This is an excerpt from Martha’s booklet, A Pocket Full of Posies, a collection of articles she has published over the years. It is available for purchase on our website or at Amazon.com.
The American diet is characterized by an excess of pro-inflammatory processed omega 6 oils and a lack of anti-inflammatory omega 3 oils due to our reliance on highly heated and refined vegetable oils. In fact, most of our oils come from the industrial waste of soy, cottonseed, and corn. The processing of vegetable oils at high heat (230 degrees or more) destroys the protective double and triple chemical bonds that are characteristic of good oils, thus increasing the free radicals that ravage our blood vessels and cause harm.
Another cultural myth is that animal fat is bad – leading to our cultural avoidance of animal oils, including fish. When there is an excess ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 oils, there can be interference with the enzymes that change the long chain highly unsaturated fatty acids, which are the precursors of healthy prostaglandins that in turn, direct many cell processes. This unfortunate situation may lead to hypertension, irritation of the digestive system, inflammation, depressed immunity, weight gain, sterility, and cancer.
Oils that are highly heated in their processing include hydrogenated oils, partially hydrogenated oils (worse), pasteurized oils (high heat), and ultra-pasteurized oils (even higher heat). If that weren’t bad enough, toxic chemicals are used in the refining processes. Although there is a process to remove the chemical extracting agent, there are legally allowed residues of these chemicals. For example, in the hydrogenation process used to make margarine and vegetable shortening, nickel oxide must be used and is responsible for changing the naturally occurring healthy “cis” formation of a chemical bond into an unhealthy “trans” form of that bond. For more than thirty years we have known that this “trans” form of the bond is implicated in arterial and cardiovascular disease.
Other solvents used in the extraction and processing of oils include hexane, benzene, gasoline, ethyl ether, carbon disulfide, toluene, carbon tetrachloride, and methylene chloride – all toxic substances that leave residues in the oil. Homogenization, the process of breaking large dairy fats into small ones that stay suspended in milk, allows the fats to become prone to oxidation and rancidity. This free radical formation has been implicated in hastening the aging of the skin and body organs, auto-immune diseases such as arthritis, cataracts, Parkinson’s, Lou Gehrig disease, and Alzheimers’ disease.
It is important to be discriminating about oils. You should spend a large portion of your food budget on excellent quality oils. Ask questions in the supermarkets and restaurants. Sound like heresy? It’s not. It’s science and it’s our genetics, our body chemistry and our health.
Oils and fats heated at high temperatures, under great pressure, and using toxic solvents in the manufacturing process damages chemical bonds that create serious consequences. Over-heated oils promote free radical damage and inflammation to the blood vessels and other body tissue. When this occurs the body produces a substance to repair the damage–cholesterol. Cholesterol is the body’s answer to oxidative stress and inflammation. Cholesterol acts as an anti-oxidant. Additionally, cholesterol is important in many other body functions. It is a precursor to vitamin D, bile, adrenaline, estrogen, progesterone, as well as steroids that protect against heart disease and cancer. Cholesterol is a receptor for serotonin in the brain. We absorb about one third of the cholesterol we ingest while the rest of our cholesterol is manufactured by the body.
Some of the common sources of heat-damaged oils that I recommend you avoid include powdered milk, pasteurized milk, ultra-pasteurized milk, homogenized milk, and powdered eggs. Hydrogenated oils such as margarine and vegetable shortening are particularly offensive. Although the evidence is not yet conclusive about GMO (gene-modified organism) canola oil, I recommend avoiding it until evidence is conclusive.
Fats and oils have been given a bum rap. The truth is we need a variety of oils: saturated and unsaturated, mono-unsaturated, polyunsaturated, short, medium, long and extra-long chain fatty acids. We need omega 3’s and omega 6’s. Translated into English, this means coconut oil and butter give you energy immediately and 15% of the fat structures in these oils do not store in our fat cells, a fact to keep in mind when wanting to increase energy or lose weight. We all know that monounsaturated fat (oleic) such as extra-virgin olive oil is very good for us. Double unsaturated linoleic acid or omega 6 is most useful in building the brain and nervous system, especially for infants. Triple unsaturated linolenic acid or omega 3 found in fish and flax seed oil is even more useful. Each of these fats and oils participates in the body in different ways.
“Cholesterol acts as an anti-oxidant.”
“Cholesterol is a receptor for serotonin in the brain.”
What oils do I recommend? Non-GMO. Organic. Cold-pressed. 100% extra-virgin. Be vigilant in your pursuit of excellent quality oils. Be prepared to pay for them. Quality oils should be used in our foods as well as in the oils we put on our body or allow to come in contact with our skin. Even the Essential Oils we inhale should come from excellent non-chemical sources. Think about that the next time you are purchasing soap, bath oils, mood oils, cosmetics, or dry skin oil. I strongly recommend small amounts of 100% extra-virgin olive oil (plain olive oil is not pure enough), coconut oil, palm oil, nut oils, seed oils, grape seed oil, fish, fish oils, peanut, walnut, sesame, unpasteurized cream and butter, grass-fed animal fat and lard, nitrite-free bacon, goose and duck fat, runny egg yolks from organically fed cage-free hens, and fish roe.