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unhealthy fats

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The pros and cons of fat consumption are perhaps more hotly debated than any other food category.

The word “fat” has come to carry a negative connotation, but as we’ve written about in the past, not all fats are created equal. Some serve as the perfect fuel source for your body and brain, and others cause widespread oxidative damage, inflammation, and weight gain.

For some time, however, it was unclear which fats were the healthy ones.

Decades ago, tentative research (which is now largely considered inconclusive) led the mainstream medical community to believe that saturated fat consumption is associated with obesity, heart disease, and other leading health problems. Perfectly healthful fats like coconut oil and olive oil were quickly vilified, and polyunsaturated “vegetable oils” were touted as the healthy choice.

While there were some experts who legitimately believed that vegetable oils are healthier than saturated fats, there was also a political force at play. Seeing the massive economic opportunity at hand, grain producers stepped in to provide the “healthy” vegetable oils there were coming into fashion.

Chief among these offerings is canola oil, a product of the rapeseed plant. Canola is now the second largest oil crop in the world, comprising more than 15% of the world’s entire oil crop production, and generating billions of dollars in revenue annually.[1]

There’s still a lot of debate about proper dietary habits around saturated fats—moderation is still key, and high levels of saturated fat (especially when eaten at the same time as carbohydrates, and when coupled with a sedentary lifestyle) can still lead to weight gain and other issues. Saturated fats like coconut oil, olive oil, and macadamia nut oil are inherently healthy, though, and can confer a wide range of benefits when consumed properly.

This is decidedly not case with canola oil. Despite the enduring belief in its healthfulness, this industrially produced oil carries a litany of risks, and offers essentially no benefits, even when consumed moderately.

The case against canola oil

genetically modified product, canola oil is a Canadian invention that’s backed by Canada’s government, cheap to manufacture, and many packaged or processed foods contain it. Canola oil was first created in the early 1970s as a natural oil, but in 1995, Monsanto created a genetically modified version of canola oil. As of 2005, 87 percent of canola grown in the U.S. was genetically modified, and by 2009, 90 percent of the Canadian crop was genetically engineered.

Even its name is engineered. As mentioned above, canola oil is a product of the rapeseed plant—but producers and PR spinners decidedly to change the oil’s name to something more palatable.

Furthermore, the name isn’t this plant’s only toxic component. Rapeseed naturally contains erucic acid at levels which are toxic to humans; the plants used to produce canola oil have been genetically engineered to reduce erucic acid to “safe” levels. Why not just start with a non-toxic plant to begin with?

And it gets worse. Like most genetically modified crops, rapeseed is nearly always grown with toxic pesticides, which inevitably leads to residues in the final product. Check out this article if you’re still not convinced that glyphosate and other pesticides are a health risk. Additionally, the industrial process of refining canola oil involves a medley of conclusively dangerous chemicals, including solvents and bleach.

 Rapeseed oil (canola) was originally used as motor lubricant during World War II.

Fun fact: rapeseed oil (canola) was originally used as motor lubricant during World War II. When demand fell off, producers began an extensive campaign to make it an edible product—hence the complex process of toxic refinement and bleaching.

This horrendous production process should be enough to keep you away from canola oil—but in case you need more reasons, researchers have now linked canola oil consumption with a wide variety of serious health issues, including obesity, allergies, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and cancer.

One team of researchers even found that canola oil decreases the production of a certain protein that protects the brain against amyloid plaque buildup and neuronal damage—so much to say that canola oil consumption may increase your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.[2]

All of this should come as no surprise. In addition to the pesticide and toxin residues mentioned above, canola oil is also packed with oxidized omega-6 fatty acids, which lead to systemic inflammation, deplete the body of glutathione and other endogenous antioxidants, trigger weight gain, damage cells, decrease disease resistance, and accelerate aging.

Use these oils instead (and enjoy the benefits)

Luckily, there’s a wealth of available alternatives to canola oil. They may be a bit more expensive, but the benefits are well worth the cost—your body and brain need healthy fats in order to thrive (the brain is composed of 60% fat).[3]

Studies have demonstrated that olive oil can preserve synaptic integrity in the brain and improve markers for the development of Alzheimer’s disease.[4] We’ve also talked extensively in past articles about the incredible benefits of coconut oil—it’s even been shown to improve cognitive function after just a single dose.

Keep in mind that saturated fats are not always suitable for cooking (though anything is better than cooking with canola oil, which almost immediately breaks down and riddles the body with damaging free radicals). Use grass-fed butter, ghee, macadamia nut oil, or raw virgin coconut oil instead.

Use olive oil only for salad dressings and similar cold dishes, as it will break down almost as easily as canola oil and other polyunsaturated fats (unless it’s “pure” rather than “extra virgin” olive oil).

By removing canola oil completely from your diet, you’ll be taking a huge step toward protecting your brain and overall health.

 


References

[1] https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/crops/soybeans-oil-crops/canola.aspx

[2] https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-17373-3

[3] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/42438067_Essential_fatty_acids_and_human_brain

[4] https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2017-06/tuhs-tse061917.php

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fats-healthy-unhealthy

You’ve probably noticed that fats have a much better reputation these days.

They used to be the universal scapegoat of the health community—everything from obesity and diabetes to cancer and heart disease was blamed on fat consumption. Now we know that the situation is quite a bit more complex. There’s a huge difference between healthy and unhealthy fats, and telling the difference between them is tricky (even for nutritionists, who are still debating the issue).

Taking the time to understand which fats you should include in your diet is a vital part of maintaining optimal health, though. Healthy fats are highly beneficial, thanks in large part to their powerful anti-inflammatory activity.

And since chronic inflammation is strongly linked to the incidence of nearly every disease, choosing the fats that keep it in check is always wise. So let’s dive a little deeper into the dos and don’ts of fat consumption.

Decades ago, saturation was considered the measure of unhealthiness—the more saturated the fat, the more unhealthy it was considered.

The fat debate

If you’ve followed the rising and falling trends around fat consumption, you may have found it to be a rather tedious and confusing process.

Decades ago, saturation was considered the measure of unhealthiness—the more saturated the fat, the more unhealthy it was considered. But modern research has contradicted this overly simplistic nutrition paradigm by showing that saturated fats like olive oil, macadamia nut oil, and coconut oil provide exceptional health benefits (and even combat the same conditions for which saturated fats have been blamed).

Bolstered by this research (and a rising anti-carbohydrate movement), opinion swayed to the opposite end of the spectrum, becoming obsessed with Paleo, Atkins, and other high-fat diets.

Saturated fats became almost universally healthy (even bacon, butter, and other questionable animal products). Polyunsaturated fats were looked upon skeptically, largely because of the ease with which they can go rancid because of oxidation.

Now the fat-obsessed fads seem to be calming, and opinion around fat consumption is finally finding its center. While there’s still some debate over specific fats and oils, most experts agree that (surprise, surprise) balanced and moderate fat consumption is the healthiest choice.

Here are a few principles that will help you select the most beneficial fats for curbing inflammation. And be sure to check out some other resources on healthy, moderate fat consumption, like this great article from Happy Happy Vegan.

1. Find the right essential fatty acid balance. It turns out that differentiating healthy from unhealthy fat consumption has less to do with arbitrary labels like “saturated” and “unsaturated,” and more with maintaining a proper balance between essential fatty acids (EFA’s). The two types of EFA’s are omega-6’s (which trigger inflammatory response), and omega-3’s (which turn off inflammatory response).

Because inflammation is one of the body’s core defense mechanisms, eating pro-inflammatory omega-6’s is still vitally important—but too many can easily tip the balance toward chronic inflammation and illness. The ideal ratio is 1:1 (as opposed to the average ratio of the American diet, which is between 15:1 and 20:1). For this reason, you’ll want to steer clear of corn, soy, canola, and safflower oil whenever possible.

Everyone agrees that trans (hydrogenated) fats are
terrible for you

2. Avoid trans fats and processed oils. Despite differences in opinion over the healthfulness of different types of fats, one thing about which everyone agrees on is that trans (hydrogenated) fats are terrible for you. Many studies have demonstrated that they adversely affect cardiovascular health,[1] and that they encourage an inflammatory cascade in the body that quickly escalates into chronic inflammation.

The rule of thumb at work here is to avoid all heavily processed oils (hydrogenated fats aren’t found anywhere in nature)—your body (rightfully) interprets them as a foreign, potentially toxic agent, and thus responds with massive inflammation.

3. Store oils properly. Some fats, like flaxseed oil (or even raw flax seeds) can be healthy or unhealthy depending on how they’re stored. Most people don’t realize that oils are quite sensitive to light and heat, and become riddled with inflammation-causing free radicals when they begin to oxidize.

Always try to keep your oils refrigerated, and don’t keep any one bottle of oil around for too long. These rules are especially important to follow with oils that have a higher percentage of polyunsaturated fats, which degrade more quickly (and are also more prone to mycotoxin growth).

4. Cook with high-heat oils. Similarly, perfectly healthful oils can become highly inflammatory if they’re used for cooking (because they break down under heat and flood the body with free radicals).

Coconut oil, avocado oil, olive oil, and macadamia oil are your best cooking choices (because of their high smoke point and higher saturated fat content), and you should always avoid vegetable oils (because of their tendency to rancidify and because of their high omega-6 content), as well as flaxseed and walnut oils (which are excellent as long as they’re not heated).

5. Get an anti-inflammatory boost. Some oils have proven to be exceptionally anti-inflammatory in their own right. Integrating coconut oil, flaxseed oil, macadamia nut oil, and olive oil into your diet can have a marked effect. Just remember to take all of the concepts above into consideration (and remember that moderation is key when it comes to fat consumption).

And again, note that these oils contain varying combinations of saturated and unsaturated fats. These labels don’t make an oil inherently healthy or unhealthy—it’s more about the ratio of EFA’s, the way that oils are stored (especially with polyunsaturated oils), and the unique nutritional profile of each oil.

 


References

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19424218

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sneaky_toxin_sources

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to live in a world free of manmade toxins? A world in which clean water, pure air, and optimal health is more important than profit margins and short-term schemes?

A world in which everyone holds themselves to the same high standard of accountability? A world in which you can trust that you’re not constantly surrounded by hidden sources of toxins?  

I’d like to think we’re on our way there. Unfortunately, though, that’s just not the way things are at present.

Staying healthy is a full-time job these days—mostly because we always have to be on the lookout for unwitting toxin sources.

Personal care, diet, and fitness obviously play an essential role, but even if you’re playing all your cards right, your health can still suffer considerably because of environmental toxins.

Below, you’ll find a list of unexpected toxin sources to avoid at all costs.

Don’t be overwhelmed; just take action, one step at a time. Start by removing just one toxin source from your life, and build up from there. This process should be empowering, not paranoia-inducing.

Let’s start with the basics…

Processed foods. It’s hard to take three steps in a grocery store without bumping into processed foods. Any product that is even a single step removed from its natural form should be considered processed.

Processed foods are designed to be overstimulating and addictive.[1] Creating such “designer junk foods” destroys nearly all the nutrients its ingredients may have contained. Synthetic vitamins and nutrients are sometimes added after the fact, but these are a poor replacement at best, and toxic at worst.

And to top things off, processed foods are filled with destructive substances like high-fructose corn syrup,[2] preservatives, colorants, artificial flavors, and texturants.

Many chemicals like this that have been deemed “safe” by the FDA in the past were later found to have deleterious effects on the body. The FDA will only ever investigate chemicals that they believe pose a serious danger—so just know that you’re rolling the dice by consuming any of them.

Non-organic produce. Organic products have been all the rage for years now, but because of the high price that they command, it can be tempting to justify the purchase of more affordable, non-organic food.

How bad could it possibly be?

Pretty bad, unfortunately.

Evidence is mounting that the pesticides and other various chemicals that are sprayed on conventional produce are adversely toxic. A widely published study claiming that there is little difference in the healthfulness and safety of organic and non-organic produce is now being harshly criticized and overturned.[3]

And don’t think that you can just wash off these noxious chemicals either—many of them are absorbed by the plant’s internal structures. In the case of GMO foods, toxicity is incorporated into the plant at a genetic level.

Unwashed produce. Even some organic produce is contaminated with pesticides and other toxic chemicals, so be sure to wash everything before eating it.

The most effective method is to submerge your produce completely in room temperature water, and then lightly scrub each item.

Avoiding dietary toxins

This probably isn’t anything you haven’t heard before.

If you’re already avoiding non-organic and processed food, excellent. Here’s some dietary toxin sources with which you may be less familiar, though…

Mycotoxins in wheat and corn. Here’s a shocking statistic of which very few people are aware: a large percentage of the grains available in the U.S. has been exposed to toxic mold (because it’s nearly always stored in commercial silos for long periods of time).[4]

When wheat and corn is exposed to mold, dangerous byproducts called mycotoxins are developed. Even though cooking will normally destroy any mold that’s present, the mycotoxins will remain intact.

Mycotoxins sap your energy, suppress the immune system, interfere with nutrient absorption, and disrupt metabolic and hormonal functioning in the body.[5]

While reducing (or even eliminating) your consumption of wheat and corn can be a difficult task, it’s really the only surefire way to protect yourself from mycotoxins.

And in case you still need some convincing, there’s a whole host of other reasons why you should banish wheat from your diet.

Damaged fats. Fats have gotten a bad rap in the past. Recent dietary fads (like the Paleo Diet) are starting to get the right idea, though—that the right kind of fat is incredibly healthful.

While whole books could be (and have been) written on this subject, here’s the basic gist that you should keep in mind: a fat becomes toxic when it is unstable, and thus becomes damaged and oxidized by the heat of cooking. The fats that are prone to this damage are called unsaturated.

The unsaturated fats that you’ll want to avoid (usually in the form of cooking oils) are as follows: corn oil (which can also contain mycotoxins, as explained above), canola oil, sesame oil, and anything else generically labeled as “vegetable oil.”

Stick with oils that contain lots of saturated fat, like coconut oil, palm oil, butter, and ghee.

Avoiding household toxins

And then there’s the myriad of toxin sources that surround us within our own homes. Here’s some of the biggest offenders, as well as some suggestions for how to neutralize them…

Plasticware. By now, you’re probably aware of the pitfalls of plastic.Even plastic products that are marketed as “non-toxic” are a gamble. Plastic contains many other chemicals besides those that are now considered toxic. Just because a company labels a given chemical as “non-toxic,” it doesn’t mean that future research won’t reveal the contrary.

So play it safe, and use as few plastic products as possible.

If you can’t eliminate plastic entirely, at least minimize your risk by not heating or freezing any plasticware (which accelerates the process of chemical leaching).

Never put plasticware in the dishwasher. Doing so will leach all those nasty chemicals and then redeposit them on all your other dishes!  

Furniture. A staggering percentage of mattresses, couches, and pillows contain flame retardants that have been shown to cause cancer and birth defects.[6]

High levels of these ridiculously toxic chemicals have been detected in people’s blood, which confirms that they easily enter the body when our skin is in contact with these household items, and even when we breathe the dust in our houses.

The process of “detoxifying” your house by replacing all your toxic furniture is certainly a daunting (and expensive) one. Just be aware of these dangers, and take one step at a time to clear your living space.

Start small: at least replace your pillows, then tackle the larger, more expensive pieces of furniture when it’s possible to do so. Isn’t your health worth the time and the cost?

Cleaning supplies. Taking one whiff of most cleaning supplies on the market is enough to confirm that they’re full of toxins. After years of coating our counters and tables, washing our clothes, and “freshening” the air in our house, these toxins accumulate to very dangerous levels.

And don’t believe everything you hear about “green cleaning products” either. Some of the top eco-products on the market still contain chemicals with demonstrable adverse effects.[7]  

Even seemingly inoffensive dryer sheets are bad news. Nearly all of them contain a whole host of terrible chemicals that cause burning skin, respiratory irritation, anxiety attacks, and irritability—like formaldehyde and chloroform, just to name a few that you’ve probably heard of.[8]

So always do your homework before purchasing any cleaning product. Better yet, read this article to learn how to make your own (it’s easy, I promise).

Creating your own sanctuary

Avoiding these toxin sources will have a huge effect on your health.

We may live in a toxin-laden world, but we shouldn’t just sit back and let ourselves be bombarded. Awareness is always the first step. Let the information that’s been presented sink in, and then start to take measures to protect yourself, bit by bit.

 


References  

[1] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22016109

[2] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23594708

[3] http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/120-a458

[4] http://www.ers.usda.gov/media/321551/aer828h_1_.pdf

[5] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12857779

[6] http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es303471d

[7] http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/simply-green-washing-are-you-using-toxic-cleaner

[8] http://www.lifenatural.com/dangers_of_laundry_dryer_sheets.htm

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