Do you remember, back in the 1980’s in particular, that saturated fats were bad for us, and that they were the main cause of heart disease according to all of the experts at the time? Do you also remember that they strongly encouraged us to eat poly unsaturated fats (PUFA’S) instead? Vegetable oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, soybean oil, and then the new comer on the block, canola oil?
Coconut oil, even though it was technically a nut and seed, was considered bad because it is a saturated fat. Imagine that.
I remember. The propaganda was strong. I bought into it. For years, I used either vegetable oil or canola oil. I liked canola oil because I thought the name was pretty cool. It goes to show how powerful marketing can be, eh? I seriously thought I was eating well to protect my heart.
Well, I no longer believe that. As a matter of fact, I am a frim believer that saturated fats are very much heart healthy, and that they have many other health benefits as well. For example, our body uses saturated fats for creating hormones, building our bones, and a big benefit of saturated fats is what it does for our lungs(yes, lungs). Our lungs use saturated fats as a surfactant. Stated differently, our lungs use saturated fats as a lubricant when we breathe. Considering the whole covid scare now, having well lubricated lungs would be of great benefit.
But I digress. Let’s gat back to industrial oils.
How Industrial Oils Are Made
Let’s examine how industrial oils are made in the first place. Canola oil is a great example. For starters, the rapeseed is the crop used to create canola oil, but to make it more palatable, they modified the rapeseed to reduce the high euric acid content. In essence, it is a genetically modified food stuff. They did this because euric acid has a bitter taste and is toxic. It has been associated with Keshan’s disease.
Then the seeds are exposed to high heat to facilitate oil extraction. This in itself will make the oil rancid (oxidize) and not good for consumption.
The seeds are then exposed to petroleum based chemicals, such as hexane to get the most oil possible from the seeds. I can’t imagine this to be very healthy.
Next up the newly extracted oil has to be degummed, which involves even more chemicals and high heat to accomplish this task. Then it is bleached and separated.
And finally, the oil is deodorized to get rid of the bad smell and more chemicals are added to give it an appealing color.
Ironically, it is during the deodorization process that creates trans-fats with the oil, which we all now know is very bad for health.
Here is a 5 minute video on YouTube showing the whole process of creating canola oil. It is very interesting to see how it is done.
more reasons to pass on industrial oils
If what I just listed isn’t bad enough, there are yet more reasons to avoid industrial seed oils. One is the out of balance ratio between omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. The perfect balance of omega-6 to omega-3 should be a 1 to 1 ratio, and even a 4 to 1 omega-6 to omega 3 can be in the healthy range. The problem is that in our modern westernized diets, that ratio is way out of whack…to the tune of 10 or even 20 to 1! High omega-6 consumption leads to chronic inflammation, thus facilitating the many chronic diseases we deal with, such as arthritis, diabetes, heart diseases and so on. Industrial seeds are the main reason why the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is so out of balance. And yes, industrial seed oils are very high in omega-6 fatty acids.
Another reason to avoid industrial seed oils is because, quite simply, we did not eat seed oils for most of human history. Linoleic acid, of which are high in industrial seed oils, makes up over 8% of the total caloric intake in the standard western diet. This is in contrast the hunter-gatherer diet, which had 1 to 3% total calories from linoleic acid. Evolutionary researchers believe that our bodies simply are not able to handle the mismatch.
Industrial oils are very unstable. They are mainly made up of polyunsaturated fats, which are sensitive to heat and will turn rancid quickly. There is no good benefit from eating oxidized fats, and they can lead to a whole host of chronic diseases.
One final note on this topic. Almost all, if not all, of the industrial seed oils are made from genetically modified plants. We still do not know the long term effects on our health from GMO crops.
why do we believe that pufa’s are heart healthy?
Even now many nutrition experts consider polyunsaturated fats to be heart healthy, in spite of the evidence to the contrary. There are several contributing factors to the zeitgeist of the time, but two main ones come to the forefront. The first one is the influence of Dr. Ancel Keyes and his diet-heart hypothesis. He believed that high saturated fat consumption lead to higher serum cholesterol, which was the cause of heart disease. He strongly believed that saturated fats were the silent killer, and he went about to prove his hypothesis. His determination and drive made the medical profession and later on the governing bodies adopt the belief that saturated fats are bad (and too much fat in the diet from any source), and that we had to do our best to eliminate them. The only fats left were monounsaturated fats like olive oil and avocado oil, or polyunsaturated fats, of which the aforementioned industrial oils are.
The second big influence in making polyunsaturated fats generally accepted as good sources of fat is with the company Procter and Gamble. Back in the 1940’s, Proctor and Gamble donated a large sum of money to the new non-profit start up called The American Heart Association. This gave them the money to become the leader in researching heart disease and health. I believe it goes without saying that the research was slighted to favor industrial oils (called vegetable oils at the time).
There is plenty of research (and evolutionary science) to dispute the claim that saturated fats are bad for us, but moving big institutions in a different direction takes time. In the meantime, we should reconsider the role industrial oils have in our diet.
ways to avoid industrial oils in your diet
Let’s start with the obvious. Get rid of all the vegetable oils you may have in your pantry. This would include cottonseed oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil, canola oil, and corn oil. If it is liquid at room temperature, it is quite likely to be an industrial oil. The exceptions are monounsaturated fats like olive oil or avocado oil. Just throw them out.
The less obvious, but just as important thing you can do is to throw out all of the boxed and packaged foods in your cupboard. This would include items such as store bought cookies, crackers, chips, pastries and so forth. Moreover, many dressings and marinades fit in this category as well. They all are made with industrial oils (and lots of sugar of some sort) because it is a cheap oil and actually very stable when used in packaged foods. I still look at the ingredients of packaged foods when I go to the store to see if anything has changed, but it has not.
so what can we use
The short answer is saturated and monounsaturated fats. Both are good for overall health. But you still have to do your due diligence. Here is a brief list of good fats to consume:
- Coconut oil
- Olive oil
- Avocado oil
- Lard (the real lard made from pig, not the stuff from Crisco!)
- Beef tallow
- Duck fat
All of these fats are good for you. Additionally, they taste fantastic and are quite filling. I notice that I feel full much sooner and with less overall calories when I eat higher fat foods. It “sticks to the ribs”, as my mom used to say.
Most of these fats are what the label says, and you can trust that. Olive oil is a different matter. I did some research on olive oil, and found that many brands mix the olive oil with some kind of vegetable oil to bring the price down. What’s worse is that the label does not say so. The best way to tell if the olive oil you are purchasing is to see if it is 3rd party certified. It should be certified by the North American Olive Oil Association. This organization conducts tests on many brands, and if it passes, the brand gets the certification symbol. To learn more, visit the website: https://www.aboutoliveoil.org/
Industrial seed oils have no place in our diet. They are highly processed with high heat and chemicals to bring about a palatable oil. However, the very process to make seed oils look and taste good also makes the oils rancid and damaging to our health. Furthermore, industrial seed oils are a new addition to our diets. Just like refined sugar and an abundant food supply that happened in the last 150 years or so, our bodies have not evolutionarily adapted to it. Industrial seed oils in the diet is a major driver of many of the chronic diseases we see today.
Let’s get back to what we should be eating. Whole, unprocessed foods. Good fats like butter, ghee, coconut oil and so on.