Vegetable oils, again...
Posted on 28th June 2023 at 06:56
From time to time, we look back over our list of blog posts. Seeing what we have – and haven’t (!) – talked about before. Wondering how we ever could have missed a particular topic, as well as the ones that have come up several times. Often, they’re topics you wouldn’t immediately think of as needing another blog post, but they keep coming up, whether with Clients or in some of the many resources we use. And, yes, we do a lot of research on a daily basis, whether linked to issues with particular Clients or to keep abreast of ongoing changes.
Today, it’s one of those topics we’ve already written about several times before, as well as having mentioned in passing many other times. Vegetable oils.
In the past we’ve looked at the ever increasing range of vegetable oils on offer – you can find it here – as well as why there’s much more to them than the “Vegetable oils are good, the more the better” mantra would have us believe. To find out why it’s not quite that simple click here.
And it’s this mantra we’re going to focus on again today. But, before we do – and to save you having to re read the other blog posts (!) – a quick reminder about fats and why they’re such an important part of our diet.
Fats are a basic building block of ALL cell membranes, the “wrapping” found round every cell in the body. This is the reason why eating the right types of fat are so important for health.
Fats can be split into two basis groups depending on their chemical makeup. To keep this post to a manageable length, we’re not going to go into the specifics today. Phew! If you’re interested, you can easily do your own research.
Put simply, the two groups are Saturated and Unsaturated. Unsaturated fats are then subdivided into two further groups,
Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated. You’ll probably have heard of these before, if only in adverts for “healthy” butter substitutes (!).
The important thing to remember that is that our bodies don’t need the same amount of all these fats. Instead, they require mainly Saturated and Monounsaturated fats in certain proportions, with only very small amounts of Polyunsaturated fats.
And this is where the “Vegetable oils are good, the more the better” mantra comes in. Or, more accurately, backfires, with disastrous effects for our health.
Because vegetable oils are high in Polyunsaturated fats – particularly Omega 3 and 6 – both of which our bodies only need in smaller amounts. So, by increasing the amount of vegetable fats eaten, the natural balance our bodies need is knocked out of kilter.
Matters are then made worse by the accompanying trend of reducing healthy animal based – Saturated – fats in our diet, so further skewing the balance of fats away from that needed by our bodies. While the body can, to some extent, substitute one fat for another, not surprisingly, this leads to health problems longer term.
And, this is without the current obsession of lowering Cholesterol – another essential fat needed for good health – which exacerbates the problem further. If you would like a quick reminder about why Cholesterol isn’t the baddie it’s been made out to be, click here.
Going back to vegetable oils, there’s one specific component of vegetable oils which causes all the problems, Linoleic Acid. And guess which one contains the highest levels of it? Polyunsaturated fats.
Put simply, when eaten to excess, Linoleic Acid becomes toxic and a metabolic poison. This is due to it being chemically unstable, making it very susceptible to damage; particularly when it’s used in energy production in the cells. Not only does this affect the energy generation process itself but damages the cell, its membranes and DNA.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there. When Polyunsaturated fats are used to build cell membranes – because Saturated fats aren’t available – the function of the cells membranes is compromised. As these, among other things, help control what substances can pass in and out of cells, it’s easy to see how this can have serious knock on effects. Added to this, the instability of Polyunsaturated fats also make these membranes more susceptible to damage from oxidation. Finally, with these fats remaining in cell membranes for much longer than normal – up to seven years – this can then become a long term problem.
Initially, the damage is to individual cells. However, this then triggers the Immune System, leading to the destruction and rebuilding of these cells. As you may know, an important part of the immune response is inflammation of the area concerned; both to stop the damage from spreading any further, as well as helping remove the after effects of the immune response.
Which brings us to the final link in the chain. Inflammation is now being found to be the underlying cause of many chronic Lifestyle Diseases such as Heart Disease, Obesity, Cancer and Diabetes.
We know we’ve said it many times before – and will do so in the future (!) – but it’s the reason why lifestyle choices are so important, particularly as their effects – positive and less so – usually take many years to become apparent.
So, where are we going with this?
While it may not seem like it, vegetable and seed oils are only a recent addition to the western diet. Traditionally, fats came from animal sources such as tallow, suet, lard and butter. True, olive oil has been a part of the Mediterranean diet for centuries, but was accompanied – and its potentially negative effects largely offset by – regular consumption of oily fish.
However, it was the advent of processed foods that have really fuelled the issue, with vegetable oils quickly becoming a key ingredient in these foods. Not only were they cheaper than the traditional animal derived alternatives, but helped make food more palatable with good “mouth feel”.
While white sugar and flour have long been identified as playing a key part in plummeting health levels, it’s now becoming clear that the obsession with “healthy” vegetable oils is as much an issue. If not more so.
Once again, the message is clear and highlights the importance of eating a wholefood diet prepared fresh at home. That way you know exactly what you’re eating. After all, who ever bothers to read the list of ingredients of any product – let alone understand them?!?
So, go easy on ALL vegetable oils and limit them to good quality, cold pressed, products.
And the same comments apply to nuts and seeds, which also contain Linoleic Acid and are easy to overlook. By all means include them in your diet, but in small amounts.
Finally, don’t forget that seed and vegetable oils are included in animal feeds for the same reason as in foods destined for human consumption. They’re cheap and easy to produce. And this includes fish too, with farmed fish in particular being fed food very different to that eaten in the wild.
Just like us, what an animal or fish is fed affects their bodies and meat. So, if you’re going to eat any meat or fish make sure it’s traditionally reared and the use of cereal and oil based feed kept to a minimum. For animals, this means being kept outside and grass fed. For fish, wild caught. Yes, it will be more expensive, but the quality and nutrition will be much better. The good news is this means your body will require smaller amounts to receive the same – or better – nutrition. Many farmers and producers now sell their products locally, whether at Farmer’s Markets or online, so it’s worth having a look to see what’s available in your area.
At first sight we appreciate this can all seem rather overwhelming, but the underlying message is always the same. Take control of your own life and health. What you eat and how you prepare it. Good food and good health really aren’t difficult or complicated, it’s just a case of taking it into your own hands – and fork!
As always, the choice is yours.
Picture by unknown author
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