by Susan Copeland
Owner, Flour Garden Bakery
Dr. Andrew Weil's best-selling book, Spontaneous Healing, outlines an Eight-Week Program for "Optimum Healing". The first thing Dr. Weil suggests you do is: "Go through your pantry and refrigerator and remove all oils other than olive oil. Get rid of any margarine, solid vegetable shortenings and products made with them. Read labels of all food products so that you can dispose of any containing partially hydrogenated oils. If you don't have any extra-virgin olive oil on hand, buy a bottle and start using it."
Dr. Weil's book reflects a growing awareness of the dangers of hydrogenated oils. Margarine and shortening - hydrogenated oils - have been shown to increase heart disease, cancer risks and accelerate tissue decay. Harvard researcher, Dr. Walter Willett estimates that "partially hydrogenated vegetable oils used to make margarine ....are responsible for more than 30,000 of the country's annual deaths from heart disease."
Why do hydrogenated oils pose a health threat?
"Heat and chemicals used to harden vegetable oils into margarine change fatty acids into unnatural shapes, called trans-fatty acids (TFAs). Bent into the trans-shape, the acids won't fit neatly into cell membranes or other cellular structures. If the body tries to incorporate them anyway, the cell may become deformed. As a result, trans-fatty acids not only contribute to heart disease, but may also increase cancer risks, promote inflammation and accelerate tissue degeneration."
Hydrogenation creates unstable molecules, compounds that can damage DNA and cell membranes.
"In this (hydrogenation) process, oils are reacted under pressure with hydrogen gas at high temperatures (to 410 degrees) in the presence of a metal catalyst, usually 'Raney's Nickel', which is actually 50% nickel and 50% aluminum. Aluminum is particularly worrisome, because its presence in the human body is associated with Alzheimer's disease (mental senility), and osteoporosis (bone loss)." This process destroys the essential fatty acids in the oil and replaces them with trans fatty acids. The previously healthy unsaturated vegetable oils become completely saturated and can cause an increase in cholesterol levels, weight gain, fatty acid deposits in the arteries, and general metabolic imbalance.
TFA's (trans-fatty acids) are never found in nature, only in fats that have been subjected to unusual chemical and physical treatment. Sometimes known as "funny fats" there is nothing funny about what they may do to us. "Bad" oils have been found to decrease autoimmune function, and increase vulnerability to disease.
America's commercial food industry, and most bakeries, use hydrogenated oils as a main ingredient in almost all food production, from cookies to candy bars to refried beans. And often, it is a part of other ingredients. For instance, a chocolate chip cookie may be made with hydrogenated shortening as the butter substitute, and the chocolate chips may be manufactured with hydrogenated oil, also.
At the Flour Garden Bakery we make everything from scratch, and purchase all of our ingredients carefully. In this way we can insure quality throughout our products. We refuse to sacrifice quality to make greater profits.
How did hydrogenated oils come into existence? According to The Lincoln Library of Essential Information, 1928 Edition, "Oleo margarine is a mixture of edible fats invented in 1869 by a Frenchman, Hippolyte Mege-Mouries, in order to win a prize offered by Napoleon III for a cheap butter substitute." Hydrogenated oils are used so frequently because they are cheaper! Fresh butter and extra-virgin olive oil are about twenty times as expensive!
Once hydrogenated oils were known to cost only a loss of flavor. Today, the long-term health risks far outweigh the short-term savings. Foods made with fresh butter and olive oil are healthier for you, and they taste better!
In addition to the delicious flavors and health benefits of fresh butter and olive oils, there is a category of oils which promote health. These are the omega-3 fatty acids found in some fish and plants. These highly unsaturated fatty acids reduce inflammatory activity, and protect against disease, as well as strengthening the autoimmune system. Found naturally in many species of fish, such as salmon, and available in vitamin supplement form, such as flax seed oil and borage oil, these omega-3 oils promote health and healing, as scientific literature widely demonstrates.
"According to folklore, fish is brain food. But the latest findings say the real benefit is a healthy heart. Because the fat in fish consists of omega-3 fatty acids - one kind of fat that is actually good for us - physicians around the country are urging their patients to eat fish twice a week.
Many species have omega-3s, but the best sources are rich, oily types like salmon, sardines, blue fin tuna, and mackerel. In 1993 scientists discovered that Alaskan natives whose chief form of protein was salmon were a third less prone to heart attacks than were U.S. whites, even though twice as many of the natives smoked cigarettes.
An ocean of evidence shows the various ways that omega-3s trigger changes within the heart, blood vessels, and blood. This type of fat fends off arterial blockages, helps relax narrowed arteries so blood can flow more freely, reduces blood levels of a very-low-density lipoprotein associated with heart disease, and promotes the healing of arterial walls."
So do yourself, your family and your friends a favor. Be aware of what goes into the food you eat and the food you serve. The benefits will last a lifetime. At the Flour Garden Bakery, we care.
Here is a recipe for a very healthful salad dressing from my friend & local acupuncturist, Dr. Cynthia Yaguda, C.A., O.M.D. guaranteed to fortify the body & reduce cholesterol, a great way to include flaxseed oil in your diet.