Are we playing a game of chance with the oils we consume? And if so, which oils?
I’ve been studying about fats in a cookbook called Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon with Mary G. Enig, Ph.D. There are different kinds of fats, and the book discusses whether or not saturated fats are good for you.
Saturated fat is a fat that is naturally full up with hydrogen atoms such that it’s stable for the body to consume [more at Answers.com]. Bear with me on this hydrogen thing.
Saturated fat most often comes from animals and is solid at room temperature. Examples of saturated fat would be fat from a Spencer stake, ground beef, chicken, turkey or bacon, butter — and tropical oils, like coconut oil.
Saturated fat normally won’t go rancid (develop a foul odor and go rotten). You can use this kind of fat for cooking and it still won’t go bad.
From the Nourishing Traditions cookbook by Sally Fallon:
Monounsaturated fatty acids have one double bond in the form of two carbon atoms double-bonded to each other and therefore lack two hydrogen atoms.
I included that last part because they are talking about a pair of hydrogen atoms missing and thus the oil tends toward liquidity. Saturated fat doesn’t have those two missing hydrogen atoms and so will be solid at room temperature.
Monounsaturated fat tends to be liquid at room temperature. An example of a monounsaturated fat is oleic acid, which is found in olive oil, almonds, pecans, cashews, peanuts and avocados. You can press cashews and obtain a quantity of oil or fat and that is monounsaturated fat. It’s a sort of a step down from saturated fat but is stable and does not go rancid easily and can be used in cooking.
But when you eat saturated fat, your body will also make monounsaturated fat naturally!
I’m not a nuclear scientist nor am I a doctor, and I’m working with what was written in the cookbook, yet I have to communicate to you, the reader — so, again, bear with me.
Polyunsaturated fat or oil comes in the form of vegetable oils such as soy oil, corn oil, safflower and canola oil, which contain both double unsaturated (missing four hydrogen atoms) linoleic acid (called omega-6) and triple unsaturated (missing six hydrogen atoms) linoleic acid (called omega 3). Since our bodies don’t make omega-6 and omega-3 acids, these two acids are considered "essential" or "Essential Fatty Acids" (or EFA’s) — however, while these are necessary, they’re nowhere near as necessary as saturated fats.
Polyunsaturated fats and oils are yet another general step down from saturated fats.
Polyunsaturated oils remain liquid even if you put it in the refrigerator. They go rancid easily and so preservatives are added to extend shelf life. They should not be used for cooking because the heat oxidizes the oil and causes it to go bad.
To quote from Nourishing Traditions cookbook by Sally Fallon:
Polyunsaturated fatty acids [fat or oil] have two or more pairs of double bonds and therefore lack four or more hydrogen atoms.
Again there’s the hydrogen atom/lack thereof situation in polyunsaturated oils. In case you’re not counting, we’re now down at least four hydrogen atoms from the saturated fat atomic count. (Bear with me!)
Trans fats or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils — the joker in the deck!
There are other kinds of "fats." These fats have been altered or "processed" if you will. Remember that saturated fats are from animals, and that trans fats and hydrogenated oils were missing hydrogen atoms prior to hydrogenation? Read on.
Trans fats: you partially hydrogenate vegetable oils, such as soy oil, corn oil, safflower and canola oil, and make them solidly soft. Most margarine, commercial baked goods and many fried foods employ these "trans fats."
Partially or fully hydrogenated oils: hydrogenation is the conversion of liquid oils to semi-hard fats by adding hydrogen; used for margarines and shortenings intended for bakery products. This was invented by an English chemist William Norman, 1901. Trans fats are hydrogenated oils, which can be confusing on product labels.
The Nourishing Traditions cookbook states that partially hydrogenated oils (man-made trans fats) are toxic to your body. In essence, your body takes these trans fats into the cells and your cells then become partially hydrogenated. This disrupts metabolism, which is the process in which you take in food or water and a chemical reaction occurs which gives you energy.
In other words, your body pulls nutrients out of food as it passes through the intestinal tract and converts those nutrients to energy. Well and good, but ingesting vegetable oils to which hydrogen has been added apparently disrupts the natural energy-making activity of your body. However, with hydrogenated oils, your body is fooled into thinking that what you just ate was saturated fat. Tricksy!
How does this happen? How does the body come to interpret trans fats and hydrogenated oils as saturated fats? Simply by the addition of the hydrogen — the hydrogenation.
It gets worse. The body uses fat for energy, but when your cells become partially hydrogenated, your body has much more difficulty getting the fat into use — so, instead of converting the fat to energy, it stores this fat somewhere in your body. Translated? You gain weight.
So when you read that ingredients label and see trans fat or partially hydrogenated oils, think: "I’m getting fat" — literally.
Vegetable oils, like canola, corn, soy, cottonseed, are highly refined vegetable oils and are cheap to produce and easy to hydrogenate. You know: those vegetable oils used to make margarine or shortening, used in baking, etc. They are bad for you because they disrupt your metabolism.
As well, vegetable oils, hydrogenated or not, can easily go bad. Even when used in baked goods.
Eating hydrogenated fats has been associated with some very serious diseases such as cancer, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), diabetes, obesity, immune system dysfunction, decreased visual acuity (sharpness, clearness, keenness), sterility, difficulty with mothers lactating and problems with bones and tendons. These types of "processed" oils are not healthy!
A deck of cards usually caries two jokers. So, here’s the second joker in the deck: genetically modified oils, which are quite common in baked goods, French fries, the list goes on and on. Partially hydrogenated oils that come from genetically modified vegetable oils are a very unhealthy double whammy on your and your children’s bodies, changing the game for the worse. [See our Processed Foods Can Cause Cancer.] And we still don’t know what effects genetically modified foods have on us over the long term.
Rancidity: comparing saturated fats to polyunsaturated fats
At the turn of the previous century, the 1900’s, there was no such thing as trans oils or fats.
There were saturated fats from butter, lard, tallow (fat from animals), coconut oil and olive oil. Saturated fats don’t go rancid.
Vegetable oils came into heavy use in the mid 1900’s — around the time saturated fats were demonized.
But vegetable oils go rancid if they are subjected to heat, oxygen and moisture, like when you cook with them or in food "processing." These spoiled oils then run amok in our bodies, attacking cell membranes and blood vessels and your skin; you can get wrinkles and age faster. These rancid vegetable oils set your body up for tumors and hardening of the arteries. Eating vegetable oils has been shown to have a high correlation with cancer and heart disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Alzheimer’s and cataracts. Vegetable oils do have some use (such as EFA’s or essential fatty acids) — the problem comes when you consume too much and if they’re out of proportion to saturated fats.
Consuming saturated fats give necessary stiffness and integrity to cell membranes so that they can function properly. For calcium to be properly assimilated into your bones, you should eat saturated fats. They lower a substance in the blood called Lp(a), a substance that indicates proneness to heart disease. Saturated fats also help the liver with toxins and enhance the immune system. They make the "essential fatty acids" or EFA’s work better in your body, and have anti-microbial properties and help out in the digestive tract.
I would suggest you find out for yourself which group was generally sicker: the group from the early 1900’s or our group from the late 1900’s up to now.
Also, when you eat meat, make sure it doesn’t have estrogen or antibiotics in it.
If you’re healthy, you can work and can obtain the things you want from life. Life is fun. And the joy you get from living can be passed down to your children. The opposite of that would be a debilitating illness that drains the life right out of you and your family. Where’s the fun in that?
My suggestion is to throw out the jokers in the deck. Let’s play some seven-card stud, high-low splits the pot and have some fun.
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