I had 2 depressing moments today. First off, this article in the SF Examiner trashing coconut oil and promoting canola oil was brought to my attention. Dr Oz says that coconut oil will put you on the fast track to a heart attack and that canola is a heath-promoting oil, oh– and eat low fat! Lots of grains and fish! Big sigh as my inbox filled up with clients writing: “You told me coconut oil was healthy! I’m so confused!”
Then on a totally different topic, I get a response from someone defending soy & canola oil, saying soy has been used in China for thousands of years, just as rapeseed oil (from which canola is derived) has been used in Europe for years.
Hold the phone, people. These sorts of responses make my heart drop a little as I realize that there is so much misinformation out there that it’s hard to know what to believe. I want to put it to you simply: if it hasn’t been around for thousands of years, don’t eat it. There is a lot of misinformation about both soy & canola. First off, soy is present in almost every processed food product (it is one of our most widely grown & heavily processed crops), and it’s the processed soy that causes problems, mainly hormonal issues. In Asian countries, whole, unprocessed soy is consumed fermented as miso or natto or tempeh, or as a condiment (think small amounts of tofu in miso soup), and not in every product at every meal as we use it here– in soy flour, soy protein, soy milk, soy crisps–all processed products. (reference: The Whole Soy Story, by Kaayla Daniels). I don’t think our ancestors were eating Soy Puffs.
Canola is genetically modified (hence–it’s not called “rapeseed oil” because it has been engineered by humans to contain lower levels of the toxic erucic acid). Canola is a highly processed product, and the heat processing kills any beneficial fatty acids and turns it rancid/oxidized, which is linked to arterial damage and inflammation. It is manufactured and deodorized with chemical solvents. (read more: Know Your Fats, by Mary Enig, biochemist).
As far as coconut oil deemed an “unhealthy fat,” look: I am so sick of this. Coconut oil is a natural, saturated, plant-based fat that is stable and holds up well to high temperatures. It will not go rancid and is not oxidized if you purchase virgin coconut oil. The research that supports the claim that naturally occurring saturated fat will lead to high cholesterol and coronary heart disease has been proven false (see the Framingham Heart Study). Man made trans fats present in processed foods & shortening & hydrogenated oils, however, and sugar/refined carbs (which turn to triglycerides – circulating blood fat- when consumed in excess the way most Americans consume it) will certainly clog your arteries and lead to heart disease. And this is what the majority of Americans are eating: processed fats, processed foods, and loads of sugar, and this is what is killing us, not coconut oil.
I know it can be confusing to decide what to eat, but I would never take nutrition advice from a doctor. They don’t study nutrition in medical school. Eat real foods that have been around for thousands of years. Does canola oil seem like a real food? Someone show me a canola plant. My coconut oil comes from a real live coconut, and my coconut oil SMELLS like coconuts, not like deodorized oil. Ugh. My olive oil smells like olives! But that nasty “vegetable oil” in a plastic jug smells like chemical solvents.
We are all biochemically different and we all require different amounts of carbs, proteins, and fats. Some people eating a diet high in grains will actually experience elevated cholesterol levels as the grains break down to sugar, while others will thrive on a diet with more grains. And here is another misnomer for you: high cholesterol doesn’t even cause heart disease, but OXIDIZED (damaged) cholesterol does. The typical Western diet with its highly processed food content is replete with oxidized fat that can contribute to heart disease.
Now I’m depressed. Are you still eating soy protein bars and using canola?
Mary Vance is a Certified Nutrition Consultant and author specializing in digestive health. She combines a science-based approach with natural therapies to rebalance the body. In addition to her 1:1 coaching, she offers courses to help you heal your gut and improve your health. Mary lives in San Francisco and Lake Tahoe in Northern California. Read more about her coaching practice here and her background here.