Oil frequently gets debated over its health merits. It’s maddening. Find 10 articles discussing the use of oil, and you’ll get 10 different suggestions. Who is on which side of the debate, and is there really such a thing as a heart healthy oil?
No to oil crew:
Dr. Barnard, Dr. Campbell, Dr. Esselstyn, Dr. Fuhrman, Dr. Matthew Lederman, Dr. McDougall, Dr. Novick, Dr Pulde, Dr. Stanger,
Yes to (certain) oil crew:
Mediterranean diet proponents, Dr. Goonerante, Dr. Morrision, Dr. Newport, Dr. Oz, Dr. David Perlmutter
Read this compilation of opinions from various doctors who advise decreasing all oil consumption.
It’s important to note that the doctors who advise patients to avoid oils are also major advocates for the whole food plant based diet, while the “yes to oil” crew are not. It’s a significant distinction because the WFPB doctors are highly experienced at developing nutritional programs that work for patients with a wide range of ailments.
The Mediterranean Diet is a huge proponent of EVOO because people in certain regions of the Mediterranean have been eating large volumes of the oil without succumbing to heart disease. The reality is, people in those regions used to be heart disease free when the majority of their work was strenuous field labor and they ate a lot of vegetables. In the past, their lifestyles provided their hearts protection despite the consumption of olive oil. Today, as the people transition to more sedentary work and western eating habits, heart disease rates are at par to the west.
How is it made?
Due to the unstable and volatile nature of natural oils, they used to be made in dark rooms and packaged into small, dark amber glass bottles. Avoiding light was necessary because one photon of daylight will trigger a chain reaction of free radicals, which creates toxic by products and trans fats.
All the oils sold in clear bottles have been so heavily refined there is essentially nothing left to go rancid. These oils have been refined, bleached and deodorized, and exposed to high heat in multiple steps during the extraction process.
These are the steps refined oil goes through:
1) Cleaned, de-hulled and de-skinned. Volatile oils go rancid in this stage from the heat caused by friction from grinding.
2) Cold pressing stage uses screw presses during which the temperatures can reach between 130-200 degrees Fahrenheit. 125 degrees is the point of rancidity for most oils. Heat damage is a factor even for oils labeled “cold pressed.”
3) Hexane is used to dissolve the oil out of the seeds that aren’t suitable for cold pressing.
4) The oil is then refined. Removing the color, odor, bitterness. Heat during this stage reaches 107 to 188 degrees F.
5) Oils are then de-gummed with water heated between 188 and 206 degrees F.
6) Now the oil is bleached to make it tolerant to light exposure.
7) The final step is to deodorize the oil. This step removes the horrible rancid stench that results from free radical damage. Steam is passed over hot oil in a vacuum at temperatures between 440 and 485 degrees F.
All the minerals, vitamins and fiber are removed, resulting in a product that is 100% dead saturated fat.
Clearly refined oil is a sludge pool of toxic waste.
But, what about the organic expeller pressed oils, in dark bottles that haven’t been exposed to light? The expeller-pressed label is used by manufactures who seek to keep processing temperatures below 122 degrees F.
Aren’t those the good oils you might say?
Not so fast.
Oils make the LDL particles, the bad cholesterol, in our blood sticky and slow. Saturated fats increase their numbers in our system, which increases our risk of heart disease.
This one hour video by Dr. Esselstyn is a must see if you are suffering from heart disease, or want to avoid it.
Coconut oil seems to be marketed everywhere now for everything from skin and oral care, kill parasites and cure a host of chronic illness. This oil supposedly does it all. It has gotten a lot of attention from two recent events.
1) Mary Newport, a pediatrician from FL, has documented her efforts to help alleviate her husband’s Alzheimer’s symptoms. Her husband showed elevated brain function after eating several tbsp. of coconut oil. Her husband wasn’t cured of Alzheimer’s, but he didn’t digress. Unfortunately, the same results were unable to be replicated in larger studies.
2) Dr. Goonerante’s research into coconut consumption and CVD rates in Sri Lanka showed an inverse relationship. As people decreased the amount of coconuts the rate of heart disease increased. Before 1950 an average 132 coconuts were eaten per person annually, this number has decreased to 90 by 1991. By 1992 CVD was the leading cause of death in Sri Lanka. However, the report didn’t mention what foods replaced coconut consumption.
It’s not just saturated fats that can increase the chances of heart disease. Therefore, it’s difficult to make a concrete conclusion that it was the decrease in coconuts that caused CVD to rise.
Also, the current recommendation from some doctors, like the popular Dr. Oz, is to eat about 2 tbps of coconut oil per day. I find this a difficult number to understand because that’s roughly 1 coconut per day. (1 coconut yields about 2 tbps of oil). This would be over double the amount of coconuts that Sri Lankans ate pre- 1950.
Another major difference is people of Sri Lanka ate the whole coconut, not just the oil, retaining all the fiber and nutrients.
Here is a newsletter from Dr. McDougall specifically on this topic.
Conclusion: I’m going to stay on the safe side and take the “no to oil” recommendation. Let’s assume there is a little bit of truth that coconut oil provides health benefits. If you follow a WFPB diet, seeking the benefits from oils is an unnecessary risk because the rest of the diet will provide a much greater level of protection. If you don’t follow a WFPB diet, simply adding coconut oil to the diet won’t make a significant impact because it is just one component of the overall diet. In order to dramatically impact long term health, dietary changes need to be made to the whole diet. You will probably not see the result in the health protection that is advertised if you are eating a typical American diet.
You can easily substitute oils from cooking by using the following ingredients:
- For sautéing use: water, broth, tamari, vinegar, tomato juice, salsa, wine
- For baking use: bananas, applesauce, mashed potatoes, mashed pumpkin, tomato sauce, soft silken tofu