat deficient?) eat whole, raw unsalted nuts or have some ground flax or chis seeds.

    Love & Kale,
    Chef AJ

  30. Danielle D. says:

    Thank you so much for this post!
    I turned my life around about 4 years ago now attempting to eat a no-oil/ whole food/ vegan diet. There were a lot of cheat days, but I still lost 25 pounds and got rid of my traces of insulin resistance. I started graduate school a year ago and slowly but surely stopped cooking for myself and became very dependent on Amy’s and eating out. I have since gained 10, very obvious to me and my wardrobe, pounds. I have the summer off from school and am in need of great encouragement like this to start cooking again (without oil, of course). My health is still not great, and I had to stop running two years ago, but slowly but surely I hope to get to where I want to be. Keep up the awesome work!


  31. Hi,
    Oil is a oxygenated junk food!. It kills more USA athletes than anything else. In countries where oil is not used we dont find premature death among athletes / runners. Stay away from it.
    And please NO more oil industri propaganda.

    • Very well said. There is an excellent chapter on oil, and the fact that added oils are never healthy, in Esselstyns’s: Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease. It includes the studies that originated the ‘heart-healthy oil’ myth, how the initial results were leapt upon by the fad creators with vested interests (the latter, my own words) and the worrying follow up report that has been completely left out, namely: that 25% of the participants either died or had cardio-vascular events in the subsequent four years of the study.
      He points out that olive oil is “between 14%-17% saturated, artery-clogging fat – every bit as aggressive as saturated fat in roast beef.”
      A clean diet, without added oils, is the ONLY natural, non-invasive and safe way to reverse heart disease and clogged arteries.
      Just a point to those who rightly state that oils are necessary for good health: most whole foods, in balance, contain the perfect amounts of oil needed for robust health. Even celery – 10% of its calories comes from oil. I wouldn’t want to eat a ton of them to get my quota, but we can get sufficient oils from moderate use of avocado, nuts, seeds and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Quote is from: Prevent And Reverse Heart Disease, by Caldwell B Esselstyn, Jr, M.D.

      • KathrynB says:

        Fat from food is necessary, but oil (the extracted fat) is not. Whole foods contain fat/fatty acids, not oil.

  32. Sossage says:

    An interesting article and I’m hoping this is the solution to my problem. After reading about the health benefits of coconut oil and living in the Caribbean I now think I have been overdoing the oil. After eating the same food, running every day and doing a physical job I have managed to gain 10lbs in the last few weeks :-( One thing I have been doing is frying off my onions and veggies in a couple of tablespoons of coconut oil and then I sometimes have a spoon as a chefs perk, cos its healthy right?? Do you think this is maybe responsible for my weight gain? What should I do instead, use water?

    • Sossage, the conventional wisdom used to be that a “calorie is a calorie”, meaning that all foods of the same calorie count will have the same affect on the body.

      Now the thinking is that different foods innately have different metabolic effects on the body, so that, for instance, a 300 calorie twinkie will be more fattening than a 300 calorie salmon. (Am I allowed to write that on a vegan blog?)

      Which brings me to coconut oil. Some pretty smart people argue about whether it’s beneficial to people, but regardless of that, it’s calorie dense and those calories will add up.

      Try reducing your coconut consumption by half and see what happens. You can always saute in vegetable stock.

      • Sossage says:

        Thanks Joe, I understand what you say about calorie for calorie foods and for that reason I don’t get too hung up about calories but after reading this article it has dawned upon me that my liberal use of coconut oil is adding up!!

        I am definitely going to reduce my consumption this week and see whether there is any difference on the scales. I’m really hoping so :-( It’s my only vice I don’t eat anything processed, no sugar all whole foods.

        Sossage (eeek hadn’t even thought my nickname might offend – hope not)

  33. Excellent article. I am a strict nutritarian and I am constantly teaching my family, friends and clients how eliminating oil can make a huge difference in their health and their weight. Oil is not necessary for any reason.

  34. Great post, Matt! I agree that this topic is not yet one to incite masses to immediately join your “side”; even many alternative health practices still proclaim the benefits of oil.
    But I am with you on this. I don’t go out to eat too often, but when I do, it’s to a restaurant my boyfriend “can eat at” (my boyfriend is very much the SADD partaker – for the time being ;D ), so I accept that I’ll be eating oil on those occasions. But I always feel the difference later! Lethargy comes over me as we’re finishing the meal, and doesn’t leave me until the next afternoon. The oil plus the salt I don’t otherwise eat leave me puffy and stiff the next day.
    I think this is an awesome decision you and your wife have made. Congratulations and thank you for he transparency in your updates! -Kirra

  35. Oh my beloved olive oil?
    Ok, so I’m ready to reduce my oil to improve my health and save some money, but I was going to make a bean salad today which has half a cup of olive oil. Less oil and more water?
    What do you suggest?

  36. Hi, i am back again, bacause this is the second time i read that someone says that it is hard to give up oil because of their culture, herritage ect. Well, i am Hungaian, my culture is to eat nothing but oil, meat and paprika… I think being open minded about what is healthy and what is not has nothing to do with being Italian, Spanish or Hungarian. If i ate what my people eat, i would be 20 lbs overweight. It is not easy when i go home but i just use my good judgment when i say no to oil, fat, meat, dairy and keep the veggies… And the paprika:)))

  37. Great post, and thanks for sharing your oil-free journey! I realise not everyone is keen on giving up oil, personally I prefer my food much more without it. I’ve also noticed far better muscle recovery (particularly after hard workouts) since giving it up, and I generally just feel a lot better on whole, plant foods.

  38. Thanks, Matt, for sharing your journey! The process for me has been so similar. I was on that vegan cruise too and brought my three kids. We love the vegan lifestyle and rarely find the need for oil! Unfortunately I won’t be able to make it next year. My daughter was the 16 year old who sang “Oceans” at the talent show if you happened to attend. Our cat is 85%vegan too, by his choice. Favorite foods are bananas, kale, oatmeal, black beans, tofu. He is very healthy. Go figure!

  39. The “no-oil” stance isn’t based on any particular science; it’s all about the personal beliefs of a handful of doctors. And, I just don’t get it. Why would anyone want to create *another* barrier to veganism when most people find it so difficult anyway. Unless you can cite research showing that oil-free = better health for vegans, why jump onto this bandwagon. Millions of animals suffer and die every day, and vegans are trying to make the (completely erroneous) case that olive oil is bad for you??

    • Ginny, I agree with you that it’s a mistake to tie “no oil” in with veganism, and to present to someone who is just approaching plant-based diet for the first time the advice that they should also stop eating oil. From everything I’ve learned about change, the way to adopt something is gradually, in very small steps. I wish more of the doctors who do believe that oil is harmful would make it removing it a later step in the process. Same with salt.

    • Personal benefit? The work of these “handful of doctors’ have benefited countless people. The work done on the reversal of heart disease by these pioneers like Dr. Dean Ornish and Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr. has been researched extensively and published in respected medical journals. How many scientific articles have you published? No oil is not a barrier as it helps many people reverse their diabetes, heart disease, obesity and food addictions. The animals really do not care why we aren’t eating them, and many one time ethical vegans, some who sre even bestselling authors, are no longer vegan because they had health problems on a junk food vegan diet. If you look up the work junk food in the dictionary it says a food that is high in calories and low in nutrients. At 4,000 calories a pound, with no waters fiber or nutrients, oil fits that definition perfectly!

  40. I would love some resources on how (not just why) to eat an oil free diet. I’m intrigued by your post, but I can’t even begin to imagine how/with what I would substitute oil in most of my recipes. Oil-free salad dressing? Sautéing garlic and onions in water? Any suggestions you have on how to make the shift to oil-free would be much appreciated!

  41. Maria, my absolute favorite salad dressing is nutritional yeast, himalayan salt, pepper, crushe garlic and some balsamic vinegrette. The i add some water to it so this whole thing looks like a dressing. Mmmmm it is sooo good!!!

  42. Karenkkj says:

    I am surprised you did not bring up how fat damages our endothilial cells. Dr. Esselstyn talks about this often. I would recommend everyone look this up, it really is important to eat in a way that keeps us from damaging our own veins, so our blood can flow in an optimal manner.

  43. Matt, your work is an inspiration to many and thank you for being you!

    The way you made the transition portrays the power of kaizen. You have my respect. Keep inspiring!

  44. Coconut oil literally is fat. I can understand trying to cut out foods that you change (negatively) via cooking, but if your get some extra calories through saturated fat in uncooked coconut oil there isn’t much more of a problem than getting those calories through the saturated fats in nut or avocado. And saying “overnutrition” seems like you’re being repetitive or reductive since eating more carbs and fewer proteins and fats is bad, but if you have significantly more (than values recommended by the fda and similar organizations) of certain vitamins it won’t hurt you.

  45. Terry Ralston says:

    Healthy fats and oils make us feel full and contain vital nutrients improving brain function, skin and hair integrity, cholesterol levels and also help reduce weight. the valuable oils are Omega3, cold pressed virgin olive oil, avocado oil, bran oil (for high heat cooking), coconut oil, and flaxseed oil. The amount of these oils that need to be used in cooking is very small hence it is foolish to quote calories per pound etc.
    Note that in the definitive study of the Blue Zones of Longevity around the world, everyone one of them consumed oil and they were mostly centenarians, which makes me wonder how long some of you avowed masochists on this website will live to. The question is: Why do you spend your time looking for new and radical ways to live your lives? I think that Matt has lost his way which is a shame because many of his previous posts have been informative.

    • According to the scientific research done by Dr. Susana Holts, fats and oils actually have weak satiety when compared to starch. As far as Omega 3 fatty acids are concerned. they are not found in oils. Processed oils contain Omega 6. Omega 3 is actually highest in purslane and also find in flaxseeds and chia seeds. Any “vital nutrients” found in oils are also contained in the whole foods that the oil was made from. So eat the olive, coconut, flaxseed and avocado rather than their oils which contain no fiber or nutrients. And not everyone in the Blue Zones consumed oil. I actually met quite a few of them while doing research in Loma Linda (one of the Blue Zones) and many of those studies were whole food plant based.

      • Terry Ralston says:

        Fair comment Chef, but I’m only suggesting a small smidgen of these healthy oils be used in some types of cooking…..I am familiar with the Seventh-day Adventists of Loma Linda and their vegetarian lifestyle, a great advertisement for healthy eating, but, last time I shared a meal with them, they were including small amounts of oil from the four plants that you mention. When we are both centenarians, we must get together for a celebratory drink..Cheers..

  46. Matt: I am not vegan or vegetarian – not even close. But, like you, I have also been cooking oil-free for about three years now. Also, like you, the changes came gradually. I started wondering why it took 3 or tablespoons of oil to cook a simple skillet meal and started tweaking more and more until it was gone entirely. My husband and I didn’t really notice the difference! People eat at my house all the time and don’t know the difference! I think they would be surprised.

    Now for me, quite honestly, the motivation was hunger vs. how many calories I could eat per day and still lose/maintain weight. There is no getting around it: I am hungry pretty much all the time. I run 5 or 6 days per week, which helps keep the weight down, but it’s not the cure-all. So when I started cutting out oil, it was, to a large degree, because I wanted to be able to eat large meals but still stay within a certain calorie range for the day.

    My answers to that were: 1) cut out all the oil; and 2) bulk up dishes with more vegetables. And it worked. I have kept 80 pounds off for the last few years while feeding my seemingly endless appetite with nutritious, unprocessed, oil-free, homecooked food (I eat out maybe twice per month for lunch).

    My friends and family have questioned it and told me I need fat to be healthy. Bah. I eat plenty of good fats from natural whole foods. Oil does not need to part of that equation.

    Although, to be candid, I do use half a tablespoon of sesame oil in some of my stir fries because it just tastes too wonderful with scallions and ginger and garlic to leave it out. 😉

    • Hi Melissa,

      I really appreciate your comment. I work with many clients who do not wish to go plant based but once we get the dairy and processed oils out of their diets, they still effortlessly lose weight. So thanks for pointing that out.

      Love & Kale,
      Chef AJ

  47. Ugh. I Googled “why should i give up oil,” and this was the first thing that popped up. My hubby and I have talked about omitting oil from our diet, but haven’t made the change yet. He said he used to eat oil free for a time before we met. We definitely don’t eat as much as we used to, but I do like to roast potatoes and veges a lot, and, of course, use oil for that (although I found a “no-oil oil” recipe online that’s supposed to make nice roasted veges).

    After reading this post, I’m more convinced that we DO need to give up the free oils in our diet. Someone else’s comment suggested you give us tips on what changes you made. Is that possible? Probably we just need to do it, and get used to the changed flavors. Ugh. I’m not one of those cooks that can just throw things together and make a great meal… I have to follow a recipe and only slightly do I modify things. Not looking forward to this change, and how my dishes will turn out, but I know I have to do it.

    One other comment. We neither like vinegar of any variety, nor do we believe it is healthy, although that’s a hard thing to prove to people. It seems like most plant-based cookbooks are heavy with vinegar recipes. Do you use a lot of vinegar?

    • Why isn’t vinegar healthy? Could you please provide the scientific evidence for that as I have never heard that and I am a graduate of the ECornell program in plant based nutrition. All oils, on the other hand, harms the endothelial cells and contributes to obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Have you tried all of the flavors of reduced balsamic vinegars? There are at least 40 flavors. My favorites are from http://www.bemaandpas.com and Napa Valley Natural Grand Reserve aged 18 years.

  48. Chef AJ, i just bought a double waffle maker for my family and was wondering if you have any idea as to how i can use it without oil. I plan on making the batter with buckwheat flover and mashed bananas. I would so love to enjoy this but not sure how as i dont eat any oil either. Thank you i


  1. […] …and now the NoMeatAthlete has also cut oils out of his diet.  […]

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