I want to take a minute to talk about fats. Specifically, the kind of fats we eat and cook with, like canola oil. You need to know how the oils you use are made so that you can make informed decisions on which oils are best for you and your family.
To make oil, seeds or nuts are collected and then have to be crushed and processed to get the oils out. They’re exposed to heat in excess of 230 degrees. Next, the crushed nuts or seeds are pressed under great amounts of pressure to squeeze out the oils. The pounds of pressure used to force the oils out generates heat and further damages the fatty acid molecules. Then a solvent called hexane is added to the crushed nuts to draw out the last bit of oils. Hexane is a derivative of petroleum that may cause impaired fertility, central nervous system depression and other health dangers. By the way, the government considers hexane a safe, food-grade solvent. Processors then boil off the hexane solvent but traces of it remain in the oil. If the nuts and seeds aren’t organic, solvents like hexane act as a magnet attracting the pesticides sprayed on them before harvesting. The pesticide concentrations show up in the end product which is a rancid, refined oil.
Hydrogenation is another popular method for processing oils. It takes a liquid oil at room temperature and converts it to a solid at room temperature. This process transforms Omega 3 and 6 oils so that they stay shelf stable for long periods of time. This is great for the processed food industry because polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are cheap oils to extract in the first place and extending their shelf life through hydrogenation makes them even more financially viable. Typically, hydrogenation begins with extracted, already-rancid PUFA oils from the extraction phase. Then, tiny particles of metal in the form of nickel oxide are added to the oil so that when it is exposed to hydrogen gas in a high-heat, high-pressure reactor, the fat molecules will be forced to chemically change their structure from a natural polyunsaturated fatty acid to a saturated fatty acid structure. These altered fats are called trans fats. At this point, the oil has become thin and watery and foul-smelling – a byproduct of rancidity. To return the oil to a thicker, more viscous state, fillers and thickeners are added. The odors are deodorized through a steam-cleaning process, which subjects the oil to more heat, causing further molecular damage. Next, the oil is bleached to remove it’s gray color and the odorless, colorless white substance is packaged as shortening. To produce margarine, artificial colors and flavors are added to make it resemble real butter. The end result is a cheap PUFA oil masquerading as a saturated fat.
Because the structure of the polyunsaturated fatty acids are manipulated to become a saturated fat, the body cannot recognize these kinds of fats as food. So, when we consume extracted and hydrogenated fats, we lose the ability to use healthy fats properly. In fact, our cells become trans fat cells. Healthy fatty acids are displaced by the frankenfats leading the body down a path towards serious health problems such as cancer, diabetes, birth defects, sexual dysfunction, heart disease and poor bone health, to name just a few. Don’t fool yourself that consuming a moderate amount of trans fats is safe. The National Academy of Sciences states that “trans fatty acids are not essential and provide no known benefit to human health.” And don’t forget that food labeling can lull us into believing that the products we consume do not contain trans fats because the government allows for companies to label their products as trans fat-free even when they are present in the food. How, you ask? Because the government allows for this claim when the trans-fat content is below a certain ‘acceptable’ amount per serving. Trans fats, even in the smallest amounts, raise bad (LDL) cholesterol and lower good cholesterol (HDL).
So let’s talk about canola oil because I bet you have it in your cabinet or pantry in some form or another. It’s found in baked goods, crackers, chips, cereals and cookies. Even Whole Foods uses it in the ‘hot bar’ section of their prepared foods. Canola oil was first created in the 1970s in Canada as a natural oil. Genetic manipulation ultimately produced a hybrid kind of rapeseed oil called LEAR (Low Erucic Acid Rapeseed) oil but because the name wasn’t very catchy, it was reimaged as Canola oil by combining the words Canada and Oil. In 1995, Monsanto created a genetically modified version and today, almost 90% of the canola oil produced is genetically modified. Canola oil is made from the seed of the rapeseed plant, a member of the mustard family. In addition to being genetically modified it’s also partially hydrogenated to increase its shelf life which means that it’s heavily processed and denatured. Canola oil may appear to be an optimal vegetable-based oil but it leads to inflammation in the body which leads to coronary artery disease. Canola oil also impacts our working memory because it breaks down our neurons’ communication hubs.
Please go into your pantry or cupboard right now and throw that crap away. Replace it with butter, coconut oil, avocado oil, lard or tallow from grass fed animals. On my counter, I personally have a container of rendered bacon fat, coconut oil, red palm kernel oil (sourced properly), avocado oil and olive oil. Oh and lots of butter!!