Doctor’s Tip: Health concerns about vegetable oils |

Doctor’s Tip: Health concerns about vegetable oils

Dr. Greg Feinsinger
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Several weeks ago this column included a series about what we should be eating every day for optimal health, based Dr. Michael Greger’s daily dozen in his evidence-based book “How Not to Die.” The next several columns will review the concerns about the foods we should avoid eating if we want optimal health.

People are always surprised to hear that we should avoid vegetable oil. This is probably because the olive-oil-containing Mediterranean Diet is often touted as a healthy diet, which it is compared to the S.A.D. (Standard American Diet). However, people on the Mediterranean Diet are still dying from heart attacks and strokes, whereas people on a plant-based, unprocessed food, moderately low fat diet with avoidance of sugar and oil are not. Furthermore, the latter diet is the only one shown to reverse heart disease. Any health benefits that the Mediterranean diet does have are not due to olive oil but rather to the intake of vegetables, legumes, fruit, nuts, seeds and whole grains.

Here is why vegetable oil is not healthy:

• A tablespoonful of any oil has 120 calories, and most of us don’t need those extra, concentrated calories.

• Vegetable oil causes inflammation of the endothelium lining our arteries, and inflammation leads to atherosclerotic plaque formation and eventually to plaque rupture, the cause of heart attacks and strokes.

• Oils cause our arteries to stiffen and constrict (you want them to be supple and to dilate).

• Oils are processed, and as with other processed foods, most of the nutrients are lost.

• When you eat whole olives, the oil is absorbed slowly, but oil from olives and other vegetables is absorbed rapidly and is immediately stored as fat (Dr. Joel Fuhrman, author of “Eat to Live” and other books says “two minutes from lips to hips” when it comes to vegetable oil).

• All oils have saturated fat, which causes our liver to make more LDL (bad cholesterol). Canola has the least at 7 percent, olive oil twice as much at 15 percent and coconut oil the most at 93 percent.

• When oils reach their smoke point, carcinogens form.

It’s easy to cook without oil. For sautéing, use wine, sherry, soy sauce, water, vegetable broth or vinegar. If a baking recipe called for oil, substitute unsweetened applesauce or ground flax seed. And you don’t need butter or margarine on your toast; just use unsweetened applesauce, which gives it moisture and flavor.

Of course you do need some fat for optimal health, and here’s the recommended way to get it:

• All plants have healthy, polyunsaturated fat, some more than others.

• For omega- 3, eat a tablespoonful of ground flaxseed and a tablespoonful of chia seeds every day (I sprinkle these on my hot cereal in the morning).

• To be sure you get enough omega-3 if you don’t eat fish, take a daily 250 mg. capsule of algae-derived vegan omega-3 available at Vitamin Cottage (one brand is cost-effective), or order it in liquid form at

• One handful of raw, unsalted nuts a day, particularly walnuts, almonds, pecans and peanuts (peanuts are technically not a nut but nutritionally they are like nuts).

Dr. Feinsinger, who retired from Glenwood Medical Associates after 42 years as a family physician, now has a nonprofit Center For Prevention and Treatment of Disease Through Nutrition. He is available for free consultations about heart attack prevention and any other medical concerns. Call 970-379-5718 for an appointment. For questions about his columns, email him at

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