When you go out to eat and read the dinner menu, do you think about cooking oils used by the restaurant where you are eating your food? Many people don’t, but the reality is, most of the oils used by restaurants, unless otherwise noted, are highly-processed, industrially-produced, genetically modified, rancid vegetable oils that are unhealthy to consume.
In my teens and twenties, I remember having conversations with people about eating low-fat dressings on salads that were supposedly “healthier” choices than the full-fat choices. The idea was that fat was unhealthy to consume, and therefore low-fat was better (not unlike the mentality about fat now).
This idea has persisted for some years, and really, this notion is false. Because medical and health communities have mislead the public about health information for so long, everyone believes the issue lies in fat. But real, whole fats are good for you. What’s more, the oils contained in 99 percent of the salad dressings and condiments you eat in restaurants are not good for you… and why? Because they are usually soybean, canola, cottonseed, or safflower oil. Just ask your server, and it may take some digging to find this out, but what you will learn is that your salad is covered in a toxic substance that has no place on the dinner table.
Case in point: one night some years ago I went to the Olive Garden with my husband and son who was still a baby at the time. This was during the years when we used to eat out a lot. For some reason it occurred to me to ask the server about the dressing. I asked her what type of oil they used in their famous salad that everyone believes to be so healthy to eat. She replied that she would have to ask in the kitchen and would let me know. Upon her return she confirmed my suspicion: the oil they use is soybean oil. All those years I had been eating that same salad and thinking how good it was for me…only to find out all that time I was eating rancid, toxic oil! I felt duped and lied to, and began to realize that probably every restaurant I ate at did the same thing.
Even when you see olive oil on the menu at a restaurant – which is usually served on some type of meat or fish (and it is called out specifically on the menu; the restaurant won’t just sneak it in somewhere because olive oil is too expensive), you have no idea what kind of olive oil they are using and whether it is good quality. For all you know, it could be rancid as well. Olive oil can become rancid easily if stored improperly, for too long, or is subjected to high-temperature heat. So unless noted, anything cooked in oil in a restaurant, is most likely prepared in vegetable oil of some type.
Now there may be some exceptions, such as when the server brings out a bowl for dipping your bread with vinegar and a bottle of oil – in those cases, the oil is often olive oil. Still, the quality is probably not up to standard. The name of the game in the business of restaurants is making money, after all. Their margins are razor-thin and they have to make every expense count. And let’s not even get started on the bread…it MAY be fresh baked, in some cases, but the flour is most likely not organic and the flour used to make the bread is also probably rancid (and likely from a genetically-modified source). Best to avoid the bread and the dipping oil altogether.
What’s wrong with vegetable oils? Other than the fact that they are trans-fats, rancid and industrially-produced, and originate from genetically-modified sources, their main fat content comes from polyunsaturated sources. According to Rat Peat, PhD, a physiologist who has studied dietary fats and hormones since 1968, polyunsaturated fats are not healthy and cause heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, premature aging, and various auto-immune disorders. They are so unhealthy, he believes their only place is in industrial uses such as for painting. Read the following two excerpts from ‘Unhealthy Vegetable Oils‘ by C.J. Puotinen:
“The main problem is that polyunsaturated oils contain long-chain fatty acids, which are extremely fragile and unstable. The unsaturated oils in some cooked foods become rancid in just a few hours even when refrigerated,” says Peat, “and that’s responsible for the stale taste of leftover foods. Eating slightly stale food with polyunsaturated oils isn’t more harmful than eating the same oils when fresh, since the oils will oxidize at a much higher rate once they are in the body. As soon as polyunsaturated vegetable oil enters the body, it is exposed to temperatures high enough to cause its toxic decomposition, especially when combined with a continuous supply of oxygen and catalysts such as iron.”
“Senate hearings on the health implications of tropical oils brought testimony from Harvard Medical School researcher George Blackburn, Ph.D., University of Maryland research associate Mary G. Enig, Ph.D., and U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, M.D., all of whom defended coconut oil. They pointed out that coconut oil has been a mainstay in the diets of millions of people for thousands of years, and those who still follow their traditional diet, such as Pacific Islanders, enjoy long, healthy lives with none of the heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and other illnesses that plague America. The media paid little attention and instead promoted the anti-saturated-fat hysteria with headlines (“The Oil from Hell!”) that sold newspapers. In the end, fiction triumphed over fact, and restaurant chains like McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Burger King replaced the saturated fats they had been using with more “healthful” vegetable oils. The switch, according to FDA tests, increased or even doubled the fat content of fried foods.”
What’s the solution? For one, don’t make eating out regularly a habit. Most food is sure to be bathed in these toxic oils. Prepare most of your meals at home and from scratch. Pay attention to the types of oils you purchase and from where they originate.
What are healthy oils and fats to consume?
- Organic, extra virgin olive oil, stored in dark glass bottles or metal cans.
- Organic, extra virgin coconut oil
- Organic palm oils
- Other cold-pressed, organic oils eaten uncooked such as pumpkin seed, avocado, flax (Omega 3), borage, evening primrose, blackcurrant, sesame, walnut, grapeseed, hazelnut, or almond.
- Real, organic butter from grass-fed cows
- Tallow from grass-fed cattle
- Lard from pasture-raised hogs
As much as it does take a bit of time and effort, researching the source of the oils you eat will provide the maximum nutritional benefit out of your food. Just do a quick Internet search and read about the products you buy before you buy.
For more information about healthy and unhealthy oils, read The Oiling of America from the Weston A. Price Foundation.
This article is part of Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesdays Carnival. Please visit her site and check out all the other real food posts there.