Thursday, April 7, 2011

Eden's View on Commonplace Vegetable Oils

When cooking, I almost exclusively use olive oil, coconut oil and butter for my fats. Many students ask why I don’t use the widespread vegetable oils (i.e. canola) that have become staples in the “healthy” eating regimen.

Since the unabridged answer is long and a little scientific, I usually respond with a combination of “I want the fats and nutrients from olive oil, coconut oil and butter” and “The way the vegetable oils are made isn’t the best of processes.”

Like most food items, the worth of these oils is determined by how they are made. And, unfortunately, like most food items, the oils are made poorly and cheaply, resulting in a product with little (if any) nutritional and health benefits.

Coincidentally, this month’s issue of EDENEWS from Eden Foods expertly addresses this topic. It gets to the heart of the vegetable oil issue and explains why the commonplace, industrially-made versions of these oils—seen by many in the health profession as the option—should be avoided.

Click here to read the entire article, but here’s the meat of it:
The truth frequently is not pretty; nevertheless, we offer the following: Commercial or refined vegetable oils are made by crushing seed to extract oil generating high temperatures under great pressure. The crushed seed meal is treated with toxic hexane or other petroleum solvents to gain further extraction. The oil is again heated well beyond the smoke point to drive off most of the solvents. This stuff cannot taste or smell very good at this point, so they treat the oil with caustic soda (sodium hydroxide) to reduce acidity and remove burnt free fatty acids and proteins. This also destroys beneficial antioxidants like the natural preservative vitamin E which is replaced with synthetic preservatives. Next, the oil is heated again, centrifuged, bleached, and sulfuric or hydrochloric acid treated to ‘wash’ it, then micro-filtered removing everything except fat, including color. Deodorizing and de-foaming chemicals and high temperature steam further destroy nutrients. The end product is shelf-stable with a high smoke point, but severely depleted nutritional content except fat, and, at best, dubious value.


Zeus said...

Rob, I started using coconut oil last month to make granola to replace my non-organic snack bars. I want to try palm & palm kernel oil also as they all are naturally solid at room temperature. I have some organic, grass-fed heavy cream culturing now so that I can make butter this weekend. What are your favorite uses for coconut oil?

Chef Rob said...


For the most part I use coconut oil mostly to saute. However, since coconut oil has a strong flavor, I don't use it with everything. Anytime I make a dish with coconut milk, I use it. Also, when sauteing greens to go with an Asian or plain main course, I'll use coconut oil and raw ginger. I'll also use it sometimes when scrambling eggs; I like that flavor combo.


Run Lori Run said...

I use canola for baking when it calls for oil, not butter. I thought coconut and olive oil would be too strong. Any suggestions?

Marcia said...

I am so thrilled to hear about others who swear off veg oils and opt for coconut oil. I thought I was the only crazy one on the planet! Do you have a good source for coconut oil? And is any ok or must I use virgin?

Chef Rob said...

Run Lori Run - You can still use a vegetable oil, but just make sure its unrefined and (best case) organic. Check out the EDENEWS article I linked to in this post; it contains really good information about which oils to look for.

Marcia - Don't worry, there are many, many other crazies doing the same as you! Here's a recent article on the subject:

Yes, make sure the coconut oil is virgin, unrefined, cold-pressed. Brands that I've tried and liked include Jungle, Dr. Bronner's and Whole Foods 365 Organic.