This might be a confusing topic... and for multiple reasons. Here are a few:
- Oils can quickly go rancid and/or be turned into hydrogenated fats (which we do not want in our diets)
- Oils are difficult to digest for some (I seem to fit this one often)
- Oils can add many calories (YIKES!)
- Which oils should I add to my diet?
Yes, oils can be tricky. But here is what I have learned through trial and error, just plain ol' experience and in some instances, just trusting in the research of others.
(Mind you...these are my personal experiences. Even though some of you might be able to relate...each individual might have totally different experiences.)
1. Did you know that oils can "go bad"? Apparently there are many different types of rancidity. The one that I'm more familiar with is oxidative rancidity. Oxidative rancidity is caused by heat, light and oxygen. This is the one that concerns me the most because digesting such oils produces free radicals and free radicals cause inflammation and we know that these cause all sorts of chronic illnesses (i.e the body begins to break down in it's function if it's not able to cope with the toxins.) While we are discussing rancidity...let's talk about hydrogenated oils which have been processed chemically and at high temperatures supposedly to prevent rancidity. It's true that hydrogenation makes oils more shelf stable, but there is a cost that's passed (away from the manufacturer) and on to the consumer. While this cost is not immediately out of the consumer's pocket it can show up later at a greater cost...to the consumer's health. Hydrogenated oils promote inflammation and inflammation resistance. "Harvard School of Public Health researchers [helped] sound the alarm about trans fat in the early 1990s."
(1) Store oils in a dark, cool place and consume quickly once opened. I keep flax seed oil in the refrigerator.
(3) Regarding the avoidance of hydrogenated oils: Avoid commercially prepared baked foods, packaged snack foods and fast foods - especially deep-fried foods. (Harvard School of Public Health )
2. For some of us, we just don't have strong digestive systems. So oils can be and even feel a bit heavy when they enter our digestive system. For me, when there is too much oil on my food I feel pressure or pain as if my food comes to a halt in my digestive system...and always in the same spot (lower left side of my stomach). Or perhaps you just feel more tired/sluggish after eating. You may be consuming too much oil in your diet.
(1) I have found that when I take digestive enzymes (specifically containing lipase enzymes) with meals that contain oils...it usually lessens the bad effects.
(2) Also when I drink fresh vegetable juice with such meals...they seem to digest better.
(3) A third solution is to eat fermented vegetables with these meals. (Fermented foods improve intestinal tract health. They support good bacteria for better digestion. nih.gov)
3. A general rule is that each tablespoon (TBS) of oil contains 100 calories! To put that into proper perspective - it takes about one pound of broccoli to add up to 100 calories.
(1) Skip adding oils to your salad dressings. Instead use some avocado or natural nuts on top of your salads which contains fiber and nutrients. Reminder: Eating large amounts of vegetables will provide more nutrition and a sense of fullness and satiation.
(2) See ForksOverKnives.com for expert tips on cooking without oil.
3. So, now you might be asking? Can oils provide the fats that our bodies need? Which oils should I consume?
Yes, our bodies do need fat. Personally, I like to follow (and recommend) the Whole Food Plant-Based model of consuming fats. Nuts, avocados, seeds(including chia seeds, flax seeds) and even many beans have concentrated amounts of natural fat. Note: if you are watching your fat intake, you should be careful not to over do it regarding the amounts you consume.
(1) As stated earlier, you can add plant-based fats to your salads in moderation.
(2) The oils I feel safest consuming in small amounts are: extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil and flax seed oil. The only one I use to cook with is coconut oil and basically only when I'm baking vegetables in the oven - especially sweet potato bites (See how to prepare sweet potato bites in this Budha Bowl Recipe).
A few years ago, I found this information while researching the Gerson Therapy and this is why I do consume flax seed oil on top of my pancakes. (The following is from page 181 of "Healing the Gerson Way".)
- Flax seed oil is high in Omega-3s which help fight inflammation and should never be heated!
- Flax seed oil attracts oxygen at the cell membrane and transports oxygen into the cell (ah ha, so this must be how it fights free radicals and inflammation)
- Flax seed oil is able to detoxify fat-soluble toxins and helps to dissolve and remove plague (Oh, so it works against artery clogging plague which causes heart attacks and atherosclerosis.)
- Flax seed oil is a carrier of vitamin A - important for the immune system
- Flax seed oils removes excess cholesterol
In the beginning I "hated" the taste of flax seed oil, now I add a bit almost daily as a mix in with unsulphured molasses and maple syrup topping for my pancakes.