Oils – no, they DO not!

I was recently reading an article by a famous (“Oprah” famous, if you must know) doctor who was extolling the virtues of Red Palm Oil. I’ve recently discovered this myself and had to say that I was impressed with what I found. I’ve bought a jar but haven’t used it yet. However, in the middle of this really great article that talked about the science of why this, and coconut oil, are better for you, he added “…the thick, saturated oils act like molasses in the arteries, and cause plaque to occur.” ARGH! JUST ARGH!

Here is a guy that millions of people listen to and they are hearing about how good this oil is and then boom! He says this, they tune out, done. Saturated fat causes arterial plaque. NO! So many new studies have proven the original study, whence this sugar vs fat debate comes from, false. Chris Kessler, Dr. Mercola, several UK doctors, have all contributed. Yes, food is controversial but we should at least have an open mind that our knowledge progresses and we should adapt along with what we know. Some doctors in America are getting it and saying what needs to be said – reduce the inflammation-causing foods from our diet and we reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Another article by the British Medical Journal can be found here.


Okay – even if you can’t go there, at least admit there are some changes on the horizon borne out of real science and work, and not just fad dieting. Ignore Atkins, ignore Paleo and Primal – ignore all that. Think only about what is better for you? What helps you achieve better health WITHOUT drugs? Use your own body as a test to see what works and what doesn’t? How should you feel as a human and how optimal should our bodies work? Check it out for yourself – please. And remember, it took a long time for your body to get used to something – it’s going to take a while for it to change, too.

So, people always refer to me as being on the “air” diet – because I eat healthy fats, veg, fruits, meat, and nuts/seeds. My fats come from avocado, coconut, ghee, beef tallow (from grass-fed beef!), etc. I use olive oil and avocado oil for mayonnaise. I also use both for salads. But the first words out of people’s mouths is usually “coconut oil” is really saturated! Yes! Good! So, what do you say to people who are still misinformed but seem to still have an opinion on your food choices? I think it’s possible to let them know good from bad, quickly. Maybe this will help…

  • Coconut Oil: Coconut oil is nature’s richest source of lauric acid. It’s been used by cultures for thousands of years, particularly island cultures, where animal fats are sparse. It has been shown that lauric acid increases the good HDL cholesterol in the blood to help improve cholesterol ratio levels. Coconut oil lowers cholesterol by promoting its conversion to pregnenolone, a molecule that is a precursor to many of the hormones our bodies need. Coconut can help restore normal thyroid function. When the thyroid does not function optimally, it can contribute to higher levels of bad cholesterol. It has a long shelf life and low melting point; it’s excellent for cooking as it does not turn rancid quickly at high temperatures. This rancidity can lead to oxidative damage, not good for our bodies.
  • Red Palm Oil: The health benefits are achieved due to the red color of the palm fruit oil that is attributed to its high content of carotenes, which include beta-carotene and lycopene. These powerhouse antioxidant nutrients are the same ones that give tomatoes and carrots and other fruits and vegetables their rich red and orange colors. Red palm fruit oil contains more that tomatoes or carrots. Red palm fruit oil is also densely packed with numerous tocotrienols – a powerful form of vitamin E. You can use Red Palm oil like you would coconut oil but it does give off a yellow color to food. It’s best to use it in darker foods or ones that are already yellow to begin with.
  • Ghee, Beef Tallow, and Lard: Good saturated fats, without inflammatory ingredients are yes, good for you. Ghee, butter without milk solids, has a long shelf life, creamy texture, and is really good for vegetable flying or sautes. Using all of these fats (primarily from organic and/or grass-fed sources) has a better chance of missing nutrients from your diet. As with the saturated fats noted above, these are far better for use at high cooking temperatures than vegetable and seed oils. Cooking with vegetable oils at high temperatures creates peroxides and other free radicals. Ghee has a very high smoke point and doesn’t burn easily during cooking. Ghee has stable saturated bonds and so is lot less likely to form the dangerous free radicals when cooking. Ghee’s short chain of fatty acids are also metabolized very readily by the body.These same claims are also true of tallow and lard.
  • Seed Oils (Grapeseed, sunflower, peanut): What’s true with seed oils is primarily true of vegetable oils – safflower, canola, etc. These oils didn’t exist until the 20th century, just after WWII. You can see a video of their production here. Draw your own conclusions. The main complain about vegetable oils is that they are too high in Omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids. Your body needs a specific ration of Omega-3 to Omega6 polyunsaturated oils in order to not generate an inflammatory state. The SAD (Standard American Diet) is too high in Omega-6 oils and not high enough of Omega-3s. As noted above, these oils don’t do well at a high cook temperature.
  • Fruit Oils: Fruit oils are generally very good in the Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio and have generally been pressed to achieve their oils. That is no harsh chemicals or solvents have been used to extract their oils. For obvious reasons, this is good. However, they do break down extremely quickly when subjected to cooking temperatures or even sunlight (hence, the dark or solid bottling.) Generally, they make good light cooking oils and are good for salads. You have to be extremely careful not to get them too hot; once they begin to smoke, you’ve got rancid oil on your hands.
  • Nut Oils (Walnut, macadamia) – these are, generally a good “occasional oil” as they may be high in Omega-6 PUFAs and are not good at high temperatures. I’ve used walnut oil for dressings and macadamia nut oil for may.

There’s actually a very good list of the type of oils, their uses, and what’s “good” about them listed here: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/healthy-oils/#axzz2sC7NmBhw.sunshineinheart
You know what? The best way to get your Omegas is in your food. Go enjoy a variety of healthy foods that have saturated fat in them (from grass-fed sources, like beef- yum!). Use oils for cooking, as you need to but for goodness sake, stop being afraid of the good fats. Your body will love you (and prosper!) from it.


Awesomeness! This is what I mean!


One question that arose from my recent post was “how much space does a quarter (or half) cow take up in a freezer?” Good question! Another good question – “how do I go in on it with someone?” Excellent!

I’m going to address both questions quickly so we can all get on with the business of being healthier.


Rule of thumb…figure about 30 lbs of meat per cubic foot of space. A quarter cow is generally about 300 lbs so you’re talking a 10 cubic foot freezer. Generally, though, you can fit a little more. It depends on how the meat is packed and what packaging it is in. The meat I last got was packed fairly flat and I had 2olbs in a reasonably small (1cf) space. You can get a small freezer (like 8.3 cf) but really, what you want is something bigger. Craigslist is an excellent way to find a chest freezer for cheap. If you don’t have access to one, ask a friend to share in exchange for some of the meat.


Next question… if you don’t have local friends or family that are purchasing a pig or cow, check this out: http://bamcsa.ning.com/.  This is the Bay Area Meat CSA and yes, it is only setup for people the San Francisco Bay Area. However, I am positive, without any looking around and verification for sure, that there are these types of groups in many suburban and urban areas. This is a great idea for picking up smaller quantities of sustainably-raised, organic meats of a wide variety. I would even say that for the majority of households, this is a great way to get started. This site puts together a network of people who work directly with the ranchers and producers of meat – so you don’t have to struggle in a vacuum! They have many local subgroups and a lot of topics at any one time. I really encourage you to sign up if you are the least bit interested in finding quality meat!

If you don’t have one of these kinds of sites that address your locality, think about creating one. I’m betting there are hundreds, if not thousands, of other suburbanites and urbanites who want it, too!


Pssst! It’s still here!

E. Coli is not gone. In our standard, American way, we have somehow forgot the small little pathogen that killed four hamburger-eating children in 1994. We tend to remember it only when it makes headlines, such as when it was recently found in chocolate chip cookie dough. Once you Bacteriathink about where e. Coli comes from, you’ll wonder just how it got…THERE.

I’m grateful to my friend Mike, who sent me the following article: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/04/health/04meat.html?_r=1&th&emc=th . The article, from the New York Times, details one woman’s fight with e. coli – a fight which left her paralyzed.

Here’s the short list of what to remember about e. coli and hamburger meat – and any other e coli containing material:

  1. E coli bacteria are found in the intestinal tracts of all warm blooded animals (mammals and birds) and are naturally occuring. It is only when they become infected with a Shinga virus that they become deadly to humans – producing what is known as the Shinga toxin.
  2. Although E. coli O157:H7 is responsible for the majority of human illnesses attributed to E. coli, there are additional Stx-producing E. coli (e.g., E. coli O121:H19) that can also cause hemorrhagic colitis and post-diarrheal hemolytic uremic syndrome (D+HUS).  HUS is a syndrome that is defined by the trilogy of hemolytic anemia (destruction of red blood cells), thrombocytopenia (low platelet count), and acute kidney failure.
  3. E. coli O157:H7 was first recognized as a foodborne pathogen in 1982 during an investigation into an outbreak of hemorrhagic colitis (bloody diarrhea) associated with consumption of contaminated hamburgers (Riley, et al., 1983).  The following year, Shiga toxin (Stx), produced by the then little-known E. coli O157:H7, was identified as the real culprit.
  4. The CDC has estimated that 85% of E. coli O157:H7 infections are foodborne in origin (Mead, et al., 1999).  In fact, consumption of any food or beverage that becomes contaminated by animal (especially cattle) manure can result in contracting the disease.  Foods that have been sources of contamination include ground beef, venison, sausages, dried (non-cooked) salami, unpasteurized milk and cheese, unpasteurized apple juice and cider (Cody, et al., 1999), orange juice, alfalfa and radish sprouts (Breuer, et al., 2001), lettuce, spinach, and water (Friedman, et al., 1999). (Thank you Marler and Clark for the information!)
  5. A point about unpasteurized milk: raw milk from the cow does not contain pathogens. It is only when those products are produced in unclean, unsanitary facilities that the milk becomes infected…which will bring me to my last point –
  6. It should not be the responsibility of the public to prove their food “safe.” It should the the responsibility of the food producer to provide, as clean and healthy as possible, food for the purchasing public. It is also the responsibility of the cook/eater to prepare the food in as healthy a way as possible. Having said that, let’s start with good materials to begin with and go from there, shall we?

The questions we should all be asking ourselves are…

  • How does a poop-borne pathogen end up in cookie dough? Think about it…
  • If processed foods like cookie dough aren’t safe (and don’t contain any products that might have a HINT of manure), what is?
  • How many cows does it take to make a ground beef patty? Do you know where your cow came from?
  • If things were clean from the beginning, would we really have a problem with e coli?
  • If cows ate the whole grass (not just the grain FROM the grass), would we really have a problem with e coli?

For these reasons, and a few more, I choose to purchase my own cow. And pig. One cow – one burger – one source. If you haven’t looked into a meat CSA, I highly recommend it. In Suburbia, it’s possible to do it with a group of friends. It’s not hard. It just takes a few of us at a time to make the change. Then, perhaps, big agra will listen to what we want – not the sound of money hitting their pocket lining.

It really is possible to know where our food came from on a grand, American scale, too. Check out the article linked here. The French have gone all out and done it with their own beef supply. Perfect? Maybe not – but it’s a step in the right direction.

Can’t we go there, too?


Money for Nothing, Chicks for Free

Okay, so it’s not the Dire Straits song – it’s all about the food. In conversation with friends the other day, they were bemoaning the fact that good food is becoming expensive. I agree – it is. But perhaps it should be. Before everyone gets their WallMart bags in a bundle, let me explain.

In a 2006 article by the Salem Newspaper, Americans spend less than 10% of their disposable income on food. Less than 10%. To quote the paper,

“International statistics provided by ERS only account for the percentage of disposable income spent on food at home. Still, the numbers show huge disparities between the U.S. and other countries.
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