Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Good Fats and Bad & the truth about canola oil

Dear Readers, I love most of you, but a few of you get a little overheated. Riled up. Just downright sad. And sometimes out and out belligerent.

good fat bad fat
Good fats to use include butter, olive oil, and coconut oil. They're good for you, and they're delicious Real Foods.

Case in point: I’ve slung a few arrows at the promiscuous use of Canola oil by everyone from home cooks to commercial fryolator drivers in my last few columns. Admittedly, I just slung ‘em, didn’t stop to correct my aim, didn’t explain – yet again – why I was slingin’. Maybe I never have – that’s the problem with writing columns – you can’t assume that your present reader has read the column from two years ago about the downside of vegetable oils, and assimilated the info thoroughly enough to be able to draw on it again when you mention canola oil today. Actually you can’t REMEMBER if you’ve already explained your bias.

First came four ladies with downcast eyes, who told me they were disturbed that I didn’t approve of Canola oil. Why didn’t I? They had thought they were being virtuous by using Canola oil. I felt badly about that, but I threw off four or five facile reasons, ending with “it’s a man-made oil and why trust man-made foods when we have great whole animal and vegetable foods readily available to us?”

We should know better, having been the recipient, en masse, of governmental and industrial proclamations and directives to eat fake instead of real – margarine instead of butter; something called, I believe, Eggbeaters, instead of eggs. Why? Because butter and eggs were bad for us! Why? Because they contained cholesterol, and it was believed that cholesterol in our food translated into cholesterol in our blood. And it was believed by some that cholesterol in our blood built up on our arteries and choked them off, so that blood couldn’t get to the heart, or that chunks of that plaque would break off and shoot directly into our brains or our hearts. Killing us. Incapacitating us. Chilling, isn’t it? Do you doubt that fake-food companies instill fear of whole foods into us so that we will buy their product?

How did this come about? Someone, long ago, back in that early and mid-century just behind us, got this cholesterol-as-demon idea in his head and instituted several massive studies, which never really proved his point. Nevertheless, cereal companies were really big, and they took the idea and ran with it. Kellogg. Post. People like that. They grew grains, puffed them up, flaked them, and sold us cereals. What a great boon if they could also sell us vegetable oils from those same seeds and grains to take the place of butter, lard and other animal fats, even olive oil, if anyone even knew what that was back in the '50s. The 1950s!

They got their chance when the McGovern Committee on Nutrition and Human needs began to meet back in 1968 in response to an increase in chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, obesity, and diabetes. But many renowned scientists of the day objected to the lipid hypothesis. They said that there was nothing to link cholesterol or saturated fat with the diseases. George McGovern replied, “I could only argue that senators don’t have the luxury a research scientist has of waiting until every last shred of evidence is in.” Watch that on a new video that’s just been released! Fascinating stuff!

In 1977 the McGovern Committee issued dietary guidelines that called on Americans to lessen their consumption of red meat and dairy products. The red meat and dairy industries objected, so the Committee replaced that wording with “choose meats, poultry, and fish that will reduce saturated fat intake.” Now THAT is an oxymoron. It’s also the beginning of ‘nutritionism’: that practice of recommending or dismissing parts of foods instead of whole foods.

They thought – 'well, it’s probably true that we should eat less red meat and fat even though we have no scientific proof for it.'
And they thought, 'even if it isn’t true, it can’t hurt us to eat less meat and dairy.'

Little did they know that by replacing animal fats with vegetable fats we would alter our diets, our environment, our health, our very way of life, our world, irrevocably. The entire middle of our country – millions upon millions of acres – is paved over with the industrial crops of genetically modified corn, soy, and rapeseed – the seed that makes canola. The residues of those crops drip down the waterways into the Gulf of Mexico creating environmental catastrophes in their beginning, on their way and upon their arrival. And the subsequent upsetting of the omega 6 to omega 3 ratios in our diets is increasingly being considered to be the cause of many of our chronic health problems, including a massive increase of autism in children.

But, specifically, Canola?
About 50% of that fat in traditional rapeseed was erucic acid, which causes heart lesions. Back in the ‘70s scientists bred a new rapeseed oil low in erucic acid, and called it canola, for Canadian Oil. In 1985 that new oil was granted the status of 'Generally Recognized as Safe' from the FDA. The coveted GRAS designation.

Note that erucic acid was not eradicated, but was merely lessened.

Nina Planck, in her book REAL FOOD, tells us that “animal studies have linked canola oil with reduced platelet count, shorter life span, and greater need for Vitamin E. The United States and Canada do not permit canola oil to be used in infant formula because it retards growth in animals. In one human study, canola oil raised triglycerides... while saturated fats lowered triglycerides.” She also points out that, since canola oil is a ‘new’ food, no long-term studies of it have been made.
“I never use canola oil,” writes Planck, “largely because I have no reason to. For flavor, health, and cooking, I simply prefer other fats. The flavor is nothing special.”

She, as I do, too, uses olive oil and butter for sautéing, and butter and lard for baking.

I simply do not use any vegetable oil except small amounts of dark sesame for flavor, perhaps a nut oil sometimes for the same reason; and I simply do not deep-fry, but if I did I think I’d splurge on beef tallow. That’s what many commercial establishments used to use before forced by the cholesterol scare to turn to hydrogenated fats, and then when the truth about trans-fats came out they switched to ... mostly canola oil as far as I can see. Beef tallow is also a very tasty fat and makes fabulous French fries.

But be sure to get beef tallow from grass-fed beef, and lard from foraged pigs, or you will be loading up on the antibiotics and hormones fed to enslaved animals.

I also love coconut oil – there is quite a bit of proof that the slathering on of coconut oil can help you lose weight. Besides, it's delicious. You can buy it at the Co-op.

Isn't this amazing stuff? You probably don't believe me --it is, not to put too fine a point on it, unbelievable that a hoax such as this has been perpetrated upon an entire country! So, to you doubters, it's time for you to do your own work:

Watch THE FUTURE OF FOOD to see to see how some of our so-called healthy industrial foods are grown, and the effects on the land and the farmers who farm it. Read QUEEN OF FATS by Susan Allport if you’d like to know more about the omega 6/omega 3 conundrum. And certainly, if you have not read IN DEFENSE OF FOOD by Michael Pollan, do that. I also like THE GOOD FAT COOKBOOK by Fran McCullough, the aforesaid REAL FOOD by Nina Planck, EAT FAT LOSE FAT by Dr. Mary Enig, and... well, that should keep you busy for awhile. But if you still have time, read GOOD CALORIES, BAD CALORIES by Gary Taubes. He takes on all the studies that have been done trying to link saturated animal fats with cholesterol and cholesterol to heart disease. The proof is simply not there!



I really did not want to spend my Sunday afternoon getting these particular fat ducks in a row, but after the opening at the Brick Box a week or so ago, when one of my “Fans” actually became rather physical in his frustration with my denigration of poor little canola, I felt the need. And when I got a note from another dear reader saying, “Perhaps sometime you can educate readers a bit more about so-called ‘canola’ oil,” I knew Sunday was a bust.

So there you have it, and for being such good and attentive readers, I’ll give you a technique for

Corn Fritters
Very seasonal just now.

TAKE 2 or 3 ears of cooked corn and scrape the kernels off into a bowl. You might use the edge of a round cookie cutter for this, to get the most cream out. Make a tiny dice of whatever complementary vegetables you might have – jalapeno, sweet pepper, tomato, that’s about it. Add them to the corn.

Whip an egg or two, a tablespoon or two of milk or cream, a tablespoon of flour, salt and pepper... mix them up. Add them to the corn. Let the whole melange just lie there and meditate with each other for awhile.

Then, when you are ready to eat, heat a pan, scrape some butter and olive oil into it, let that get hot and just beginning to brown, and ladle in a half cup or so of batter. Turn it after three or four minutes. When it is done, put it on a plate, sprinkle, if you like, with some very finely chopped onion, some lime juice, pour a few drops or spoonfuls of maple syrup over it, add salt if you need to, and eat it
up.

16 comments:

Citizens United for Farm Freedom said...

Atta girl, Sharon. I really appreciate this article because it is what I try to tell people also. Another cookbook to recommend is Nourishing Traditions.

Randal said...

Hi Sharon. Interesting but pretty much wrong on canola, btw.
It's a column so I didn't fix it for the paper, but canola is simply a hybrid (it predates GMO technology by about two decades) selectively cultivated from rapeseed using traditional farming techniques, in part because of the name and in part because the oil was bitter ... so bitter cows would often not eat it (high levels of glucosinolates, the bittering compound in things like turnips (the latin name for turnip is rapum, hence the name rapeseed), radishes and mustard, a all close relatives genetically to rapeseed).
Still, in some parts of the world, rapeseed oil has been used in cooking since prehistory. About 99% of the vegetables and grains we eat have been hybridized at some point in their history (including the "heirloom" varieties, which are often local hybrids). Hybrids in and of themselves aren't a problem; the problem is when everybody is planting the same hybrid, which stifles genetic diversity.

There's a cottage industry in canola scare tactics (probably the reader who wanted you to write the "truth" about it comes from that background).

Snopes.com, the website specializing in sorting out truth from fiction re. urban legends, has a pretty good rundown on what's true and untrue.
http://www.snopes.com/medical/toxins/canola.asp

There IS a "Roundup Ready" GMO version from Monsanto, but if we were to stop eating everything Monsanto had created a GMO version of, we would starve.

As far as cooking, it does not have as much flavor as butter or olive oil, true, but it has other pluses, like it burns at a much higher temperature, so it's more forgiving for inexpert cooks, it's very stable on the shelf so keeps without going rancid much longer than most oils and if you are frying something with a delicate flavor, it won't mask the taste. Plus it's about 1/5th the price of EVOO, which loses a lot of its flavor in a frypan anyway ...

Oh, and it's CAnadian Oil Low Acid, btw, which I didn't know until I looked it up ...

el said...

Randal, sorry, we wouldn't starve if we were stop eating everything Monsanto has created a GMO version of, in point of fact, we wouldn't starve if we forwent everything Monsanto produced. What we would forego would be processed foods, and grocery stores. We might starve if we don't know how to cook, though.

Great work, Sharon. My theory on fats is if I couldn't make it I won't eat it: I could smash olives, I can roast a goose, duck or chicken for that lovely fat, likewise render leaf lard, save bacon grease, and I can turn cream into butter, so those are the fats we choose to eat. Everything else is suspect, and certainly not eaten daily.

Randal said...

Hi El
I agree we can do without Monsanto products.
What I said was we would starve if we gave up everything Monsanto has a version of.
So that would include pretty much all grains, definitely including wheat, barley and rye, plus beans (including soy bean), peas, corn, potatoes, beets, cucumbers, eggplant, peppers, gourds of all kinds, carrots, leeks, onions, okra, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, radish, fennel, lettuce, spinach, watermelon, tomatoes, yellow squash and zucchini. We'd starve in a heartbeat.

sharon parquette nimtz said...

With all due respect, Randal, my research has gone a little deeper than wiki and snopes, and has lasted longer than the last five minutes. I know you must have faith in what you say about canola oil because i know you would not feed your beautiful family industrial dreck if you had any doubts... And god knows industrial food and the government have never lied to us before.
Snopes, by the way, originally pooh poohed the danger of bisphenol A (BPA)in plastic water bottles. I would imagine they've backed down on that by now. I don't know if the person who wrote the Snopes article has any interest in canola as an industry, but I find the two cited articles suspicious -- one of them written by the canola council.
This upset of our Omega6/Omega3 ratio in our diets is no joke, though, and is causing an immense amount of suffering. Though I will admit that some experts are citing canola as an acceptable ratio, about 2:1. I'm talking to one now about the reasoning behind this.
But I don't know why I'm talking to you -- you probably eat margarine!

El, I think that's good advice -- if you can't crush something and get a smudge... probably better not to mess with it for oil. Soybeans come to mind. The processes that come into play to strike oil in a soybean are truly draconian.

Randal said...

As the BPA scare now also seems to have been disproven, I hope Snopes has stood its ground ...

So: Manmade?
The thing with canola is that it's essentially a (nonGMO, preGMO) strain of rapeseed and rapeseed oil literally goes back to prehistoric times ... processed exactly the way pretty much all vegetable oils are processed (peanut, sunflower, olive, coconut, sesame, etc.) ... you take the oily part of the plant and squash it in a mill. If that makes it a "manmade" fat, then all vegetable oils are manmade and isn't butter, too, because you have to churn it? If El wants to include olives because you can squash 'em, it only seems fair to include all the other oily seeds you can squash . ...
Artificial?
In North America, we considered rapeseed oil too bitter so mostly used it instead of petroleum byproducts for lamp oil and grease (and as such, it was both sustainable and eco-friendly compared to petroleum products), but it has been an acceptable food product in parts of world (Brits eat it, for instance, although they also eat marmite, so there's no accounting for taste; Indian recipes often call for it) for millenia.
...
Runoff?
As a food product, canola oil is largely displacing corn and palm oil, and I doubt the runoff from the Midwest farm belt would be any healthier (or much different) if it was industrial corn runoff or for that matter industrial rutabaga runoff instead of industrial canola runoff. So that part of the problem seems to be the scale of the agriculture, not the product.
...
Immoderation?
Do I advocate using only canola oil? No, because then you probably do get into Omega unbalance issues and the like, the same as vegan high-soy diets are proving unhealthy -- too much of a good thing. But canola oil, used in moderation, is a healthy product. I often fry butter in canola when I want a white, yet buttery, sauce, because the browning point of canola is well beyond the point butter scorches, so I can work faster (restaurant trick). It's a 1-for-1 substitute for generic vegetable oil in any recipe (and I don't believe palm oil is my friend, health-wise, so I avoid generic "vegetable oil.")
...
Cost?
I don't have the money to be able to afford to routinely fry stuff in olive oil, considering you lose most of the taste when you heat it to the browning point.
...
Background
And yes, my dear, I'm sure you have researched it. But just because something comes from the canola council doesn't make it wrong, any more than information from the dairy council is wrong about butter. And because it's come from an author selling a point of view between hard covers of a health-scare book (or for that matter, PREVENTION! magazine), selectively choosing "facts," doesn't make it right.

Full disclosure: My first contact w/ rapeseed came on my grandparents' farm. It's beautiful when you have small fields of it, flowers yellow as buttercups, growing next to fields of alfalfa, the greenest of the grain crops, like a picture, with white birch in the background, maybe an old-fashioned granary.

It's not beautiful when all you can see is yellow to the horizon in every direction. It's scary, in fact, and disturbing. But there's nothing beautiful about a 3,000-cow dairy barn, either, except the individual cows.

sharon parquette nimtz said...

>My first contact w/ rapeseed came on my grandparents' farm. It's beautiful when you have small fields of it, flowers yellow as buttercups, growing next to fields of alfalfa, the greenest of the grain crops, like a picture, with white birch in the background, maybe an old-fashioned granary.

It's not beautiful when all you can see is yellow to the horizon in every direction. It's scary, in fact, and disturbing. But there's nothing beautiful about a 3,000-cow dairy barn, either, except the individual cows.<

I knew we'd get there.

Anonymous said...

With all the news that is somewhat scary about canokla oil why not just not use it and use other oils.
Try using rice bran oil as it is not genetically modified.

RM said...

Just wanted to let you know I nominated you for the Kreativ Blogger award.

Excellent post!

sharon parquette nimtz said...

Tank you, Rose Moon.

Anonymous said...

Canola oil aside, where are you getting you research and assertions that cholesterol and saturated fat are not linked to heart disease, that cholesterol does not build up in our arteries and that it does not cause heart attacks and strokes. I believe the American Heart Association, the American Journal of Cardiology, The Journal of the American Medical Association and others would love to have your insights. As would I'm sure the thousands of people who each year are diagnosed with heart disease. I feel your article was poorly presented. Go ahead,eat your lard and if you ever need it, I hope there is an experienced cardiac interventionist or surgeon who can unclog your arteries and refer you to a competent education program.

Henwhisperer said...

Dear Anon,

What you mistake as cholesterol is really bits of inappropriate fats and from GMO food that the body doesn't know what to with. The body craves real food, food that it can understand as food. You say, "I believe the American Heart Association, the American Journal of Cardiology, The Journal of the American Medical Association and others would love to have your insights." No they wouldn't. Snort. If they actually supported whole foods they would be out of business. Drink raw milk, eat food that is close to nature as possible. Eschew factory made fake foods. Outlaw GMO/GE 'things' and HFCS. Then you'd see a change in the health of this country.

sharon parquette nimtz said...

Henwhisperer, you must be my benign guardian angel! Now, if you really want to fulfill your mission tell me this: is there anyway to ban anonymous posters without screening each one? Anyone named "Anonymous," or, for that matter, "Randal". heh

Who woulda thunk that the subject of canola could produce such passionate results.

Thank you all, but now let's go back to our real lives. I have some gizzards to clean!

Henwhisperer said...

Yes there is.

Dashboard->settings->comments->who can comment (make your selectionm I'd choose Registered Users).

Then scroll down to the bottom and select Always in Comment moderation. I have a comment form message that says, "Comments are moderated, but I usually get to them in a few hours." I just had to delete a comment the other day when the person told me I was proof that people should have to be tested in order to have children. Interestingly enough, the comment was entered by someone who was using a school computer.

There, I did my duty!

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