I had written on the topic of fat before, and, as the time went on and I became wiser, I had gone back to update the two posts in which I shared my thoughts:
Search for Fatty Truth
In the beginning of our health journey, hubby and I, like many other unsuspecting souls, believe that there were good and bad fats. Naturally we cut out all of the bad, i.e. animal and processed, fats and kept what we thought was good for us–organic, cold pressed oils, such as olive, flax, coconut, etc. We did not go crazy on them–no deep frying, no mouth-over-bottle oil sucking, but we did use them sparingly. I never bought into the myth that oils are so good for us, especially the coconut oil, that we should be eating a tablespoon of it a day. It just made no sense! Why would ANYONE down a tablespoon of oil?!
If you read my story you know that when we first went vegan, hubby dropped his cholesterol from 220 to 149 mg/dL in a matter of only a few months. I was happy with the results, and enjoyed my own victory–my cholesterol went from 179 to 131 mg/dL. However, as the time went on, I heard of the stories of people who were on a plant based diet and their cholesterol levels fell even lower. I was a bit bewildered–why not ours? While my TSH marker kept dropping, my cholesterol number did not change much for a couple of years, after the initially drop off. To make things worse, last time Hubby had his cholesterol tested the number went up a little, to around 160 mg/dL. While by US standards it was “prefect”, I was horrified because my goal was to get our numbers under 150 mg/dL, and keep them there. By then I already knew that oil had something to do with it. And it also turned out that only a couple of days before his test Hubby had some “healthy” organic corn chips… with some oil in them and, unbenounced to me, some “healthy” vegan desserts. URGH! But I needed to know more, so, I was out to find out why we were not dropping our total cholesterol numbers to what I had in mind.
My search led me to very common-sense, scientifically proven facts–there are no healthy oils! Our labs were a proof of that. Although we used oils VERY moderately, sometimes going days without taking any in, they still affected us. Then, finally, after years of being plant based, I got to hear Dr. Esselstyn in person on the topic of heart health and then read his fantastic book: Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease. All of a sudden all things made sense to me–THERE ARE NO healthy oils out there, not even in moderation! (And what is moderation after all? It is very subjective. While moderation can mean a tablespoon of oil a day to one, to another, 5 slices of cake is moderation is a definition of health…)
What was great about learning the truth, is that it came with a ton of scientific research and proof, not to mention changed health and lives of those who followed “not fats (oils)” plant-based path. Dr. Esselstyn, for example, had a patient whose cholesterol dropped by over 100 mg/dL in 10 days! And to think that I was impressed that we dropped Hubby’s from 220 to 173 mg/dL in 3 months…
The evidence was there, and I already knew, somewhere deep down inside, that it was exactly what we were missing. Immediately we were OIL FREE! And yes, that included touted “healthy” oils: olive, coconut, flax, etc. (I know, I know, you heard that Meditarranean diet [whatever it is] is good for you, and by the diet people normally do not mean the diet itself, since they are clueless about it, but oil; I also know that you heard that coconut oil is miracle working and great for your hormones… but, alas! it isn’t so. But before you click off or right me a mad comment, take a few minutes to read through the entire post.) As of the time when I finally saw the whole “oily” and “fatty” truth, I use NO OIL in my cooking at all, except for OCCASIONAL baked desserts, and even then I try avoiding them. However, if I ever do use plant fats, I NEVER claim that food to be healthy or say that it is okay to eat it. Just being honest here At those times, I also go VERY high raw and eat/drink a ton of greens. But to give you an idea of how often I make such desserts, which are primarily not even for me–about every 3 months or so.
In the next few paragraphs I will tell you all of the whys and they hows of my steps arriving at my conclusions and why I am now unshakable in my opinion regarding oils, despite of getting ungodly backlash from the “health” community (and trust me, I have been called names on my own Vegalicious Facebook page, on YouTube, etc.). One thing I had learned in the process of our health-searching, however, is that those who oppose something so common sense are not wroth wasting my time on arguing with. They will not change their mind, and neither will I. Those who are open to explore the possibility of improving their health, however, are always welcome to leave comments and have an open conversation under this post, on Facebook, YouTube or anywhere else. After all, what I am proposing here is not criminal–I am not asking you to take medication, I am not asking you to snort crack or give up your firstborn. I am simply proposing that there are times when we think we know the truth, just like I did, but in reality we might have been mislead by good intentioned but misinformed people, or worse yet, by our own research and conclusions drawn from the wrong sources. I am simply asking you to be open-minded for the next few minutes.
NOTE: There are 3 videos in this post. All of them are VERY important to each point I make, so, for the sake of your health, please take the time to watch them.
Truth About Fat and Oils
Recently I had an opportunity to write for GoodVeg site on this topic, so I am reposting the article here, with a couple of additions to it.
There is so much controversy about the topic FAT that I thought it would only be appropriate to shed some light on it. I would love to help you dispel some of the misinformation that has been fed to you, or to simply help you figure out what role fat plays in our life.
Are All Fats Created Equal?
Image source: mikemartinezmornings4.blogspot.com
Image source: latinofoodie.com
Before I begin I would like to make a deal with you—let’s agree to forget, at least for the next few minutes, while you are reading this post, everything you have been told about fat. EVERYTHING! Is that a deal?! Let’s lock up all the talk you heard about poly- and mono- saturated fats, Omega-3 and -6 marketing hype, etc. in tiny compartment in your brain and throw the key away for just a few minutes, and let’s start from the beginning.
Not all fats are created equal. There are good and bad fats. Primarily we should be thinking not about the quantity, but rather quality of fats.
With this said, let’s get into the essential of FAT learning.
Is Fat important?
The reason we like fats, whether we want to admit it or not, is because they are pleasant to taste. Their molecules are round and feel great in our mouths. But that is not why fat is important… if it is at all.
Our body has to have a certain percentage of fat in it to function properly. For males 12-16% body fat is considered normal, for females—18-24%.
Here is a quick chart for those of you who are visual:
Image source: vega-licious.com
As you can see from the figures above, the perpetuated image of all French women having 0% body fat is actually not a good one. Our bodies need fat for many reasons.
Healthy fats are necessary for proper brain function. Roughly 50-60% of the brain’s overall weight is pure fat; the rest of it is a mix of protein and carbohydrates. The brain uses fat as insulation for its billions of nerve cells. The better insulated a cell, the faster it sends messages and the speedier your thinking becomes. Good fats are necessary for the brain. Walnuts, flax seeds, hemp seeds and dark, leafy greens will help the brain to run smoothly.
Women, especially those hoping to achieve pregnancy, have to maintain their body fat at the level of at least 10%. Becoming too thin, which seems to be a problem with models and young girls they inspire, causes cessation of menses, and leads not only to infertilitybut to a host of other problems. Lack of menstruation disrupts hormonal production in females. Hormone imbalance can lead to severe disorders of pituitary gland, adrenal glands and thyroid. These, often neglected, small members of our body are of primary importance and cannot be neglected.
Not All Fats Are Created Equal
There are horrible fats which cause problems by clogging our arteries and increasing our blood pressure, as well as wreaking havoc in many other ways. These kinds of fats are found in processed and animal products.
Then there are fats that are good for us (yes, they do exist!): Omega-3 -6 and -9 fatty acids (found in flax and hemp seeds), and polyunsaturated fats (e.g., walnuts). They contain antioxidants and good oils that help joints, nerves, and bones, as well as possess properties that help to lower the risk of heart disease and high cholesterol, and have proven effects on lowering high blood pressure.
Avocado Sandwich–source of GOOD fat
Fats also help us to feel satiated. They are of paramount importance in digesting fat-soluble vitamins (A,K, D and E), and they promote brain function. These fats—provided we eat them in reasonable quantities—are not only beneficial, but vital to our diets.
I hope this makes you feel better already. Now, don’t run out and get a jug of olive oil and have a bread-dipping party! Healthy fats are those fats that are found in nature in an unprocessed form. Vegetable and seed oils, no matter how wonderful they are said to be, be they cold-pressed or not, organic or otherwise, do not naturally occur in nature. It takes a lot of olives to make an ounce of olive oil; it takes even more sesame seeds to make sesame oil. Oils are processed foods.
Are “Good” Oils Really Good for Us?
Studies have shown that oils, even of the highest quality, should be avoided, since they cause damage to our arteries. Watch this 60 minute video, presented by one of the most respected men in the Health and Nutrition sphere, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, to uncover the truth for yourself. Every moment you spend watching his lecture will be an investment in your health.
A study on humans conducted by David Blankenhorn, M.D., and his associates compared the effects of different types of fats on the growth of atherosclerotic lesions inside the coronary arteries of people by studying the results of angiograms taken one year apart (JAMA 263:1646, 1990). The study demonstrated that all three types of fat–saturated animal fat, monounsaturated (olive oil), and polyunsaturated (EFA)–were associated with a significant increase in new atherosclerotic lesions. Most importantly, the growth of these lesions did not stop when polyunsaturated fats of the w-6 type (linoleic acid) and monounsaturated fats (olive oil) were substituted for saturated fats. Only by decreasing all fat intake–including poly- and monounsaturated fats–did the lesions stop growing. (Source)
Oh, no! I am taking away the holy grail! Some of you are probably thinking: “You mean to tell me that olive oil and coconut oil, which I have been spooning down every day, are bad for me?” Yes, I am saying exactly that. And don’t be afraid to learn something new–I also once thought that “healthy” oils were good for me… until I learned the truth. “But, but… the Mediterranean diet works!” you want to shout, “The studies have proven that!” Have they really? And I also wonder who was sponsoring those studies.
So, let’s look at how healthy a Mediterranean diet really is.
There was another study done which investigated “how well subjects’ arteries were dilating to accommodate blood flow after they had eaten several meals. Each meal emphasized a different component of the Mediterranean diet. After the meal rich in olive oil, dilation in the arteries was impaired.(Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 2000; 36: 1455) The meal caused severe constrictions, which can injure the endothelium, the inner lining of arteries, contributing to heart disease. No such problems occurred with the other meals. “The beneficial components of the Mediterranean diet,” concluded Robert Vogel, MD, and colleagues at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, “appear to be antioxidant-rich foods…” These foods, he continued, “appear to provide some protection against the direct impairment in endothelial function produced by high-fat foods, including olive oil.” So if you’re not eating fruits and veggies, you’re not getting protection.
Research recently published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology also found that “dilation was worse” after 24 people, 12 healthy and 12 with high cholesterol levels, consumed olive oil. Five teaspoons of olive oil swallowed after salami-and-cheese meals did not help the arteries relax and expand.(Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 2006; 48: 1666) According to Dr. Robert Vogel, this research and other data indicate that olive oil is not heart protective. (Source–emphasis added) And may I add, that NO OIL that is concentrated is good for us. NONE!
What the Heck is Mediterranean Diet Anyway?
Did you ever ask yourself that question? I know I did. And is there such as place as Medditerranea? Not that I know or could find it on the map. So, what gives? I also always wondered when the study was done and under what conditions. Luckily for you all, I recently came on to a gem of a 10 minute video you have to see to find out answers to these questions. But hold on to your chairs, because you might feel like you are getting blown away by… common sense!
(presented by Jeff Novick, MS, RD, LD, LN)
Are you feeling any heart palpitations after watching this? It sure gave me a good laugh.
Oily Pitfalls of Mainstream and Raw Diets
I know that if you come from the mainstream diet or even vegan or raw, you might have been taught to think otherwise–that there are good and bad oils, just like I used to think. However, because my goal was not to be a vegan, but healthy, when I started my quest, I was open minded to what would take me there, no matter how much I had to change my mind. When being a whole foods, no fat vegan had a promise to get me to where I needed to get, I was open minded to give up what I thought I knew. I had no “sacred cows” that I was not willing to give up. But I found that not everyone feel the same way about this. There are a lot of junk vegans for example, who suffer from the same ailments as the rest of our society. There are also raw vegans, who are supposed to be a lot healthier than the rest, who, for example, are known to overdo on fats–oils, nuts, etc., just so they can feel satiated. However, recent change of mind about fats among the raw community pillars is pointing to the same fact–excessive use of fats is NOT good for us.
In a recent interview with VegNews Victoria Boutenko said:
“Q: …what flaws have you discovered in the raw diet?
A: I found an error in my favorite statement “anything raw is superior to anything cooked.” For example, I compared the nutritional value of raw cabbage versus cooked cabbage, raw potatoes versus fried potatoes, raw walnuts versus roasted walnuts, and so on. The conclusion seemed clear to me. What I failed to think about was if there was any cooked food that had more nutritional value over any raw food. What is more nourishing: steamed asparagus or cashew nuts? Lightly cooked red cabbage or an ounce of raw almond butter? A baked apple or a slice of a raw dessert? I know now these cooked foods are nutritionally superior, but I didn’t know then to ask these questions.”
“Q: … in the book, Chad Sarno talks about how a high-oil raw diet sent his cholesterol and triglycerides through the roof, which put him at risk for heart disease. You also talk at length about omega-3s throughout the book. Tell us why you think they’re vital to good health, and the best way to get them?
A: The latest scientific research reveals that the vast majority of us are seriously deficient in omega-3 essential fatty acids, causing thousands of preventable deaths each year. It became apparent to me that omega-3 fatty acids were essential to positive rejuvenation and healing in the body, while as raw foodists we were consuming too many omega-6s (most nuts have an extremely high omega-6 content, with almonds containing 2,000 times more omega-6s than omega-3s). Fortunately, omega-3s are widely available in all greens, especially spinach, romaine, arugula, and purslane, as well as in flax seeds, walnuts, hemp, and chia seeds.”
But… there is good news too.
Coconut Oil and Hormone Myth
In the last few years I heard it numerous times: Coconut Oil is good for thyroid health, Coconut Oil is good for hormones, etc. But what I could never understand is this: how can oil be good for my hormones, and where is the research that would prove this to be true?
I reversed hypothyroidism while avoiding most oils altogether (now I am not consuming any at all, as mentioned before). What I found is contrary to the belief that coconut oil is good for hormones. See, extra fat has to be dealt with by our bodies somehow, and coconut oil IS FAT, so our body creates fat cells to store it. But fat cells are ‘good” for other things too–they store other impurities, like extra estrogen, which leads to hormone imbalances, and female cancers. To think that a spoonful of coconut oil a day is somehow going to balance hormones or thyroid is quiet absurd, especially if the rest of the diet is messed up.
The optimal way to balance hormones is live an unprocessed, whole foods, low fat, plant-based diet, and use optimal health eating practices. When that happens, and we supplement with B12, our bodies naturally balance hormones.
Case in Point
Don’t believe me? A couple of months back I was contacted by a wonderful lady who suffered from hypothyroid condition. She read my story and she wanted to see if it would work for her too, although she had already been vegetarian for 10-15 years, if not more. Although I do not consult on health related issues, I do teach people how to eat the way I do and offer all detailed information of my journey, so they can try to see if it works for them too. After two coaching sessions she felt that she can maintain what I taught her on her won (what a trooper…. or maybe I am just a good teacher ). A couple of weeks ago I received an exciting e-mail from her. Here is what she told me:
I just went to see my doctor today, a little unsure as to what my blood tests were going to reveal. My TSH had come down from 5.37 to 4.25, so I was really happy. I know that this is only the beginning and that my numbers are going to be much better which is very exciting for me and a little amazing. For the first time in years I feel that I am making a difference to what goes on with my body and not playing the guessing game all the time and constantly looking for the perfect supplement. This diet is so easy and light and fulfilling, and now that I can see real results it makes it even more inspiring. I have lost about 8 pounds, I feel clearer in my thinking, I have more energy, my sleep is better and I feel happier.
My doctor was a little surprised and was really interested to hear what I had been doing. She typed away furiously as I downloaded all that I had been doing and taking. I am going to have my blood work redone in 3 months which I am looking forward to. My husband, who has high blood sugar is also on the diet and is doing great!! We are both vegan now and it shows.
Thank you, Elena.
Love to you,
Before our coaching, J thought that coconut oil was good for us too, but after chatting we decided that she should avoid it altogether, along with all other oils and certain foods. While trying for years to achieve improvement in her health she came to a brick wall, only two months of whole foods, unprocessed, no oil, no sugar eating diet, led for her TSH to drop by 1.12 points without medication. Those who have or had hypothyroid condition know well it is a miracle!
Do I use coconut oil? Only on my skin and as a makeup remover .
Healthy fats can be found in their natural state in many foods: nuts, seeds, avocados and coconuts. It would be very hard to get fat from these “fatty” foods. Remember that when we consume foods in their natural state they come with fiber, vitamins, minerals, etc., which make it very hard to “overdose” on fats they contain. I know that I cannot have more than a handful or two of soaked nuts at a time—they fill me very quickly, and I eat nuts only about once every other week, so no danger there. Avocados? I normally can master one, maximum two in one meal, but then I don’t eat them on a daily basis, so I do not worry about the quantity.
So, let me emphasize this again: it’s not that all fat-containing foods are to be avoided, but rather the quality of fats you’re eating that you should question. The question, when you sit down to a meal, shouldn’t be “how much fat is in this?” but rather “what kind of fat is this” and “how digestible is it?”
Difference Between Cooked and Raw Fats
Raw fats enter the body with the lipase enzyme, which helps us to digest the fat itself intact and provide and easy digestion and assimilation. Cooked fats don’t contain lipase,which makes it tougher for us to assimilate them properly. Unassimilated fats are stored by the body and end up clogging our arteries, while creating other problems and settling on our hips and thighs.
Cooked fats change their molecular structure and, if they reach a smoking point, become carcinogenic. Oil, at high heat, releases carcinogens, including acrolein, nitrosamines, hydrocarbons, and benzopyrene (one of the worst cancer-causing agents known). This is why some oils now list their “safe heating” temperature on the bottle.
Plant Fat and Cholesterol
In the last several years Cholesterol has become a buzz word, especially with all drug ads running on TV, radio and printed media. People are now starting to read labels. Let me help you to save time and get straight to the magic formula.
There is NO cholesterol in PLANT foods!
Image source: savingaddiction.com
Cholesterol is made in the liver. Animals produce cholesterol, humans do as well. We need the cholesterol that WE produce to live healthy lives. Even strict vegans will produce about 800-1500 milligrams of cholesterol a day internally. If you follow the logic here, you will realize that since we produce our own cholesterol we don’t need to bring an outside (animal) source to help us with the process. Animals have a different DNA than we do, so their cholesterol is harmful to our bodies!
When we ingest dietary cholesterol from animal products we increase levels of cholesterol in our bodies, and with that the chances of heart disease, obesity, and high-cholesterol.
If you eat plants, even “fatty” plants, your body will not be invaded with foreign cholesterol and will make enough of its own, picking and choosing what it needs from the plants to produce needed amounts.
However, let me emphasize this again—this does not mean that you are going to run out and get a bottle of olive oil to have a bread-dipping party! When I talk about natural fats, I am referring to the ones that have not been altered and are consumed in their unaltered state. Need an example? Nuts, seeds, whole olives, whole coconuts, avocados etc.
Will Plant Fat Make Me FAT?
With that in mind, thinking that the fat in avocados or other plant-based sources will make you fat reveals a serious misunderstanding of what does and doesn’t contribute to weight gain. Overeating bad fats does contribute to weight issues, but since we are talking about moderate intake of healthy fats, we should look at more than the number of grams or calories of fat we consume. We need to look at the accumulation of waste and toxins in our bodies that results from poor, mainstream diets, and our inability to process what we eat efficiently.
When we consume poor diet that consists of highly acidic foods (animal and processed sources) we begin to store and accumulate waste matter. Even if we think we’re eliminating normally, we’re not! Chances are, we’re clogged up from years of eating bad, junk foods. Given, some of us eat better diets than others, in which instances there is less waste accumulation. However, most modern-day people, especially those living in “developed” countries, eat highly acidic diets, which create highly acidic bodies. With acidic bodies comes waste accumulation, and it comes with consequences: gastrointestinal disorders like IBS and excessive bloating, low energy, and weight retention, in spite of exercise and efforts to eat well. There are other severe side-effects that might be experienced: chronic colds and flu, yeast infections, acne, eczema and psoriasis, fatigue, depression, migraines, etc.
To break the cycle of waste accumulation and weight retention we need to create alkaline environment in our bodies, which is achieved through a plant-based, easy-to-digest diet. This includes: greens, vegetables, green smoothies, avocados, nuts, legumes, grains and other delicious foods. These foods do not only help to raise our bodies’ alkalinity, but, due to their high enzyme (in raw foods) and fiber content, also act like brooms and rough sponges, sweeping and scrubbing through our systems, removing the waste and toxins we’ve been storing. The effect of these foods will help you end the weight retention and provide you with a renewed capacity to assimilate foods efficiently—fats included.
The key to a slim, supple body is not avoiding fats. It is avoiding dense, acidic foods! Avoiding healthy fats is not going to keep you slim if you’re still eating tons of grains, soy, and dairy. It’s wise to avoid animal fats, but along with that you also should avoid other offenders, especially in their processed and refined forms: soy, grains, fried foods. These all might contribute to acidity and weight retention.
The good news is that eating moderate amounts of healthy fats will not make you gain weight (and please remember, when I am talking about healthy fats at this point, I am talking about those found in whole foods, not processed fats like oils, no matter how touted they are to be healthy and good for you!). If anything, avocados and young coconuts will help to alkalize your systems and keep you satiated, which can contribute to weight release. This is not a joke, I promise! I stay slim effortlessly, without counting calories or figuring out how many grams of fat are in my food.
(Disclaimer: those of you who have had or have coronary issues or are fighting cancers should stay away from even real, healthy plant fats, such as nuts and avocados, at the suggestion of such nutrition-world pillars as Caldwell Esselstyn, Collin T. Campbell and others.)
Cooking Without Oils
So, some of you are probably thinking: “It just makes sense now!” and are ready to live and eat without adding any processed oils to your diet, but you wonder how you could possibly saute of fry your veggies without using oils. It is very simple, really. Simple enough that even my husband can do it! Just watch this 2 minute video to see how easily you can make your favorite stir fry all oil free!
Need more ideas? I just released an easy to follow soup recipe e-book (Soup-O-Licious) filled with fat-free, heart-healthy soup recipes, and my Boot Camp manual is filled with a ton of main dish and salad recipes prepared oil free!
Image source: coconutwaterlife.com
There is more research that I could cite, but I believe what I presented here should be sufficient to show anyone who is open to hear, that there are NO HEALTHY OILS. If you have your mind made up, like some I came across, that there are in fact, good extracted oils, I am sorry, and no matter the argument that you can present, we will not see eye to eye on the subject. Forgetting all of the research and scientific data I just presented, my personal experience was profound–our labs improved without oil use, as well as our overall well-being. I know that arguments could be made otherwise, but there is no backing or proof to them. If you still doubt, then when you read opposing research, always make sure to check all of the facts, and also know WHO is doing the research, and if the involved parties have any vested interest in promoting oil consumption.
As for now, here are a few points I hope you drew from reading this article:
1.Not all fats are bad! Let’s recap everything to make sure that you walk away having learned a lesson.
- Animal fats are acidic and need to be avoided
- Raw plant fats, which have not been extracted from their natural sources, are essential for our health
- Olives or avocados are not the same as olive or avocado oil
- Coconut oil is NOT good for your hormones, in fact it is the opposite
- In a properly structured diet it is hard to overeat on avocados and gain weight
- Avocados are rich in vitamins, minerals and nutrients and should not be feared
- Heated fats, especially when they rich a smoking point, release carcinogens
- When foods are eaten in their natural (original) state, you will be unlikely to overeat them
- However, if you eat a plant-based diet that is highly processed you are likely to have weight and health problems
- Ask yourself these questions: “Is this good fat or bad fat? Will it be easy to digest and eliminate or will it clog my insides?”
We don’t have to be slaves to mainstream mentality which would shackle us to label reading and fearing avocados for their high fat content, while encouraging us to swallow spoonfuls of coconut or olive oils. We can enjoy fats in healthy quantities without suffering any ill effects.
So, get up, go get yourself a couple of avocados and make a great tasting guacamole!