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With so much controversy, misinformation and downright misleading advertising surrounding healthy oils today, it can be very difficult to determine the right oils to choose for you and your family. The truth is that healthy fats actually play a very necessary role in the body. In fact, good fats are arguably one of the most lacking nutrients in the American diet.
Perhaps a good place to start is by considering the importance of nutritional fat in the body. First of all, burning fat is an incredibly clean, efficient source of energy and provides twice the energy of glucose. It is also important in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K for use within the body. Fats provide major building blocks for many hormones and prostaglandins (aid in injury and illness), are the major components of each cell membrane throughout the body (vital for cell function), and are extremely important in healthy brain function and nerve transmission. In addition, fat is also responsible for healthy hair and skin.
The nutritional deficit of fat in our diet began to materialize when scientists started looking for answers to the 1950’s increase of heart disease in America. The erroneous theory arose (amid opposition) that saturated fat was the culprit, and by 1977 a full-fledged, low-fat diet was recommended to all Americans as the answer to combat this growing health concern. Despite sound evidence to support the theory, and the common sense that countries worldwide continued to eat fat, including saturated fats, from healthy sources of meat and dairy with a very low incidence of heart disease, one of the worst diet recommendations in history was thrust upon the American people.
The following graph shows the correlation between the institution of the American low-fat diet and the rise of obesity.
In conjunction with those obesity rates, Americans also experienced a dramatic rise in heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes, which are now leading causes of death. A major reason for this outcome, is that along with the low-fat diet, people began eating foods higher in sugar and high-glycemic carbohydrates (carbs that create a sharp increase in blood sugar). If you were to analyze the nutrition information on almost all “low fat” products on grocery store shelves, you would notice an increase in sugar and carbohydrates. It is amazing that with all of the studies (and poor results) to support the low-fat diet myth and tout the benefits of saturated fat and other healthy fats, that many health-care providers and nutritionists still recommend a low-fat/moderate to high-carb diet.
A diet consisting of high-glycemic foods, such as grains, refined flours, breads, cereals, pasta, potatoes, baked goods, processed foods, sugars, etc. is the true culprit behind the increase in heart disease, including high blood pressure, insulin resistance, high triglycerides and obesity. These foods cause a stark increase in blood sugar, causing insulin to store the excess as fat.
Below is an example of the current Food Pyramid endorsed by the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. It actually promotes a diet consisting of 6-11 servings of high-glycemic foods per day, which we have learned is anything but heart healthy – followed by a healthy, true diet designed to heal your body at the cellular level and optimize health.
FOOD PYRAMID TO AVOID
Another factor in heart disease is industrial oils derived from agricultural surplus or waste - also known as vegetable oils (corn, soybean, canola, sunflower, safflower, cottonseed). They also are a factor in insulin and leptin resistance, as well as other chronic health problems. These polyunsaturated oils (PUFAs), having been raved about as “heart healthy,” introduce oxidized cholesterol – not good cholesterol - into your system every time they are heated for cooking. The oil is mixed with oxygen, which automatically makes it rancid. It should never be consumed and is directly linked to heart disease, as the oxidized/damaged cholesterol is responsible for the plaque build-up in arterial walls. Furthermore, your immune system identifies the damaged cholesterol as foreign and attacks it, thereby creating inflammation in the vessel. As every health care provider learns early on in their training, inflammation is the hallmark of all disease.
Furthermore, when these oils are partially-hydrogenated, a chemical process used to turn a liquid oil into a solid form, trans fats are created. This product is found in many processed foods and items requiring a longer shelf life. These fats are very dangerous and greatly increase your risk of chronic disease.
In addition, most vegetable oils are very high in omega-6 fatty acids, which are inflammatory. While they play a role in the body, they are to be at a ratio no higher than 4:1 with omega-3 fatty acids. With the use of omega-6 vegetable oils in everything from chips to cookies, the average American ratio is closer to 50:1, increasing your risk of many degenerative diseases.
Perhaps you are unaware of the process a bottle of your favorite vegetable oil goes through to make it to your grocery store shelf. There are many steps involved, but the major ones are pressing the seeds with high heat (which already damages the oil) and friction to extract oil from the seeds. Then the seed pulp and oil are bathed in the chemical solvent, hexane, (a neurotoxin derived from crude oil) and steamed to squeeze out an unrefined oil, which is then degummed, neutralized and bleached to help remove any unwanted colors or odors. Lastly, deodorization is used by pressurizing steam at 500° or higher temperatures to neutralize any further unwanted odors and tastes in the product. This process damages the fats, and creates an unstable oil that is prone to rancidity quite easily.
Now that you've learned abut the Low-Fat Myth, check out our link to learn how about True Healthy Fats!