The more I learn about health and nutrition, the more I realize there are very few statements that can be made which apply to everyone.
For example, milk has some good qualities. But if you are lactose intolerant, the bad outweighs the good. Almonds are an amazing snack, unless you are allergic. Take a tomato. No, I will even top that. Take an organic, homegrown tomato. Hard to get much better than that, right? For most people, diving into said tomato on top of a green salad or maybe with some fresh mozzarella and basil in caprese is a great idea and will ultimately benefit your health. But if you have leaky gut and an autoimmune condition, this could be very bad advice. Consumption of foods in the nightshade family – tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and eggplants – can exacerbate symptoms and make life miserable.
So can anything be said that applies to everyone?
I believe so. While it may be impossible to choose foods that everyone should eat, there are some specific items that will benefit everyone to never eat – or at least eat incredibly sparingly. These foods fit into two categories – vegetable oils and processed carbohydrates.
Vegetable oils are everywhere. They are cheap, enjoyed a few decades of good press and are still riding on that momentum.
Here’s the rub: they are essentially toxic. Oils from corn, canola, soy, sunflower and safflower have one redeeming quality – they are composed of mainly polyunsaturated fats, which important for healthy biological function.
But here is the problem: the fatty acids are so delicate that exposure to heat or light damages them irreparably. The bottle of canola oil on the shelf? Exposed to light all day, every day. The vegetable oil blend used to crisp up your fries? Sitting in a boiling cauldron for up to a week.
These are no longer normal fats – they are Frankenfats!
Damaged Oils Build Compromised Body Cells
These damaged fats are still used by your body, however. Fatty acids make up the membranes of your trillions of cells, as well as the protective covering of your nerves – among many other functions. When these faulty fats are used to create barriers, you end up with faulty barriers. Cells that have an impaired ability to monitor the flow of nutrients and nerves that are not fully protected can be root causes of inflammation, imbalance and dysfunction in the body. Consumption of high levels of vegetable oils have been linked to cancer, heart disease, greater risk of infection, muscle fatigue and skin problems, despite the years these oils have been referred to as “heart healthy”. The research is still new on the effects these oils may have on your DNA.
Avoid Toxic Oils
Fortunately, there are many steps you can take to limit your exposure to these toxic oils.
First, avoid fried foods at restaurants. It is a guarantee that damaged vegetable oils are used. You can make your own fries or onion rings – if you must – at home with lard or coconut oil. These saturated fats are much more resistant to heat damage.
Next, stay away from bottled salad dressings. Soy or canola oil are almost always the main ingredient. Even if it is not cooked, it has been processed. Just check out an online video showing how canola oil is made. Truly frightening.
Last, be sure to read labels. Put back snacks that include any vegetable oils in the ingredients and never ever ever never never never ever eat anything with the word “hydrogenated” – partially or otherwise – on it.
Control Fats Yourself
The main way to make sure you are avoiding these damaged fats and consuming nourishing fats is to be in charge of them yourself. Oils that have been treated gently will sustain far less damage. Look for “cold-pressed” varieties, and opt for virgin rather than refined. Good choices are avocado, olive, coconut, butter, ghee and grass-fed and/or pastured animal fats. These animal fats might include pork lard, beef tallow or duck fat. As mentioned before, coconut oil, butter and animal fats have a high saturated fat content. These fats are extremely stable chemically and can withstand some abuse, such as frying or roasting. Olive and avocado oil are mostly monounsaturated fats. These are extremely important nutritionally, but will be damaged if not treated with caution. The safest way to store them is in the cool, dark fridge and the best use is in cool salad dressings or as finishing oil for veggies. These will harden up when cold, so feel free to leave out a small amount at a time at room temperature in a dark container.
These steps can help ensure high quality fats, high quality cells and high quality health.
Next week, I will dive into the nitty gritty of processed carbohydrates.
Weatherby, D. (2006.) Signs and Symptoms Analysis from a Functional Perspective. Bear Mountain Publishing, Jacksonville.
Editor’s Note: Sara Kennedy is a certified nutritional therapy consultant. She is the owner of Renegade Wellness found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/paleoalaska. Connect with her online at www.thriveak.com.