Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Getting Oil from a Vegetable

I was taken aback, the other day, when I had a friend ask what vegetable oil is best to cook with. I mean, it's not that ludicrous of a question if one's source of information is radio sound bites, but this was one of my posse! This girl has endured my rants for years. I must have forgotten to give her the vegetable oil rant (or maybe she's just mastered the art of zoning me out). It got me thinking that there's probably a lot of people out there still confused about vegetable oils and whether or not they're healthy.

Vegetable oils are a highly processed food product. The raw oil, very delicate and unstable, and thus prone to oxidation, is extracted using chemical solvents. The lengthy process of taking this Omega 6 fat (something most of us don't need extra of, thank you very much) and turning it into that giant, plastic tub of oil on your supermarket shelf is nothing short of chemical mischief.
Upon arrival at the factory, the vegetable slurry, wannabe oil, is extracted with the petroleum derivative, Hexane. It is deodorized, bleached, dewaxed, treated with high heat and extreme pressure, and if it's lucky enough to be hydrogenated, it's processed with toxic Nickel catalysts.

By the time they're done with the delicate oils, there is absolutely no nutritional value left in that jug. On the contrary, what you have is a rancid, chemical-laden, nutritionally void bottle of refined oil that actually burdens your body. Add to that the fact that an extremely high percentage of vegetable oil crops are GMO. And there it sits, the toxic oil on the shelf, soaking up the estrogenic plastics from the jug it's in. Just waiting for someone to plop it into their basket and give it a nice, warm, home in their damaged arteries or maybe their fatty liver.

Suppose you buy organic, unrefined, cold-pressed oil from a health food store. These oils are extracted the old fashioned way, with a large press that squeezes the oil from the plant without the use of heat or chemical solvents. Oil of this type should also be stored in dark glass bottles to avoid oxidation. This type of oil is far superior to the commercial variety, but it is still a vegetable oil and, thus, should not be cooked with. It is also high in Omega 6 fatty acids so it should be used sparingly in the diet, more as a trickle for flavor here and there. Stick with extra-virgin, organic olive oil if you're looking for something to make your salad dressing with. Don't even bother with corn, soy, canola, or any of the other vegetable oils.

For cooking, saturated fats, stable under heat, are your best bet. Choose fat sources from healthy, pasture raised animals. Some good choices include tallow, ghee, lard, suet, extra-virgin raw coconut oil, grass-fed raw butter, and rendered fat from any grass fed animal including ducks, chickens, ruminants, and wild game.

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