The more I hear about how “saturated fat is bad for you” and how we should replace things like animal fat and butter with vegetable oil, the more frustrated I get. Just from a common sense perspective, how can this be good for us? Old, naturally occurring fats we have been eating for thousands of years are bad for us and are somehow responsible for causing the relatively new raise in obesity and heart disease? While the new, factory processed chemically extracted oils we have only been eating for a generation or two are supposed to be heart healthy and save us from modern diseases? That in mind, let’s take a little deeper look at some of the fats we are being encouraged to eat, how long they’ve been around and how they are made.
Cottonseed Oil: 1900s – cotton seeds (GMO) refined, bleached, deodorized, decolorized (with ferric chloride) and often hydrogenated.
Corn Oil: 1900s – extracted from corn germ (GMO), expeller pressed, treated with hexane, debunked, bleached, dewaxed and deodorized.
Peanut Oil: 1940s – peanuts hydraulic or expeller pressed and/or hexane solvent extracted, bleached and deodorized.
Soybean Oil: 1940s – soybeans (GMO) cracked, heated and treated with hexane, refined and sometimes hydrogenated.
Safflower Oil: 1960s – safflower seeds, expeller pressed or solvent extracted, bleached and deodorized.
Sunflower Oil: 1960s – sunflower seeds crushed and expeller pressed or solvent extracted, degummed, neutralized and bleached.
Canola Oil: 1970s – rapeseeds heated, crushed, treated with hexane, bleached and deodorized.
* All of these oils are high in omega 6 polyunsaturated fat, which means easily oxidized and highly inflammatory, particularly when heated and exposed to light and oxygen.
** There are some examples of these oils cold pressed and less processed but this is not common and does not make them much healthier. They will be less oxidized and retain some of their vitamin and mineral content but would still be considered an inferior fat. Some, such as safflower oil, can be found in high oleic versions, which would be a marked improvement from the high linoleic version. These are versions you actively need to search out, not what you see at the grocery store.
Just for comparison, let’s take a look at some more traditional fats and oils, how long they’ve been around and how they’re made…
Olive Oil: ~6000 B.C. – olives ground into paste, stirred/churned and extracted by pressure (often cold) or centrifugation.
Coconut Oil: ~2000 B.C. – coconut meat heated via fire, sun or kiln and pressed or coconut meat cold pressed.
Palm Oil: ~3000 B.C. – palm fruit meat cold pressed.
Butter: ~8000 B.C. – Cream from milk stirred and churned.
Lard: ~5000 B.C. – Pig fat boiled or steamed and skimmed off the top.
Tallow: ~8000 B.C. – Beef or mutton fat rendered under heat.
* All of these fats are low in omega 6 fatty acids and are much less likely to oxidize and turn rancid.
** These fats come from sources that have been part of human diets for much longer than what they have been used as extracted fat.
*** Some of these fats are now processed more and some are refined and extracted via centrifuge and chemical, though this is less likely and it is much easier to get good versions of them.
Check out this fat breakdown of common oils and fats:
Now one with just vegetable oils, with coconut and palm oil added to the mix.
The biggest thing that stands out is how little polyunsaturated fat the older fats have and how much the newer fats contain. We are now consuming more chemically created, inflammatory, oxidized fat rich in omega 6 than ever before. Does it make sense that older fats that we barely use any more are the cause of the current rising health problems? As a general rule, it doesnt make sense that old foods cause new diseases. I don’t think it’s a coincidence obesity and heart disease have gone up since we have been consuming less traditional fats (animal fat and saturated in particular) and more vegetable and seed oil. Replacing fats rich in saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids (stable and anti inflammatory) with fats high in polyunsaturated fatty acids (unstable and inflammatory), linoleic acid in particular, has not done our health any favors and has likely contributed to the wide spread inflammation and insulin resistance we see ravaging our population.
The Bare 5 Bottom Line:
Pass on the newer man made fats, stick with the older nature made fats- olive oil, butter, lard, tallow, coconut and palm oils.
Thanks for reading, have a great old fat day!