Saturday, September 13, 2008

vegetable oil

So, I just found out a friend of mine had her boyfriend do something to her car so that it runs completely on vegetable oil. It made me think, wow, that's genius! What a solution to our energy problems and Sarah Palin's suggestions that we "drill now". I also imagine economically for my friend its amazing given our current gas price crisis and that its also wonderful for her carbon footprint. However, it also made me think a lot more about our consumption of vegetable oil as a food product.

In my cooking, I try to use exclusively coconut oil and olive oil (usually expensive cold pressed extra virgin olive oil). However, in my research, I've found that the omega 3 fatty acids in olive oil become deactivated upon heating. Coconut oil (and butter) both stand up well to heat - but then what about the saturated fat. I figure since it takes me maybe 3-4 months to go through a jar of coconut oil (which is much smaller than your standard bottle of olive oil - which it takes me nearly a year to use) I think I am not using enough to pose any major challenge to my own health. However, I'm probably fairly unique. What is your oil consumption like? Think about it. I saute green vegetables and I make stir fries - probably 3 times a week at least. Each stir fry lasts me 2-3 meals. I use one tablespoon (sometimes less) of oil at a time.

I'm starting to braise my vegetables in vegetable or chicken broth or roast them in the oven as an alternative to sauteing/frying. I still see this as a good practice and moderate use of coconut oil. I'm trying to use olive oil for salads, for adding to soups and for flavoring as opposed to cooking since I want to retain the benefits of the omega 3's but I also want to be able to better absorb the vitamin K and other fat soluble nutrients in my salad greens. I used to oven roast fish and vegetables in parchment paper with just a tiny bit of olive oil, lemon and herbs. Now I am wondering if I should just skip the oil and put a tiny bit of butter or skip the fat altogether. Truthfully if I use lemon, a bit of wine, and a good fresh fish or seafood - the flavor and the natural fat from the fish is all the flavor I need, especially if I am using farm fresh vegetables which have such wonderful flavors all on their own.

I made broccoli rabe tonight in coconut oil. The great thing is it takes less than a minute for the broccoli rabe to cook - I wonder if I degraded the olive oil in that one minute or if any kind of heating destroys those omega 3s.

However, let me get back to the original theme of this post. "Vegetable" oil can run a car. A car! That's pretty also make me want to think twice about consuming some vegetable oils. If they are powerful enough to make a combustion engine run, do I want them in my body? Vegetable oils other than olive, peanut, safflower and sunflower oils are extremely high in omega 6 fatty acids. In general moderation of all kinds of fat, and all kinds of food for that matter, except dark leafy green vegetables seems to make sense. Heating oils also seems problematic. The oils degrade, the nutrients become inactive and the carcinogens seem to become activated. The more I read about heating any kind of unsaturated oil the less I want to eat them and the more I want my precious coconut oil or dare I say, butter!

According to, "Unsaturated oils, especially polyunsaturates, weaken the immune system's function in ways that are similar to the damage caused by radiation, hormone imbalance, cancer, aging, or viral infections." Do I really want such oils in my system. The unsaturated oils are prone to oxidation, especially when they are refined, which almost all are. These oils are already rancid by the time they even reach us and then we cook with them. Corn and soybean oil also tend to be highly highly genetically modified. Not to mention that commerically raised pigs are fed large amounts of corn and soybeans as well as their oils to fatten the pigs, rendering their fat nearly the same composition chemically as these oils. hence consumption of factory farmed pork and pork products give us the same hazardous effects of consuming the oils themselves. Grapeseed or canola oil as it is commonly called, although it is a monounsaturated oil, is almost always refined...and its in just about every food Whole Foods sells which makes me second guess the health factor of this multi-billion dollar conglomerate but also the foremost authority on health food.

I stick to coconut oil in my kitchen. In the nearly 2 years since I have been using it - I think I have been through 3 jars. 3 jars in 3 separate apartments, 1 jar per apartment. I just purchased a new bottle too and I'm excited about this one. I make sure to always buy coconut oil in a glass bottle so the oil does not react with the plastic in which its encased. I'm trying to cut back on my consumption of any food containing a polyunsaturated oil that has been heated. This includes nearly every fried food, most "vegan" cookies, and other products not made in my own kitchen. Is this practical? Its hard when traveling. But I can also stick to fruits and vegetables when I am out. Egg salad sandwiches on whole grain bread or salads. It might be boring, but I know its safe. I never feel bored with food. I always seek out fresh fruits, vegetables and fish wherever I go. I am looking for office space with a kitchen so I can prepare my own food at work as well. I don't spend a lot of time cooking, but I make sure that my consumption of polyunsaturates is minimal and I roast, bake or braise many foods. I'm trying to do more raw foods. I make a lot of salads. I poach chicken, eggs or fish when I can and make them into cold salads. I stay away from factory farmed eggs, especially the "organic" ones that say they contain more omega 3s. I encourage you to do this as well.

1 comment:

susan allport said...

Thought you'd might be interested in this short omega-3 video: