title photo credit: www.nutritionsecrets.com
Oils, I mean oils that we ingest, may have had the most politically impactful influence on our diet today. Yes, even more than bacon!
Back in the late 1800’s a couple of brothers-in-law figured out how to create a solid oil out of a liquid oil. Their discovery would change how people cooked in kitchens across America almost instantaneously. Their names were Proctor and Gamble, and the product they invented was Crisco. The release of this fancy new solid oil and the savvy marketing efforts that followed single-handedly shifted a population of people from using omega-3-rich animal fats like lard to highly processed, omega three deficient vegetable oils like Crisco. Hello, diabetes and obesity!
An issue of Popular Science from the early 1900’s sums up the evolution of vegetable oil, (in this case cottonseed,) nicely: “What was garbage in 1860 was fertilizer in 1870, cattle feed in 1880, and table food and many things else in 1890.”- Excerpt from The Happiness Diet.
Why Vegetable Oil Is Taboo On Paleo And Other Oil Facts You Can’t Live Without
Many varieties of vegetable oils have hit the market since that time. The oils are affordable and readily available and have become widely used. Many, including Crisco, were brought to market at a time when advertising “health benefits” was not widely regulated. This lack of regulation led to false claims regarding the positive impacts of these oils and misinformation touting the scary health detriments of animal fats. For those of you who lived through it, you probably remember the grossly overstated advertising claims made by Margarine manufacturers as they subtly slid a tub of the yellow junk into every fridge across the nation.
Today there are dozens of vegetable oils on the market. Canola (which is rapeseed), soybean, corn, peanut and sunflower and safflower oils are the leaders in force. So what is the problem you might ask? You would intuit that oil from “vegetables” should be healthy, right? They ARE made from vegetables, after all. How bad could they be? Here are the problems.
PROBLEM ONE: Highly over processed. Think about this. Is a nut or a piece or corn more oily? Which do you think requires less processing to extract oil? Ever heard of squeezing blood from a stone? A good analogy for the effort it takes to squeeze oil from a piece of corn, or a soybean. The degree to which chemical and heat processing are applied to extract oil from these vegetables results in a significant change to the natural state of the oil.
PROBLEM TWO: GMO. You can count on 90% of canola and other vegetable oils being genetically modified. Genetically modifying crops has been shown to lead to kidney damage, liver distress, neurologic issues, and free radical damage. Despite recent law changes, Monsanto has been continuing to sell GMO crops. The most affected crops are canola, alfalfa, corn, cotton, soybeans, and sugarbeets. Discussion about GMO’s is obviously a hugely hot-button topic. I don’t think anyone argues however that avoiding GMO foods is an excellent decision. Also, remember not all GMO food is labeled, so you have to do your research.
PROBLEM THREE: A gross lack of omega three fatty acids. And an overabundance of sixes and nines! (Hello clogged arteries.) Not only are vegetable oils overly rich in omega sixes, but any omega threes that were in the oil at extraction become destabilized during heat processing. Rancid Omega three is worse than no omega three.
PROBLEM FOUR: Petroleum-derived solvents, degummers, and deodorizers. Crickets… I really don’t have to comment, do I?
Oils To Avoid If You Hope To Stay Healthy!
Now I know you all are cleaning out your cupboards as you read this. Wonderful! But there is another issue with which to contend. If you step outside your door you are going to be very hard-pressed (no pun intended…okay, maybe a little intended) not to run into vegetable oils at every turn. Almost all restaurants cook with canola or peanut oil. Most packaged foods will contain vegetable oil and sometimes several different ones. There is good news, though. We are starting to see food product manufacturers and restaurants respond to public pressure and exchange cheap readily available vegetable oils for better options like olive and coconut oil. Asking to have your food cooked in butter or steamed without oil can help control your exposure significantly.
So what are the Paleo-friendly oils, or the oils that you should be reaching for if you want to have a healthier body? Here is the go-to list!
OILS TO ENJOY!! (Paleo Friendly)
Macadamia nut oil
GHEE/ Clarified Butter
These oils are minimally processed, high in Omega threes
and full of other health-inducing nutrients and antioxidants.
Want Five Free Paleo Recipes Delivered To Your Inbox Right Now? Here You Go!
FYI DEFINITION: “COLD PRESSED” When you read about oil being cold-pressed or “extra-virgin” it means no heat was used in processing. That means that there is less chance the oil has been oxidized, and the omega threes are most likely intact.
OLIVE OIL: Loaded with Phenols, which are said to reduce oxidative stress on the body.
COCONUT OIL: Easily digestible, and very rich in lauric acid which antifungal, antiviral and antibacterial.
MACADAMIA NUT OIL: Provides the lowest level of Omega 6. Reduces oxidative stress and inflammation.
AVOCADO OIL: High in Vitamin E and chlorophyll. Also helps absorb carotenoids from vegetables. Excellent ratio of omega six to three.
PALM OIL: Excellent source of Omega three. The farming practices could have a negative environmental impact, so experts encourage you to get the “Red Palm“ oil that is sourced less impactfully.
WALNUT OIL: Loaded with antioxidants including ellagic acid.
GHEE/ CLARIFIED BUTTER: Rich in vitamin A and E and is anti-inflammatory. It is an excellent option for those that don’t “do dairy.”
Everyone asks about the best oils for high heat.
Here they are in descending order.
Unrefined coconut oil
These oils have a high smoke point and are stable so they
will not oxidize, turn rancid, or get all jacked
up when the going gets hot.)
The importance of oils in our diet is becoming more widely understood. Good, omega-three-rich oils are a cornerstone of optimal health and function. Conversely, we should be very aware of the vegetable oils to which we allow ourselves exposure. Whether you are Paleo or just trying to eat a nutrient-dense, whole food diet, the above recommendations are a good guideline to follow. Please share your favorite of the “super-hero” oils below!
Think about the oils you use in your home. Check all dates on your oils to ensure they are fresh. Make sure your oils come in dark glass bottles and that they are kept in a cool dark area. Try to buy organic where you can. Consider slowly purchasing a variety of oils to cook with so that you are getting the health benefits from several different oils.
- The Happiness Diet – Tyler Graham and Drew Ramsey MD
- “Healthy Oils” Mark’s Daily Apple
- “Are Vegetable Oils Paleo” -Ultimate Paleo Guide
- “Is Canola Oil Bad For You?” – Dr Axe
- “Vegetable Oil and Balancing Good Fats” – Dr. Cordain The Paleo Diet
- “Making Sense Of Healthy Cooking Oils and Fats” – Eat Drink Paleo
If you liked this post wait until you read these!