What We Know About Fats and Oils

The following post is an excerpt from A Pocket Full of Posies, a collection of my mom’s writing and I thought it was particularly relevant these days, considering how much we see in the news about the changing beliefs and the results of scientific studies on how fats and oils affect our bodies. Gone are the days where the majority of American households use margarine as a butter replacement. Americans are slowly becoming more discerning consumers regarding fats and which ones to include in their diet. What you eat or don’t eat affects your health, whether it is your heart, your brain, or even conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, hearing loss, and age-related macular degeneration.

A Pocket Full of Posies can be purchased through our website, or on 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 them 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 of 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, autoimmune diseases such as arthritis, cataracts, Parkinson’s, ALS, and Alzheimer’s 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 and creates 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 us 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 our 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 (genetically modified organism) canola oil, I recommend avoiding it until we have more information on how GMO food may affect our body.

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 fats (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 linoleic acid or omega 3 found in fish and flax seed oil is even more useful. Each of these fats and oils contributes to the body in different ways.

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