What if we told you there’s one thing in your diet you could change today that would have a huge impact long term on your health? The oils we use, both on the Clean Program and in our daily life, can have a major impact on our health. Let’s start with why healthy cooking oils and fats are so important and then get into how to upgrade them for optimal well-being.
OIL, FATS, AND HEALTH, OH MY!
If we are eating a mostly clean diet, much of the fat content comes from whole foods and oils. For example, salmon or other fatty fish, grass-fed animal products, nuts and seeds, avocado, and coconut oil are all healthy sources of fat.
Fats are needed for hormone production, the building healthy cells, improved skin quality, energy, and help us to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. But not all fats are created equal. The presence of large amounts of poor quality fats in our diet can do real damage to our health.
VEGETABLE SEED OILS AREN’T ALL THEY SEEM
We have seen a heavy introduction of vegetable seed oils like canola oil and corn oil into the United States started at the beginning of the century and has continued to increase over the years. They were originally marketed as “heart-healthy” alternatives to saturated fats but we are now seeing the health repercussions. These include increased inflammation, free radical damage, and reduced cellular metabolism.
One of the main issues with vegetable oils such as soybean, cottonseed, corn and canola oil is their high amount of Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids or PUFAs. While PUFAs are not intrinsically bad, the amounts we are eating today are creating problems for our health. PUFA’s are also highly unstable. During the processing of these oils, chemical solvents, and high temperatures are used creating free radicals and often rancid oxidized oils.
OVERDOING OMEGA 6
By now, we’ve all heard about the importance of fish oil and omega 3 fatty acids. This can be helpful in reducing inflammation. Many scientists and anthropological research suggest that our hunter-gather ancestors ate roughly a 1:1 ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids. Throughout most of our evolution, diets tended to be more abundant in omega 3 fatty acids mostly through seafood and low in omega 6 seed oils.
With the inclusion of industrial seed oils over the last 100 years, our consumption of vegetable seed oils has dramatically increased. And with this dramatic increase in consumption, we get all the inflammatory conditions associated with increased omega 6 usage. These include cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome, IBS, rheumatoid arthritis, even cancer.
NOT ALL PLANT OILS ARE CREATED EQUAL
When we talk about refined seed oils, we don’t mean all plant oils. Coconut, palm and olive oil are all excellent. However, the oils listed in our Healthy Cooking Oils Guide below should be avoided, or at least greatly minimized, because of their pro-inflammatory, high omega-6 content. These include some of the ones we’ve already mentioned like soybean, canola, corn and cottonseed oil.
RESTAURANTS OILS AREN’T OUR FRIENDS
Most restaurants cook with very poor quality oils. You can avoid these oils by ordering salads, steamed and baked foods. But most of the time, it’s impossible to avoid them when eating out. You can give yourself some protection by taking some digestive enzymes on days when you are eating out. Also look for restaurants that utilize healthy oils like coconut.
CLEAN, STABLE OILS FOR COOKING
Cooking with healthy cooking oils is one of the best things you can do for your health. In general, oils with more saturated fat are more stable at higher temperatures. These include coconut oil, palm oil, grass-fed butter and ghee (clarified butter). Olive oil and avocado oil are also good options for very low-temperature cooking.
Coconut oil is our overall favorite. It’s easy to find and stays stable at medium temperatures. It’s also antibacterial, promotes weight loss, rarely goes rancid and loved by both vegans and omnivores. There is also some suggestion that coconut oil, over time, can displace the damaging PUFAs in our tissues from years of vegetable oil consumption.
A few key points to remember
- Don’t cook with nut and seed oils like walnut, almond, pumpkin, and flax. These are less saturated and more prone to oxidation and rancidity. If you are going to eat these oils, use them in their raw and cold-pressed state.
- Keep an eye out for smoke while cooking. Smoke rates of oils are important because they sign the beginning of oxidation and degradation of the oil. This degradation increases the production of free radicals which cause inflammation in the body.
- Baby steps – that’s the name of the game. If you are new to the world of clean eating, don’t get overwhelmed with this information. Just start by switching your oils at home.
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