I was recently watching a series of short interviews with Sally Fallon, the head of The Weston Price Foundation. In the video she mentioned the three evils of the modern diet being vegetable oil, processed carbohydrates/sugars and flavour enhancers like MSG. I whole heartedly agree with her agree so thought I would describe each of the offenders in the next couple of blog posts. First cab off the rank is the vegetable oil.
We’ve all heard that saturated fats are bad for us and that we should be using the ‘heart healthy’ vegetable oils because they are higher in polyunsaturated fats. This is strange because if we go back 100 years vegetable oil was barely being used and heart attacks hadn’t been invented. Let’s first look at how vegetables are processed and then see the effects they have on the body.
When you buy vegetable oil it has normal come from soy beans, rapeseed, sunflowers, cotton seed, corn, or safflower. To get oil out of a food product some pressure is applied. Think of an olive, you can squeeze it and very easily the oil comes out. But if we think of the vegetable oils listed above that is not really the case. You cannot squeeze a piece of corn to easily get the oil. So to get the oil out of these products a rather extensive process is needed.
First the product is ground up and then steamed or cooked. To this a solvent is added to dissolve out the oils from the rest of the plant. And what are these solvents that are used to help extract the oil? The most commonly used solvents are light petroleum fractions. The most widely used solvent is hexane, with hexanes being one of the main constituents of gasoline, with a gasoline-like odour. Not the sort of thing you want to be ingesting (just look at the long term toxicity signs listed on wikipedia). The solvent is then removed from the oil, although there is some obvious residue.
The oil then has to go through a refining process. This involves adding sodium hydroxide to the oil. This is a strong alkaliser, and is often used in cleaning products. It is hazardous to health and is linked with illnesses relating to the lungs and airway, eyes, ears, nose, intestines, stomach, heart, and skin. The oil and sodium hydroxide is then heated 230 degrees Celsius (450 degrees Fahrenheit). You now have refined oil.
Unfortunately the oil is still not ‘edible’ (although I realise that this is a questionable term to use) until it goes through further processes of filtration, deodorising and bleaching. This means the oil again has various other agents added to remove impurities, remove the taste of gasoline, and make it a colour that they think the public want to see in the oil that they buy. Unfortunately some of the supposed impurities that are removed include chlorophyll, vitamin A and E. These are they agents that prevent the oil from becoming rancid, but now they have been removed.
So what do you end up with? A product that the human body barely recognises because never before in our history were we eating oil made from sunflowers or cotton. Something that has been so far removed from its original form that we had to use gasoline and extreme heat to get it there. And a final product that has had what little protective substances it had removed so that it is now highly unstable to heat and light to the extent that it is almost always rancid while it is still sitting on the supermarket shelf, long before you add it to your food.
While the processing of vegetable oils is bad, its effects on the human body are far worse. Despite what we have been told for years, vegetable oils actually leads to heart disease not prevents it. In one study rats fed a diet containing vegetable oils develop legions on their heart. Vegetable oils are implicated in almost all forms of cancer. They don’t build the brain properly and affect brain function. This could account for the increase in learning disorders, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and all mental health issues that are on such a steady rise. They affect the inflammation response in the body, creating more inflammatory problems and contributing to autoimmune disease. They affect thyroid function and the whole endocrine system in general. The list is almost endless as they have a negative impact on nearly every system in the body.
So the obvious thing to do would be to avoid these oils. Unfortunately this is easier said than done. The problem is the insidious way that vegetable oils have entered our food supply and are now basically in everything. They are in most store bought food – cakes, biscuits, breakfast cereals, margarine, pasta sauces, salad dressings, mayonnaise, canned fish – the list goes on. Deep fried food like chips and donuts are cooked in vegetable oil. Since the 1940’s it has been fed to animals (especially pigs) because it does such a good job at fattening them up (it has the same affect on humans). This means that you are getting the negative effects of these oils if you are eating meat that is not grass fed and organically raised.
So how do you get around eating vegetable oils? Eating whole foods that you prepare is your best option. Eat fruit that is in season, green vegetables like broccoli, spinach, and salad, organic and grass fed meat, line caught fish, and starchy vegetables like potato, sweet potato/yam, and butternut squash. If you want to eat cakes, biscuits and these kinds of treats, make them yourself. They will taste better and you will eat them less often if you have to make them yourself. When cooking and needing oil/fat, use butter, ghee or coconut oil. These are saturated fats, have high burning points and are natural products that we have been eating for millennia. Interestingly, before farmers started using vegetable oils to feed to animals they tried out coconut oil. Unfortunately for farmers it increased the pigs appetite and slowed down weight gain so they changed their feed. Learn from these animals and stay away from vegetable oil.
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Chris Sandel is the founder of www.seven-health.com. He is a nutritionist, working with clients on a one-on-one basis, as well as creating online trainings and products about health and nutrition. He is the author of The Health Trap: Why "Healthy" Eating Isn't Always Healthy which is available on Amazon UK and Amazon USA.
Chris has three free emails series. One is on how to quit dieting. One is on simple tests you can do at home. And the other is his take on the world's healthiest foods.