Be Healthy, Be Happy # 50


A long post today for #50 on my website – a type of “milestone!” Please do your best to get through this one, as it contains many facts about what I consider a very important subject.

People often ask me what they can do to start eating a healthier diet. Typically, I will advise that they eliminate or drastically reduce their consumption of three things: Sugar; Grains (especially refined grains); and Vegetable Oils.

Today’s topic is vegetable oils, which have become fairly ubiquitous – appearing in so many food/cooking products over the last 10-20 years. I have seen numerous research articles and books which highlight the damaging effects of these oils on our overall health. I try to make sure that I very rarely consume any type of vegetable oils, which are sometimes referenced as the three C’s:  Canola oil, Corn Oil, & Cottonseed Oil; and the three S’s: Soybean oil, Sunflower oil, & Safflower oil. Others to avoid: Grapeseed Oil, Rice Bran Oil.

These oils are often main ingredients in many processed food products – crackers, chips, cookies, breakfast cereals, granola, salad dressings, bread, etc …. I make it a point to always check-read the ingredients list on any product I buy in a jar-can-box-bag or any container that lists ingredients.

One of the health-wellness leaders I follow is Dr. Cate Shanahan. She is a board-certified Family Physician, and she has done graduate studies in biochemistry and genetics at Cornell University. Her latest book “Deep Nutrition” is an excellent read!

I was listening to a podcast recently where she made a very illuminating statement – “We knew more about proper, healthy nutrition in 1930 than we do today.” Basically, back in 1930 and for around a couple decades after that, people ate “real food” – as there was not very many “fake-foods” or genetically modified “frankenfood” products – which fill the grocery store shelves these days. Here is Dr. Shanahan’s brief version of the damaging effects that can result from consuming vegetable oils –

(The short version)
‘These oils contain a high percentage of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). PUFAs are unstable, and break down rapidly when exposed to chemical stress. Ever heard of varnish? It’s what carpenters use to finish wood. Varnish is made from vegetable oils, including soy and linseed (which is rich in omega-3, like canola), because these oils are chiefly composed of PUFAs. PUFAs react with oxygen in the air to help polymerize the varnish into a nice hard coating that helps preserve the wood.

Varnish is good for your floors, but not so good for your brain, your arteries or mitochondria. I elaborate on that below, throughout this blog, and in Deep Nutrition chapters 7 and 8.

A little bit of PUFA is not a problem for us, we actually need some. And when we get PUFA from whole foods like sunflower, chia or flax seeds, it’s well protected by antioxidants nature builds into the seed. These protectants get stripped away during the industrial scale refining of sunflower and the other vegetable oils, and that’s just the beginning of the problems with vegetable oils.

The refining process not only strips away antioxidants, it makes PUFAs toxic by exposing them to heat, pressure, metals and bleaching agents. This chemically alters the molecules into a wide variety of potent toxins with long names like 4-hydroxynonanal and 4-hydroxyhexanol, aldehydes, and others. These molecules are toxic because they promote free-radical reactions that damage our cellular machinery including mitochondria, enzymes, hormone receptors, and DNA.”

(The chart below from Dr. Cate offers an excellent resource list of the good fats & oils, and also the bad fats & oils.)

The following link offers additional insightful information/rationale as to why I steer far away from consuming vegetable oils: Why You Should Never Eat Vegetable Oil or Margarine

Finally, here in Bangkok and at restaurants all around the world now, vegetable oils are used to prepare many of the meals we are enjoying. When I go out to eat, I try to always ask that my omelettes are cooked in butter instead of oil. For dinner, I will ask that any cooking/frying be done in olive oil or butter.

This was a long post this week, but the consumption of unhealthy vegetable oils is a subject which I believe many people ignore far too often. It is time to start checking those ingredient labels, and being careful of what you are putting into your mouth and body!



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