When I figured out that I had an intolerance to oils, I figured it was just me. I was the weird one. It turns out that although my severe reactions to oils may be just me, processed oils may not be good for anyone. I’ve done a lot of reading, and studies going back to 1950’s prove that what causes heart attacks is actually processed oils. Even Ancel Keys own research. (Ancel Keys is the father of the fat makes you fat hypothesis.) The difference between a fat and an oil is that although both are lipids one is solid at room temperature and the other is liquid. For the most part fat seem to be okay for me and oils seem to be very bad for me. There are exceptions to this but for the most part the more processed a fat is the worse it seems to be. It turns out that research is showing this to be true for everyone.
Most vegetable and seed oils are made in factories where intense pressure, heat and or chemicals are used to extract the fat. This process is so hard on fats that they generally become rancid during the process. Because the fats are bad and they smell foul, companies deodorize them. The deodorization process is pretty scary. Some 25 different chemicals are used, one of which is hexane, a significant constituent of gasoline.
Now, grape seed oil claims to be ‘expeller pressed’. I fell for it thinking that that meant less processing. Unfortunately all expeller pressed means is that the oil is not processed with hexanes; the oil goes through all of the other processes and is just as rancid when it hits the supermarket shelf. (It also makes me just as sick.)
What I recently learned is that because of the high heats and pressures used during extractions of oils from corn and canola these oils are essentially partly hydrogenated before they are deodorized. Hydrogenation creates trans fats. The chemistry of it is a little beyond me, but what essentially happens during hydrogenation is that pressure, heat and sometimes chemicals add an extra hydrogen molecule to make the fat more shelf stable. Shelf stable dose not mean edible, it just means that the fat will not change texture or consistency when left on a shelf for a long time. (Think years) Everyone has probably heard about trans fats by now and will be asking how if a product has canola in it how the label can say ‘no trans fats’. Well that is because of some sort of legal finagling by food companies. All I know is that the label lies. If it has a vegetable oil in it, it contains trans fat.
It seems that for good health, cutting vegetable oils out of your diet is a good idea. I have read many books which recommend doing just that. But while they say to do it they don’t really talk about how. I can tell you from personal experience, it is not easy getting oil out of your diet, and if you don’t get horribly ill from them like I do, you might not even know that you are eating them. This is partly because of the labeling tricks that food companies use and partly because people eat a lot of food that is unlabeled.
Yes you read that right, every time you eat out at a restaurant or at a salad bar or take a free candy from a bank teller you are eating something without knowing whats in it. And unfortunately vegetable oils are ubiquitous in American food.
I have been sick from eating many unexpected things, candy, peanut butter, ice cream, nuts, dried fruit, ham, lunch meat, deli meat, sour cream, whipping cream, instant mashed potatoes, cottage cheese, yogurt, chocolate, and fruit juice.
Many of these things did not include vegetable oil on the label. The ham for example somehow came in contact with oil although it was cooked in water. The instant mashed potatoes, sour cream, whipping cream, cottage cheese and yogurt all listed mono and diglycerides. Which I only figured out were derived from canola oil after I got sick. With orange juice I read somewhere that they can add something that is basically oil to it and as long as it remains under 2% by weight they are not required by law to list it. When I was fact checking this I could only find that the industry adds oils made from orange peel for flavor. But as it is made from oranges they don’t have to list it. Either way I can’t drink commercial orange juice and considering the labeling laws I avoid all other fruit juice too.
Keeping these things in mind I want to strongly advise those looking to avoid additives, oils or any other items that can effect them adversely to make their own food. While it is convenient to eat out or buy pre-perpaird food, you have no control about what goes into them; and if you are food sensitive or have allergies you are basically playing Russian roulette with your health.
Even if you do make all of your own food you have to shop, and many things that we think of as simple ingredients are actually processed and contain more than we think. This is why its very important to read labels and if you can talk to the people who made your item or sell it to gather as much data as you can about where and how it was made.
Talking to people has been difficult for me. I have some social anxiety and so having to talk to complete strangers about anything can be very nerve wracking. But I did it and now I am on good terms with lots of people at my co op which makes it a little easier.
Label reading has been hard too. Sometimes I think I’ve already read a label many times and just buy something only to find out that the product has changed. Sometimes I have not known what certain items on the label actually mean and bought it anyway only to end up sick. Unfortunately I’ve found that all the information in the world won’t help me if I don’t pay attention. It’s gotten to the point that if I don’t recognize an ingredient on a label I won’t put it in my mouth.
Some of the easy oils to spot call themselves oils. Butter oil, coconut oil, olive oil, palm oil, canola oil, soybean oil, vegetable oil, and hydrogenated oil are all bad and easy enough to see. (this is just a sample there are many others to look out for)
Less easy are things like peanut butter. Peanut butter is not a single ingredient, it is often made with palm oil, sugar and peanuts but often on ingredient labels it will be listed simply as peanut butter. This is a common labeling trick. If an ingredient of an item has multiple ingredients the label dose not legally have to list what it contains.
It helps to know how things are made and if they generally have oils in the process. For example most bread pans are greased but because its such a small trace of oil most labels don’t list it. Just because a bread does not list oil it doesn’t mean that oil is not coating the bottom of that bread. I make all my bread.
Another difficult thing is whipping cream. Darigold cream lists more than one thing on its carton. Ultrapasteurized Heavy Cream (Milk), Carrageenan, Mono and Diglycerides, Polysorbate 80.
Mono and Diglycerides I’ve talked about, they are derived from canola oil and thus are to be avoided. I might have thought Polysorbate 80 was okay but after some research I learned that according to Wikipedia Polysorbate 80 is a surfactant and emulsifier derived from polyethoxylated sorbitan and oleic acid. Oleic acid is made from fats, specifically animal and vegetable fats. Once again the true source was hidden. I have found that if it has a chemical name you really have to do the research to determine that it is not made from fat.
Things to double check: any ingredient that contains the syllable -poly- and anything that is used as an emulsifier. These are often derived from vegetable oils.
Assuming is really where I get into the most trouble. I assumed for years that soy lecithin and mono and dyglyserids were okay because they weren’t listed as oils. Don’t make the same mistake. Question everything you put in your mouth. Even things your friends feed you. I know this sounds paranoid but it is not a safe world we live in. Unfortunately unless your friends know and care they will accidentally serve you oils and you won’t even know it.
You may have noticed that I lump olive oil, palm oil, and coconut oil in with processed oils. Many health professional and natural foodists claim that these are good fats but I’ve gotten sick from eating them. I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and say that in their original, traditional forms these oils are probably not bad for people, but as they are sold in America today I believe that they are overly processed and probably rancid. I’ve read some articles and books about how canola oil tankers on one side of the ocean are miraculously extra virgin olive oil on the other side of the Atlantic. It’s no stretch of the imagination that much the same thing happens with palm or coconut oils. Also hydrogenation is an easy way to make fat, shelf stable and without a chemistry lab there is no way to ascertain if the bottle on the grocery store shelf is really unprocessed or not.
The only oil I know that does not make me sick is peanut oil. Still I don’t go out of my way to eat it because there is no way to be sure that it was made without using heat or hexane gas. Especially when it is added as an ingredient to something.
This is actually a bit more of a topic than I expected it to be and I’m sure I missed a few things. Feel free to ask me questions. I don’t guarantee that I’ll know the answers but I might and I’ll do my best to answer.
If you are interested in reading further about why processed oils are hard on human health. I have found these books to be full of information:
Deep Nutrition by Catherine Shanahan
Primal Body, Primal Mind by Nora T. Gedgaudas