Oil logic

More specifically, food oil logic.

Most of us are not food experts.  After all, we are products of the post-industrial age.  We don’t know any better.  We’ve become ok with GMO, foods grown with pesticides, meat containing antibiotics, sugar infused anything, and, foods cooked in and laced with vegetable and seed oils. In short, we’ve become expert at making dirt cheap food, not necessarily making and delivering the most nutritious.   

It’s the vegetable and seed oils that have confounded me recently.  I hadn’t given two thoughts to seeing canola. sunflower, or soy oil in an ingredient list of prepared salads or dressings/sauces until reading about the potential downside.  Nor have I batted an eye about eating foods cooked with these oils.  We’ve grown comfortable with many of the prepared foods we eat.  And most have oils of some sort as an ingredient.

Since the industrial revolution, we’ve been mass-producing cooking oils.  These new oils, such as corn, soy, safflower, sunflower, and canola, had never been used on the scale we use them today.  They’ve become a large part of our diets, whether we realize it or not.

No food market is without a generous selection of vegetable oils, a recent essential staple

What many studies are recently revealing is that the cheap, highly processed oils have undergone molecular restructuring, essentially making them more unstable.  What that means, the studies show, is they cause oxidation stress by way of excess free radicals.  When we use them for cooking, the results are compounded.  In other words, what these studies show is that most processed oils, which have had their chemical make up manipulated, are, in effect, toxic.

The problem is, many smart nutritionists and advice givers say that vegetable oils are good.  Then there are others who now say they are bad.  What, and who, to believe?  I’m not a biochemist, so I, like most of us, can only make decisions based on logic.

Oils we buy are processed in one of two ways, they are either,  1) cold pressed (actually pressed or centrifuge), such as olive, avocado, coconut, or peanut, or 2) extracted through heat processing.

Why not take olives and add a dash of corn?

Logic says that if we squeeze or cold press food to extract its oil, then the oil may be nearly as good as the raw food, the nutrients remaining relatively intact.  Olives, for example, a fruit, have been cold pressed for thousands of years.  It’s well known, that extra-virgin cold pressed olive oil, unheated, is quite healthy, rich in antioxidants.

On the other hand, oils such as corn, soy, safflower, sunflower, and canola are processed to extremely high temperatures, washed with petroleum solvents, bleached, then deodorized.  Because we can produce these raw materials so abundantly and cheaply, the resulting oils are ounce for ounce, considerably cheaper than cold-pressed oils.

Industrial food companies are not studying the health risks of long-term use of manipulated, processed foods.  Rather food companies are profit centers.  Like those of us in the apparel business, food enterprises look for the cheapest way to make something.  The long-term consequences are off the radar.

In North and South America, as well as most of Asia, cheap oils have become a kitchen staple, at home and in virtually all restaurants.  We can’t live without the stuff.  In China, no home is without a 3 or 5-liter bottle of soy or corn oil.  Restaurants use the stuff by the boatload.  Almost all foods are cooked with these oils, which, just a couple of generations ago, were not available.

There are no shortages of food experts with opinions all over the place.  Therefore, it’s not easy to know who to trust.  We’ve got to rely on what makes logical sense.   And logic says that oils intended for human consumption that are washed with solvents at high temperatures, bleached, deodorized, colored, and perfumed, are best left avoided.

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