This post will certainly be controversial if you are following standard health advice. But after exploring the evidence, I am more convinced than ever that polyunsaturated oils can cause incredible harm to our overall health.
Healthy fats are essential for proper cell function
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 help the body feel satiated. They also assist in the production of substances that are essential for healthy immune function, tissue repair and prostaglandin production.
Healthy fats play a role in the transfer of oxygen into the cells as they contain a vital electron cloud which enables them to bind with oxygen and protein and become water-soluble. This water solubility is vital to all growth processes, cell restoration, brain and nerve functions, and sensory nerve functions, furthermore our entire basis of energy production is based on the metabolism of lipids.
The problem is that 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 fats used by manufacturers these days are omega-6. 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 fats because all the carbon-atom linkages are filled—or saturated—with hydrogen. These fats do not normally go rancid when exposed to heat or oxygen and they are solid or semi-solid at room temperature. Some examples include:
- Organic Virgin Coconut Oil
- Palm oil (find a sustainable source such as Nutiva Red Palm Oil otherwise they are very environmentally unfriendly)
- Butter (from organic or from grass fed animals)
- Ghee-this is clarified butter
- Lards if you are going to use then look for non-hydrogenated lard at health food stores that comes from pasture-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 low temperature cooking or as finishing oils or for making homemade salad dressings. Examples include:
- 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 they are refrigerated.The fatty acids oxidize easily and can form 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. Examples include:
- 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 will degrade easily into toxic compounds when heated. Prolonged consumption of these ‘burnt’ oils can lead to atherosclerosis, inflammatory joint disease, and the 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.
What you can use:
- Extra-virgin coconut oil, organic butter, and ghee work well for light sauteing and cooking because they are very stable fats.
- For baking you can use organic butter or ghee. 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 are cold.
- 100% Extra virgin olive oils and avocado 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. Look for extra virgin or cold processed oils as these will not have been exposed to heat or solvents during extraction.
Hydrogenated/ partially hydrogenated, and trans fats are harmful to health
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 levels, 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. You can look at labels 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, some of them include:
- Cholesterol causes atherosclerosis leading to the obstruction of blood vessels of the heart
- Lowering cholesterol will lengthen your life
- Polyunsaturated oils are good for you
- Statins 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, avocado and olive oil) and began consuming more processed vegetable oils and margarines and taking statin drugs to lower their cholesterol. But doing these thing have only led to more heart disease.
The reality about cholesterol is this:
- Every cell membrane is made from cholesterol. 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.
- The brain is fueled by cholesterol. When statins are used to control cholesterol this can cause memory loss in certain individuals and can be misdiagnosed as early onset Alzheimer Disease. Statins currently carry a black box warning regarding memory loss because of this.
- Cholesterol is used by the liver to make bile
- Cholesterol is the precursor for making hormones, such as estrogen, testosterone and progesterone
- The body uses the photolytic action of UV light to make Vitamin D from cholesterol
- 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).
- Consuming trans-fats and rancid fats, along with diets that are high in sugar are more detrimental to health than consuming cholesterol.