The Gallbladder and Fats

Why do we have a gallbladder, and what is so interesting about it?  What does it feel like when it’s not healthy, and how does diet affect it?  Why are low-fat diets bad for you in the long-run?  Here I answer those questions and more in this fourth in an ongoing series of articles on oils, fats, and diet. Continue reading The Gallbladder and Fats

Dampness in the Body

ice cream is very damp inducingIn Traditional Chinese Medical theory, excessive dampness is a major cause and consequence of disease.  What is dampness? There are two kinds, dampness external to the body, and dampness within.  In the body, its not exactly one pathogen like a bacteria or virus.  Rather, the term is generic and basically refers to all liquids and oils not adequately metabolized. Continue reading Dampness in the Body

Trans-fat Oils and Canola

I’m trying to blow the whistle on Canola oil but I want to give you some background first.  Going into effect in the new year (2010) is the bill Governor Arnold signed in July ’08 to ban trans-fat containing cooking oils in restaurants.  This is a good start but the problem is that trans-fats in Canola are not recognized by the mainstream – one consequence of which is that everybody is recommending Canola as a healthy oil to cook with.

Trans-fats are fats created through a chemical process of oil hydrogenation.  It has been known for a while that they hurt the body’s ability to regulate cholesterol.  By 2005, the FDA had ruled that package labels must indicate the presence of trans-fats.

A recent SFGate article (link below) does a good job reporting on how many restaurants and bakeries have long since abandoned those oils, even before they got wind of the new law.  By the way, bakeries must have complied by 2011 to this law.   The article leaves you feeling like the switch to other oils came for other reasons.  I’d like to think those reasons were for health, but I wonder what the price of bulk oils for commercial use is these days?  And what are the varieties available?

While its great that we can feel a little safer eating out, the problem still remains in the supermarkets, and at home!   What are good fats/oils and where are unhealthy trans-fats found?

  • So called Canola oil, derived from rapeseed, is always refined. Why? Because in its unrefined state it is extremely bitter and nobody would buy it.   The process of refining it damages its much touted Omega-3 content and actually converts some of the Omega 3 into trans-fats!  Some people who know this are ok with this oil because they say such a tiny percentage actually gets converted to the bad fats.  Also, misinformed mainstream thinking still wrongly advocates oils with high polyunsaturated fats ratio as the healthiest.  Another problem is Canola oil is used when making a lot of confections.  When the manufacturers of everything canned, boxed, and frozen usually say ‘vegetable oil’ on the contents, they usually mean Canola oil.  They might hydrogenate it, which creates trans-fats, or just plain heat it too much making it rancid.  Also consider that canola oil use is new.  Oils like olive oil and sesame oil have been around and used in traditional cultures for some time.  Humans have had some generations of experience with them.
  • The Frying Pan – High heat can cause small amounts of trans-fats over time.  The problem is especially true when you re-use oils, as in the case of deep-fryers, or many restaurants practices.  Definitely fast food chains are a culprit.
  • Candy bars, cakes, biscuits – I think you can still find trans-fats in Mars, Twix, Milky Way, Snickers, …
  • Margarineand Shortening contain hydrogenated polyunsaturated oils.  Again, hydrogenation creates trans-fatties.  Most margarines made from soy and safflower oils and marketed as “natural” are also hydrogenated.   Margarine made from other processes are becoming available, but getting into manufactured oils is not the right direction to go.  Here is more detail about your heart and margarine .

More than anything, I think the new law reflects the general understanding that trans-fatty oils are bad for us, but doesn’t seem to address the reality of its omni-presence.

Here is the link to the referenced SFGate article about the ban on trans-fats.

What do you think?  I’d love to hear your comments.