According to Mary Enig, unrefined coconut oil is safe to use in cooking. Finding it is not so easy as a result of the American establishment's highly successful attack on all imported palm and coconut oils. Udo Erasmus, Ph.D., another highly regarded international expert on fats and oils, says both are the same. They are named for their physical state at room temperature. Udo says the only safe oil to use to fry or bake with, is water. (UPDATE: Since I first wrote this, coconut oil has been vindicated!)
He says no fat can stand the temperatures used in food processing without being adversely affected.
MARGARINE isn't raised as an issue on those pages. So I will make a brief statement here about it. (Oleo) Margarine isn't food. It is a manufactured grease concocted in a machine from various oils and chemicals. Canola and soy fats (oils) are in nearly all margarines. This butter substitute does not exist in nature. It cannot be grown or converted from a natural food as butter and cheese is.
It was invented to win a prize when Napolean III was surrounded and ran a contest for a palatable grease for his otherwise dry bread. Most restaurants substitute it for butter without notice to you. Commercially manufactured ingestables use margarine wherever Canola cannot be used in their recipe that otherwise would use butter. There are licensed dieticians and physicians who, in total ignorance, will sincerely urge you to eat this poison in pursuit of better health. The usual canard is, "It will reduce your cholesterol levels." which is yet another awesome fraud and completely false.
Partially hydrogenated oils- trans-fatty acids, are always poisonous. Mary Enig's original laboratory research is currently the world's standard for understanding the basis for the foregoing statement. Cooks and chefs working recipes that call for shortening or fats input will have to find coconut oil or use saturated animal fat if they are interested in producing something other than poison. I don't eat restaurant food.
THE CANOLA STORY
It's often called Canada's "miracle crop". It's marketed as a healthy alternative, and, for the moment, growers can even make a living. But is Canola oil actually healthy? And for whom? The name Canola, from "Canada oil", was the signal that some sophisticated marketing was going to take place. Canola was the first crop created modern plant breeding methods. It is usually credited to Baldur Stefanson at the University of Manitoba, who took rapeseeed, previously used as a lubricant in ship engines, and bred varieties that were low in erucic acid and glucosinates. In 1979 the Rapeseed Crushers Association decided the new "double low" varieties should be given a different name to avoid association with previous rapeseed products sold as cooking oil. It was no coincidence the new name rhymed with granola. As concerns over levels of saturated fat in other oil products grew, the new product entered the market as an alternative low in saturated fat, but high in desirable oleic acid. Demand skyrocketed and farmers rushed to buy seed.
But before we add the happy-ever-after to this technological tale, there are some important issues to consider. What might seem healthy for city dwellers to consume isn't necessarily healthy for people where it is grown, for workers who handle the materials used, or for the environment. A typical Canola crop starts with seeds treated with fungicide for seedling diseases, and often an insecticide to prevent damage from flea beetles. After the seedlings emerge, herbicides are applied to control weeds. Canola yields can also be affected by a variety of insect problems, for which the remedy is often aerial spraying, and a fungus problem just prior to harvest called Sclerotinia.
This focus on chemicals isn't that different from cereal crops that are grown conventionally and this is not to say that other oilseeds are any better.
The problem is that instead of finding ways to use less or no herbicides and a lot less fuel and synthetic fertilizer, we are promoting a crop that is very difficult to grow organically. Also, Canola is the first crop in Canada to receive a license for "transgenic" varieties - plants altered with genetic material from other plants or animals. Typically, the transgenic varieties are designed by chemical companies to require the application of their favorite brand of herbicide. Given the cancer risk, would you call a food crop that is increasingly dependent on herbicides, fungicides, and even aerial spraying of pesticides, "healthy?" While prairie provinces export thousands of tonnes of Canola oil (and they have begun to make a diesel fuel out of it), if you want to buy a quality cold pressed edible version, you're not going to find a prairie product. This to me is the equivalent of France selling no Champagne, no Beaujolais, just cheap plonk in screw top bottles.
In most cases the best ingredients in oil are seriously damaged or destroyed by the industrial-type processing that occurs. As detailed by oils expert Udo Erasmus, in his 1988 pamphlet Fats that Heal, Fats that Kill, most oil is refined with acids and the same base that unclogs drains. Then the bleaching process removes "every essential nutrient except fatty acids."
Then deodorization by steam distillation distorts some fatty acids into "trans-fatty acids" which interfere with beneficial ingredients in oils. But any of this is mostly irrelevant if we are eating deep-fried doughnuts or French Fries, or frying our food until the oil smokes or eating margarine made from hydrogenated oil.
And for most consumers that is their experience with Canola. And so it is only a cynical manipulation to promote the nutritional value of Canola, when the nutrients don't make it to the table. This manipulation -and the manipulation of seeds, of processes and commodities markets - is only possible because most of our population is no longer involved in food production. That's not healthy.
Toby Maloney is an environmental activist living Boissevain, in the southwestern Manitoba grain belt. This article first appeared in City Magazine. - NL -