Eating french fries is worse than smoking a cigarette.
That’s what Mr. Bulletproof said on a podcast recently, and it caught my attention. I’ve heard plenty of wellness people and publishers talk about avoiding fried foods and the magical ingredients that make them what they are–vegetable oils–but didn’t do the due diligence to understand why.
Well, let’s delve. First, we’re talking oils like sunflower, corn, safflower and canola. The ones that are referenced in most American recipes these days. The ones that are hyped as helping us reduce our bad (LDL) cholesterol. The ones that, through deceptive marketing and misinformation, helped make butter uncool in this country decades ago.
The problem with these oils is that they are high in omega-6 fatty acids, which are inflammation-causing, linked to several illnesses including mood disorders, unlike their healthier counterpart, the omega-3s.
According to Dr. Mark Hyman, who touts healthy fats in bestsellers including Eat Fat, Get Thin, omega-6 fatty acids “not only fuel your body’s inflammatory pathways, but also reduce availability of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats in your tissues, resulting in more inflammation.”
“Omega-6 fatty acids not only fuel your body’s inflammatory pathways, but also reduce availability of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats in your tissues, resulting in more inflammation.”
But here’s something even more eye-opening: heating vegetable oils to high temperatures, as most of us do when frying, sauteeing, or even baking, releases chemicals called aldehydes, which have been linked to cancer, dementia and heart disease.
Butter, lard, coconut oil, and to some degree olive oil, do not release aldehydes in nearly as high a concentration. In the research, coconut oil comes out on top as the healthiest oil you can use in your cooking.
“People have been telling us how healthy polyunsaturates are in corn oil and sunflower oil,” says Professor Martin Grootveld, who has been studying this topic. “But when you start messing around with them, subjecting them to high amounts of energy in the frying pan or the oven, they undergo a complex series of chemical reactions which results in the accumulation of large amounts of toxic compounds.”
So when it comes to cooking and baking, there’s enough scientific research to conclude that extra virgin coconut oil and butter are your friends. Failing those, use extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil.