Three Strikes for Vegetable Oils

The change I’m addressing today is fairly simple, but don’t let how easy it is fool you: this is one of the most important changes you can make in your diet. I’m talking about cutting out polyunsaturated oils. Cheap vegetable oils aren’t benefitting your health in any way, and here’s why:

The main difference between polyunsaturated fat and other fats (like monounsaturated and saturated) is the structure. For example, monounsaturated fatty acids are linked by one double bond, but polyunsaturated fats are linked by multiple double bonds. This structure is very unstable and wreaks havoc on the cells in your body. It contributes to oxidation and free radical damage, which is linked to heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, autoimmune diseases and premature aging (just to name a few).

Strike One. The instability of polyunsaturated fats is especially volatile during any kind of processing. Even small amounts of light, moisture, air or heat damage polyunsaturated fat. These oils can’t withstand exposure to heat when used for cooking, and yet these oils are the most popular choice in packaged foods and most restaurants. These oils are also typically bleached and deodorized with hazardous chemicals. Damaged oils equal damaged health, period.

Strike Two. A top concern about consuming high levels of omega-6 fatty acids (a main component of polyunsaturated oils) is they can interfere with the body's production of prostaglandins. This can cause many adverse conditions in the body, including blood clots, sterility, poor immunity, indigestion, and cancer.

Strike Three. Too many omega-6 fatty acids can also interfere with the use of the very important omega-3 fatty acids in the body. And since polyunsaturated oils are used almost exclusively in conventional processed foods, it's very easy for people to take in far more omega-6 fatty acids than their body can use. The omega-6 fatty acids in these oils essentially crowds out the omega-3's, which can be devastating to your health.

Here’s how you can avoid eating damaged polyunsaturated fats:

Avoid vegetable oils. Don’t use soy, corn, cottonseed or canola oils. These are the worst of the worst, even if the label claims “unrefined.” Very small amounts of expeller-pressed sesame, peanut and flax oil are okay, but keep the focus on eating plenty of natural saturated fats.

Eat real butter. Margarine and other spreads are made with vegetable oil (sometimes the hydrogenated kind - yuck!). Stick with good ole butter with no additives.

Change your cooking oil. Polyunsaturated fats are simply too unstable to heat. Switch to butter, coconut oil, ghee and other stable saturated fats like lard and tallow. Using olive oil for cooking on occasion is safe, too. Find high quality sources of healthy cooking oils here on my Resources page.

Avoid processed foods. Unhealthy vegetable oils are just another reason to avoid packaged food products. Stick with the real thing and you’ll have more control over what fats are involved.

Fortunately, these changes can be very easy to make. Cooking with healthy saturated fats is simple and healthy. Since saturated fats are more solid at room temperature, you may have to gently melt them to use them in some recipes. This is a very small inconvenience, however, considering how beneficial the change is!

For an in-dept article about vegetable oil and healthy fats, read The Oiling of America at the Weston A. Price Foundation website. You can also take a look at Mary Enig's book Know Your Fats, or Eat Fat, Lose Fat by Mary Enig and Sally Fallon. The DVD Fat Head also has some interesting commentary about vegetable oils and saturated fats, for those of you who'd like a break from the books!

Need to find a source for healthy fats? Check out my Resources page here!

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