Ok folks, we are on the home stretch. This is the last post in my series of trying to promote fat and butter to the world.
Today, I’m going to talk about polyunsaturated fats specifically about some that we commonly know as vegetable oils and trans fats. You’re going to learn a few things I’m sure but the main points I’d like you to take away are the following;
– Vegetable oils are not made from vegetables.
– Vegetable oils are terrible for your health.
So, what are vegetable oils and how are they made?
Vegetable oils are extracted from a seed and come in many forms; sunflower oil, safflower oil, canola, corn and soybean oils.
They go through a process of extraction via a chemical called hexane. Hexane smells a lot like petrol and is used for a variety of non-food related things; it is a very powerful industrial cleaner, it is used for glueing shoes together, and some home DIY things like roofing and thinning paint. Not kidding. This is what they use to extract your “vegetable oils.”
“Acute inhalation exposure of humans to high levels of hexane causes mild central nervous system (CNS) effects, including dizziness, giddiness, nausea, and headache. Chronic exposure to hexane is associated with polyneuropathy in humans, with numbness in the extremities, muscular weakness, blurred vision, headache, and fatigue observed.” (source)
Usually after extraction, the oils go through even further chemical processing. They are deodorised to remove all of the terrible smells and tastes that develop during the chemical extraction. During this process, the oils are heated and the vapour is released and vacuumed away. The only problem being that heating these oils so hot, will make your oils rancid before they even get to the bottle.
So after nasty chemicals have been added, removed and god-knows what else, some oils go through a process of hydrogenation. This is a process that aims to turn oils into a more solid product like margarine. The process is simply a way to add hydrogen to your food – which sounds simple and safe enough.
The process involves heating the oil up under pressure and adding hydrogen. In order to combine them, a catalyst needs to be used; nickel or platinum. This breaks the bonds between the carbon atoms, and gives them to hydrogen atoms. Partial hydrogenation results in trans fats, and total hydrogenation results in saturated fats—because the fat is saturated with hydrogen atoms.
The reason companies like to do this is to improve texture of fats (to make them spreadable), to change the melting point or to increase shelf life of the product.
The problem lies when trans fats start to get involved. Trans fats have many health implications:
- Every 2% increase in trans fats creates a 23% increased incidence of heart disease
- They increase hardening of arteries
- Trans fats also inhibit the formation of an enzyme called cyclooxygenase, which helps dilate your arteries and regulate blood flow. Basically trans fats glue together your cardio vascular system. Great.
Denmark actually completely banned trans fats in 2003 but they are still wide spread in Australia! Many products on Aussie shelves with the “Heart Foundation Tick” or the Heath Star Rating have trans fats in them. Next time you’re in the grocery store, pick up a tub of the healthiest looking margarine you can find and have a look on the back. Trans fats. Trans fats everywhere.
This kind-of-scary to read study, talks about how bad trans fats are for your health and how we need to completely eradicate it from our shelves. If you’re interested in never eating margarine or its nasty cousins again, have a read. They make a pretty compelling argument;
“Trans fats should be removed from the food supply”
In fact, vegetable oil is so nasty for your health, that US authorities have even put a limit on how much vegetable oil you are safely allowed to inhale during a work day. So if you’re not supposed to inhale too much of it, why is it ok to ingest in our food? Here is a hint; It’s not.
So. There you have it. Time to throw away basically everything in your pantry. I encourage the following items; canola oil (or any “vegetable oil”), margarine, mayonnaise (R.I.P) or any dressings etc that have trans fats on the label, and lots of processed items (look at the label to see if they have vegetable fats or trans fats listed).
You can replace with some other actual healthy fats like;
- olive oil
- avocado oil
- coconut oil
- macadamia oil (for salad dressings and mayo – not for cooking)
I urge you not to go into all out fat-shaming mode, and please be sure to keep good healthy fats in your diet. Fats are so, so important and should not be overlooked. Butter is really the best.