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TOSS THE CANOLA OIL

This started as an easy 3 paragraph blog – but the more research I did – the longer the blog became – so read on if you are interested in fats and their effects on your health

Harmful Dietary Fat

  1. Saturated fat – animal products like meat and dairy
  2. Trans fat – made from oils through a process called hydrogenation – the worst! Increases LDL (bad) cholesterol and lowers HDL (good) cholesterol!!

Healthier Dietary Fat

  1. Monounsaturated fatty acids – variety of foods and oils
  2. Polyunsaturated fatty acids – plant based foods and oils
  3. Omega-3 fatty acids

 

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The American Heart Association will tell you that the unsaturated fats (poly and mono) can have a positive effect on your health, when eaten in moderation and the bad fats (saturated and trans) can negatively affect your health – which is by and large true.

Lots of otherwise well educated (about nutrition and health) chefs and cooks have, for example, vegetable oils like canola, corn, soybean, safflower, and peanut, that are high in mono and polyunsaturated fats, in their kitchens. When eaten in moderation and in place of the saturated fats found in meats and dairy products, unsaturated fats can be good for your heart. Should be OK, right? Uh,no.  Not necessarily.

These vegetable oils have a high concentration of omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids are a type of unsaturated fat found in vegetable oils, nuts and seeds. Not in and of themselves bad for you, per se. But as Americans, we tend to get way too many, in relationship to the Omega 3’s (found in fish like salmon).  This balance between Omega 6’s and 3’s is important to be aware of, but that is a topic for another blog.  Here is why you should pitch out the canola and similar vegetable oils.  .  .  .

The Omega 6 fatty acids oxidize very easily during cooking!  They even oxidize very quickly just sitting on your pantry shelf, which is why so many of them are often loaded with additives, pesticides, and chemicals during processing in order to prevent oxidation.

Oxidation is a chemical reaction that occurs when a substance is exposed to oxygen, as when an apple quickly begins to turn brown once it has been peeled, or when a dent in your car, where the paint is scraped off, begins to rust. When one molecule gives up an electron to another, we say (or scientists say) it is “oxidized”.   It happens in our bodies all the time and when it does, it creates those nasty “free radicals” which fly around in our bodies creating havoc, can cause damage and inflammation, and raise our risk of heart attack, cancer, and stroke.

All the foods we think of that contain what we call “antioxidants”, like blueberries and turmeric, give us a line of defense against these free radicals, which are also a by product of normal metabolism. But cooking with vegetable oil, day after day, can overload the system with Omega 6’s and resultant free radicals. This is not great!! There is no way you can eat enough blueberries to mitigate the inflammatory damage caused by so many oxidized oils needing to be cleared out of the body.

Bottom line – If you have canola or any vegetable oil (like Wesson!) in your kitchen – toss it out.

Unless you are trying to reverse serious heart disease or diabetes (in which case it’s a good idea to avoid all nuts, fats, and seeds except hemp, flax, and chia until you are wellsee Caldwell Esselstyn’s book, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease), the best fats for you are monounsaturated, like nuts, olive oil, and avocado, and some plant based saturated fats, like coconut oil. Monounsaturated are typically liquid at room temperature and turn solid when chilled. They are a healthy alternative to the polyunsaturated fats you find in most processed foods

Although monounsaturated fats, like those in olive oil can be a heart healthy choice, if they aren’t fresh and stored properly they can also “oxidize” and become what we call rancid. If you have a good nose, it is pretty easy to tell if any seeds or nuts or things like peanut butter are rancid. They smell oily and, well, rancid. But not everyone picks up on it. I am frequently a guest in people’s houses and sniff out (or taste) rancid nuts or nut butters and oils. If you have a jar of peanut butter or bottle of olive oil sitting in your pantry, depending on how long it sat on the grocer’s shelf, good chance it is going rancid. But if you use up your nuts and oils quickly and store them properly (cool, dark places), you don’t need to worry about oxidative damage.

Olive oil and coconut oil are both healthy fat choices (for most people), as is avocado oil (67% monounsaturated).  If you are cooking at high temperatures, coconut oil is a good choice because it won’t oxidize.  Olive oil is also a pretty stable fat when heated.  Often people used to think olive oil was not a good oil for frying because it had too low a flash point and would oxidize when heated.  But, like everything, it depends.  Extra virgin olive oil has the lowest smoke point (320 degrees F).  Extra Virgin olive oil is not great for cooking at high temperatures because of the lower smoke point (the point at which the oil begins to break down (or smoke) and can oxidize. Extra virgin olive oil is better for salads and cold dishes.

Virgin olive oil is a little higher at 420 degrees.  And pomace and extra light olive oil have the highest smoke points at 460 and 480.  Generally speaking, the higher the temperature needed for frying, the higher flash point number you want to avoid oxidation.   Several websites state that olive oil in general  has a pretty high smoke point (410 degrees F), which is well above the ideal temperature for frying (not deep frying!) food (about 365 degrees F).  Olive oil is really a great oil to use all around because it can help to block oxidation of LDL cholesterol, can reduce inflammation and lower blood pressure, and help to raise HDL cholesterol.  I’m really happy to know that I can keep on sautéing with my beloved olive oil!

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Whew!!!!