Are you confused about fats? What’s good? What’s bad? What do all those terms mean? It gets very confusing. Why is there such an increase in heart disease, cancer, arthritis, fibromyalgia, and many other conditions that were basically unheard of a hundred years ago? What’s changed?
Our environment and our diets have changed dramatically. A major factor is the type of fats and oils we now consume. The food industry introduced a new type of fat that didn’t exist a century ago – chemically altered, unnatural, toxic fatty acids in the form of hydrogenated fats and trans fats. These substances are now a major part of many food products. Our fat consumption has increased dramatically in the last century. We do need fat in our diet, but it needs to be the right type of fat!
There are 3 main categories of fats: saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated. Fats are made up of hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen atoms. Saturated (good) fats are full of hydrogen, are semi-solid or solid at room temperature, are very stable, and are suitable for heating and cooking. Examples are butter, lard, animal fats, coconut butter/oil, cream and cheese.
Monounsaturated fats have some hydrogen missing, are liquid at room temperature, are stable, and suitable for heating and cooking. Examples are olive, nut, peanut, and canola oils. Avocado is also a source. Polyunsaturated fats have many atoms of hydrogen missing, are liquid at room temperature, and are very reactive. They go rancid quickly when exposed to oxygen, light, and heat. They are not suitable for heating. Examples are fish oils, borage oil, flaxseed oil, evening primrose oil, and oils from safflowers, corn, sunflowers, and vegetables.
Think about the extraction process that naturally occurring fatty acids are usually put through before we put them on our plates:
*In the “old days” they used slow-moving stone presses, were cold-pressed and chemical-free.
*Today, the seeds are crushed and heated to extremely high temperatures. Oil is squeezed out under pressure, which creates more heat. The oil is exposed to light and oxygen and treated with solvents to get the remaining oil out. The natural preservative, Vitamin E, is destroyed in this process so BHT and BHA (2 toxic substances) are added as preservatives. The result is rancid, toxic, extracted oils.
*A safe modern extraction technique is the expeller method. This method extracts the oil and its antioxidant properties under low temperature, with minimal light and oxygen exposure. These oils will stay fresh for a long time if stored in dark bottles in the refrigerator.
Hydrogenation is mainly used to extend shelf life. This is a process that polyunsaturated fatty acids go through to turn them into solid fats (think margarine and shortening) at room temperature.
*They usually use the cheapest oils available (soy, corn, canola or cottonseed) and these oils are already rancid from the above extraction method. Metal particles (usually nickel oxide) are then added to the mixture.
*Hydrogen gas is added next in a high-pressure, high-heat reactor. This forces the bonds between the carbons to break, which forces the addition of extra hydrogen, thus the term hydrogenation.
*Soap-like emulsifiers and starch are added to the mixture to give it a better consistency. It is then steam-cleaned (more high heat) to remove the rancid odor.
*Margarine’s natural color (an unappetizing grey) is removed with bleach. Dyes and strong flavors are then added to make it resemble butter so it’s more appealing to the consumer.
We will talk more about fats again tomorrow.
I will be launching a weight loss blog in the next couple of days, so stay tuned for that!
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