Oils and Fats – the good, bad and ugly


This is a critically important topic to our health, and as I stated in previous tips, it is one the nutrition pundits have got wrong. They are suggesting we use polyunsaturated vegetable oils for cooking. Now think back to high school chemistry and remember what, by definition, a “polyunsaturated molecule” means. It means that the molecule is unstable – that it has more than one double bond, and would prefer to share those electrons with other atoms to help the molecule become saturated and stable. Oxygen is missing two electrons in its outer shell, and so it is fairly reactive and would be happy to bind with the extra electrons in the polyunsaturated molecule. The more unsaturated the molecule is, the less stable the molecule, and the more reactive it is. So, when polyunsaturated vegetable oils are heated, they react with oxygen, and oxidize, which makes them rancid. This is why a monounsaturated oil like olive oil is more stable and okay for low temperature cooking, and saturated fats are the most stable and therefore the best for cooking.

The kicker is that most of the vegetable oils on the market are heated in the processing in order to get the oil out of the seed. (Can you imagine how difficult it would be to squeeze oil out of a grape seed?) Therefore they are already rancid on the store shelves. They are then deodorized so they don’t smell bad and will fool the consumer.

Polyunsaturated oils like canola oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, corn oil, etc. can be used for salad dressings as long as the bottle says “unrefined” on it. In my neck of the woods in western Canada, I can buy Rapunzel and Spectrum organic unrefined oils. What brands of organic unrefined oils are near you? Please post them here – let’s help each other choose well. Make sure the bottles are dark, and keep them in the fridge.

For cooking, saturated fats are the way to go. They are stable and contrary to popular belief, healthy for the body. So use extra virgin coconut oil (Omega nutrition is a great brand), free-range organic chicken, beef fat or butter, and don’t worry about clogging your arteries. These fats are not the problem. Remember that heart disease was non-existent in the late 1800s when everything was cooked with these saturated fats and had been for centuries. The first heart attack on record happened in 1921, just as the vegetable oil industry was picking up steam, and sugar was becoming more plentiful. Since then saturated fat consumption has plummeted, so it is illogical to blame saturated fat for heart disease.

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1 Comment

  1. Gina said,

    April 26, 2008 @ 11:11 am

    I’ve been trying to explain this exact concept to people. You’ve put it so simply! Thanks!

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