Friday, February 18, 2011

Good Fat, Bad Fat

Food labels on American grocery store shelves list a muriad of oils as ingredients. Packaged foods are fried, cooked, marinated and slathered with oils. Canola oil, sunflower oil, cottonseed, vegetable, or soybean oil,... and partially-hydrogentated oils.

Do you know which of these oils are dangerous and which are beneficial to your body? When we cook at home, we have many oil options available, but what is the best choice for our health?

I bet you have your hand in the air, right?
"Extra virgin olive oil", you say?
Sometimes. Olive oil has recently been portrayed as the healthiest oil, but this title does not extend to cooking. While it has many health benefits such as reducing the risk of colon cancer, heart disease and gallstone formation, like most other oils, olive oil breaks down and forms free radicals when heated, which are carcinogenic (cancer causing) and very harmful to our bodies. Olive oil is a smart fat to include in your diet in a non-heated form for uses such as salad dressings or bread dipping, but not for cooking.

Of all the available oils, there is only one that is stable enough to resist heat-induced damage, because it is nearly a completely saturated fat.
Coconut oil.
It helps you lose weight, promotes heart health, and helps maintain normal cholesterol levels. However, most coconut oils on the market are processed, bleached, deoderized, and also have all their nutrients removed during their processing. This forces removal of vitamins and minerals from your body to help digest the stripped hydrogenated oils.
It is important to purchase a coconut oil brand that is pure and natural, organic, unrefined and highly stable.
Dr. Mercola, a natural health expert, has reviewed many brands of coconut oil, and recommends Extra Virgin Coconut Oil by Fresh Shores. He goes into great detail on the subject of coconut oil on his website, and addresses the common misconception regarding saturated fats.

As you can see on the chart below, oils are judged according to the levels of monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and saturated fats they contain. Monounsaurated fats are inherently more stable than polyunsaturated fats. Olive oil is primarily a monounsaturated fat, but because of its high levels of oleic acid, it creates an imbalance on the cellular level which has been shown to increase the risk of breast cancer and heart disease. Polyunsaturated fats are the worst to cook with for several reasons. Oils high in polyunsaturated fats include canola, corn, soy, and safflower. These oils are largely genetically modified, (GMO) and undergo a hydrogenation process which introduces dangerous trans-fatty acids. These acids increase the dangers of many chronic diseases, such as cancers and heart disease.

Type of OilMonunsaturatedPolyunsaturatedSaturated
Palm Kernel11.41.681.5

This brings me to the subject of partially hydrogenated oils. What are they, and how do they harm our bodies?

Hydrogenated oils = trans fats.

These oils are processed through bubbling hydrogen at high temperatures which creates the unnatural fatty acids I mentioned, called trans-fatty acids. The liver sees trans fats as toxic waste, and proceeds to detoxify and eliminate them. Trans-fats are one of the most toxic wastes that can be inside your body. Trans fats double the risk of heart disease in women, and not only raise total cholesterol levels, they also deplete good cholesterol, (HDL's) that protect the body from disease.

Hydrogenated oils are found in 95% of cookies, 75% of chips and crackers, 70% of cold cereals and cake mixes, and 80% of all frozen breakfast foods. Do your body a 'ginormous' favor- read your food labels and avoid all sources of partially hydrogenated oils. Cook with extra virgin coconut oil in it's most natural state, and use olive oil in your diet as a non-heated oil.

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