This post will certainly be controversial if you are following standard health advice. But after exploring the evidence, I am more convinced than ever of the harm that polyunsaturated oils can cause to our bodies and our overall health.
In America we are literally drowning in bad fats and are rarely consuming the fats that are essential to health.
Dietary fats aid in the absorption of nutrients and are crucial to the transfer of oxygen into the cells. They make foods more palatable, and helping the body feel satiated. Fats assist in the production of substances that are essential for healthy immune function, tissue repair and prostaglandin production. Finding the right fats are essential to your health, yet frequently the information is conflicting.
Current research suggests that most people are getting far too much the adulterated (heavily refined) omega-6 fatty acids in their diets in the form of corn, soy, safflower, canola and sunflower oils, and far too little of omega-6 fatty acids in their unadulterated form (meaning from oils which are unrefined and cold pressed).
Healthy fats are essential for proper cell function
Contain a vital electron cloud which enables the fats to bind with oxygen and protein to become water-soluble. This water solubility is vital to all growth processes, cell damage restoration, cell renewal, brain and nerve functions, sensory nerve functions, and energy development, furthermore our entire basis of energy production is based on the metabolism of lipids (fats). Chemical and high heat refining and hydrogenation of fats destroys this vital electron cloud and as a result, these “pseudo” fats can no longer bind with oxygen or protein and instead ends up blocking circulation, damaging the heart, inhibiting cell renewal, and impeding the free flow of blood and lymph.
Where do these “pseudo” fats come from? Most of the cooking oils used by manufacturers these days are omega-6 oils. More troubling though, is that they are processed and refined in such a way that makes them toxic to the body. This is because manufacturers use high heat and/ or the use of chemical solvents to extract the oils from their sources. Here is a brief description of the process.
- Seeds, kernels, fruits and nuts are hulled and ground which exposes their oils to air and light and begins the rancidity process which creates free radical oxidation. After hulling, the pulp is then cooked for up to 2 hours at extremely high temperatures creating even more free radicals. The subsequent pressing of the seeds continues to expose the oil to more heat causing a chemical reaction that creates the same chemical constituent as plastic, varnish and shellac, and the final process of deodorizing and bleaching continues the damage that severely alters a once natural product.
- Another method of removing the oil from the raw source uses chemical solvents, which again infuses the oil with free radicals. After the initial heating and chemical processing of the oils, they are then “de-gummed” using phosphoric acid and high temperatures to remove impurities and nutrients, all the while increasing rancidity. To remove the free fatty acids and minerals from the oil a sodium hydroxide lye and high temperatures are used. A final bleaching of the oil removes any undesirable pigments, and a final deodorizing with high temperatures removes any pungent odors and tastes.
After this process, the essential fatty acids, as well as any naturally occurring live enzymes that the oils may have contained have been destroyed, leaving an altered oil which is now unrecognizable to the body. These extraction processes are being used for all commercially processed cooking oils, as well as all of the products made from them such as commercial mayonnaise, salad dressings, vegetable oil spreads, and a slew of other products which line our grocery shelves.
This video depicts the refinement process that is used for oils that makes them nutritionally void and toxic to the body.
The different traits of fats- SFA, MUFA, PUFA
Saturated fatty acids (SFA): are highly stable because all the carbon-atom linkages are filled—or saturated—with hydrogen. These fats do not normally go rancid- even when they are heated, and they are solid or semi-solid at room temperature.
- Organic Virgin Coconut Oil
- palm oil (find a sustainable source such as Nutiva Red Palm Oil otherwise they are very environmentally unfriendly, see link below)
- butter (from organic, pasture-raised animals)
- ghee- clarified butter
- lards (look for non-hydrogenated lard at health food stores from organically raised animals).
Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA): have one double bond in the form of two carbon atoms double-bonded to each other. Therefore they lack two hydrogen atoms. Monounsaturated fats are usually liquid at room temperature, and like saturated fats, they are relatively stable. They do not go rancid as easily as the polyunsaturated oils so they can also be used for lower temperature cooking.
- olive oil
- peanut oil
- sesame oil
- avocado oil
Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA): have two or more pairs of double bonds and therefore lack four or more hydrogen atoms. Polyunsaturated fatty acids are liquid, even when refrigerated.The fatty acids are easily oxidized and can form more toxic lipid peroxides which can cause cellular damage. Oils which have a high polyunsaturated fat content must be manufactured, transported, and stored very carefully to remain safe for ingestion. When heated they can form carcinogens and mutagens, yet people are frequently using these oils for cooking.
- Grape seed
Know the heat tolerance of the oils that you are using- A 2001 parallel review of 20-year dietary fat studies in the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and Spain found that polyunsaturated oils like soy, canola, sunflower, and corn oil degrade easily into toxic compounds when heated. Prolonged consumption of these ‘burnt’ oils led to atherosclerosis, inflammatory joint disease, and development of birth defects. The scientists also questioned global health authorities’ recommendation that large amounts of polyunsaturated fats be incorporated into the human diet without accompanying measures to ensure the protection of these fatty acids against heat- and oxidation-degradation….and yet these same oils are the ones that are used by industry for high heat frying and processing. Use the chart above as a guide to find the most stable fats for cooking with heat.
Unrefined and cold-pressed oils-The only oils that should be consumed are unrefined and cold pressed because they will have been processed in such as way as to minimize their exposure to heat (which kills the enzymes), and oxygen (which creates damaging free radicals) allowing them to maintain their nutritional integrity. Extra virgin olive oils and certain other nut and seed oils are healthy for your body, but only if they have been processed correctly and then are used properly by the consumer. Because this is such an important issue, you will find that these oils are clearly labeled as being “unrefined and cold, or expeller pressed.” They can be found in health foods stores and are generally stored in dark glass bottles or containers that protect them from exposure to light and oxygen. They are not to be used for cooking as the chart below explains, but are great for cold uses. Once again, you will pay more for these oils but the alternative seems to be unacceptable.
Know the heat tolerance of your cooking oils
Because it is the refining process which allows oils to be more heat tolerant, when you switch to cold-pressed oils you need to be aware of their uses and their limitations for cooking. Here are a few suggestions for using oils.
- 100% Extra virgin olive oils, avocado oils, and nut oils can be used for making salad dressings or for drizzling over vegetables after cooking to add flavor and to make the fat soluble vitamins more accessible to your body. These oils can be used for cold uses and for very low temperature cooking only.
- Flax or hemp oil can be used for cold uses only. They must be purchased in dark bottles and must be kept refrigerated. This oil is good for cold uses such as salad dressing and adding to smoothies, use by expiration date
- Extra-Virgin Coconut Oil, sustainably-harvested palm oil, and unrefined lard work well for light sauteing and cooking with higher heat because they are very stable fats.
- For baking you can use organic butter, lard, Ghee, or palm oil. Coconut oil can be used for baking if you melt it and then add it to room temperature ingredients, otherwise it will harden into clumps if it comes in contact with ingredients that have been chilled.
Lecture by Sally Fallon of Weston Price, The Oiling of America; how we have been duped by industry about the use of saturated fats
Hydrogenated/ partially hydrogenated, and trans fats
Hydrogenation is done by adding extra hydrogen atoms to the chemical structure of the oil, which then turns a polyunsaturated vegetable oil into a hardened butter-like substance. Products of this nature are margarine and vegetable shortening which are even less digestible than the oils they were made from.According to Dr. Brian Olshansky, Professor of Internal Medicine at Iowa University. “The problem with trans fatty acids is that your body doesn’t know what to do with them. Trans fatty acids may help preserve food so that it tastes good, but your body can’t break them down and use them correctly. Normal fats are very supple and pliable, but the trans fatty acid is a stiff fat that can build up in the body and create havoc. The chemical recipe for a trans fatty acid involves putting hydrogen atoms in the wrong place. It’s like making a plastic.”
Although they have helped to lower cholesterol, they have also caused a rise in inflammatory diseases and heart attacks. Food processors prefer to use them because they will incorporate better than liquid oils in food production and they give the end products a longer shelf life. They are used in most bakery products s well as commercial products because of their stability. Look for trans-fats, hydrogenated or partially- hydrogenated oils in the ingredients listed on packages and avoid them.
There are many “myths” associated with cholesterol that have been indoctrinated into our daily lives, they include:
• High-fat foods and cholesterol cause atherosclerosis leading to the obstruction of blood vessels in the heart
• Lowering your cholesterol will lengthen your life
• Polyunsaturated oils are good for your health
• All scientists and doctors support the idea that high cholesterol causes heart disease
• Statin drugs are essential in controlling cholesterol levels and preventing heart disease
Believing all of these cholesterol myths, Americans have decreased their intake of good fats and oils (like coconut oil, butter and olive oil) and started consuming more vegetable oils and margarine (a trans fat), and began taking statin drugs to lower cholesterol. But doing these thing have only led to more heart disease.
- Every cell membrane in our body contains cholesterol because cholesterol is what makes our cells waterproof. When cholesterol levels are not adequate, the cell membrane becomes leaky or porous.
- Cholesterol is the body’s repair substance: scar tissue contains high levels of cholesterol
- Cholesterol is needed for the liver to make bile
- it is the precursor for steroidal hormones such as estrogen, testosterone and progesterone
- the body uses the photolytic action of UV light on the cholesterol in the skin cells to make Vitamin D, which is essential for our immune system and also maintains the balance of calcium and phosphorus for strong bones and teeth.
- cholesterol is an essential component in the machinery that triggers the release of neurotransmitters in the brain.
- Cholesterol contributes to the functioning of “synapses” (tiny gaps between cells which allow nerves to communicate with each other).
- What contributes more to heart disease than any other factor is our consumption of refined sugars
In regards to palm oil
Please don’t buy products that contain palm oil. The environmental impact as well as the devastation to wildlife is a grave concern as the rain forest is being cleared away to make way for more palm plantations. One company that is an exception to this statement is Nutiva which sells palm oil that comes from small organic farms in Ecuador. Link to Nutiva Organic Red Palm Oil