The following is a modified transcript of the podcast.
Food is medicine. I really believe this. What you eat makes a huge difference in how you feel and how your body behaves. The long-term effects of poor diet show up in weight gain and diseases like diabetes, heart disease and stroke. But the short-term effects show up in energy level, stamina and mental functioning like clarity and mood.
So as a busy working mom, you’re already stretched thin. How can you get more out of yourself? One is sleep – and more on that issue to come. But today it’s about optimizing your diet. This will be the beginning of a series of shows about diet and nutrition. I started with this a little bit in episode 10 when I talked about fish oil.
But optimal nutrition is such a huge topic, I want to cover it in bite size pieces – no pun intended. Otherwise it’s just too overwhelming.
Clean eating is a popular catch phrase that describes eating food in it’s most natural state. It’s not a diet but lifestyle adjustment. It’s a way of eating that you can maintain.
It’s also not about detoxing or cleansing. You don’t really need to do that stuff. The body knows how to detox itself, and this may be semantics, but if you clean up your diet, you are detoxifying your body by eliminating the garbage that your body has to sift through.
Another term you may hear in reference to this topic is whole foods. But the way I use clean eating is more than just consuming whole foods. But lets start there.
If you want to clean up your diet, you should only eat foods as close as they are produced naturally. The foods can be cooked but minimally processed. Foods that have been heavily processed would be things like crackers, pasta and packaged food. These foods start with a whole ingredient like whole wheat, but then the wheat is milled then combined with other additives. This is what makes it unhealthy.
In theory, any thing you do to food other than eat it raw is processed. But we need to cook chicken and other meats; we need to have our milk pasteurized, etc. So there is going to be some amount of processing to your food. But lets focus on the excess processing and what to avoid.
This would be the potato chips, candy pastries, etc. What’s the problem here? Well the main culprit with these foods is the hydrogenated oils that are used to make and preserve them. Another term for this is trans fats.
Hydrogenating oil is a process whereby oil is converted from liquid to solid. This makes a more stable fat and is better at increasing the shelf life of commercial goods. It also tends to provide a better texture. That’s why some bakers will swear by making piecrusts and cookies with shortening rather than butter. If you’ve ever tried to make a cookie with oil, you know it’s horrible – turns out flat like a pancake. So to get that nice chewy, thick texture you need to use a solid fat.
But the problem is trans fats increase LDL cholesterol and decrease HDL cholesterol. They do exactly what you don’t want. Remember back in the day they used to say margarine was healthier than butter? Well they were wrong. And the reason they were wrong was because of the trans fats or hydrogenation process to make the margarine. Also the margarine is primarily made from vegetable oil.
Another place that can present a problem with using hydrogenated oils is restaurants.
Many restaurants will use hydrogenated oils in food preparation, again for the shelf life. You’re more likely to encounter this with food that is fried.
Another problem with commercially used oils is that when polyunsaturated vegetable oils are heated to high temperatures, they create free radicals. When you ingest the free radicals and they interact with the cholesterol in your body, you get oxidized cholesterol. Oxidized cholesterol is bad. Researchers have shown that oxidized cholesterol accelerates plague build up in the arteries – known as atherosclerosis. See below for a list of links to research studies.
And by the way, this is one of the ways antioxidants like the ones you get in fruits help. They counteract or eliminate the oxidized particles in your body.
So what does all this mean? What’s the take home here? We can talk indefinitely about the science behind this and you can find a multitude of articles on this topic – but here’s what you can walk away with.
If you start on the path toward cleaning up your diet, you can improve the health of you and your family and improve your day-to-day performance. The first step is to eliminate hydrogenated fats in your diet. Many people use trans fat and hydrogenated fat synonymously. They aren’t exactly synonymous, as hydrogenated fats contain trans fats – but it’s good enough for now.
How do you do this? A couple of ways.
Look at the food labels when you buy them. Some nutrition labels will say that there are 0% trans fats. But it still may have hydrogenated fats – because if the percentage of trans fats is low enough, the FDA allows you to round it down to zero. Manufacturers can manipulate this number by making the serving size low enough so that the trans fat percentage is low.
So for this purpose, forget that label. Instead look at the ingredient list. In fact from now on, this is a practice you should be doing every time you buy something processed. To have a diet that is mostly whole, minimally processed foods, the label should read like a recipe list with things that you can pronounce and recognize.
You can find hydrogenated oils in the oddest places. Non-diary coffee creamer has hydrogenated oils. Here I was using coffee mate to reduce my sugar intake because I used a lot of sugar to sweeten my coffee. I started using the French vanilla creamer. I thought I was getting a better option until I read the ingredients.
So I made the switch to heavy cream. It was hard at first, but it has worked. I used to be afraid of heavy cream. I was basing this fear on the old recommendations that high fat foods increased your cholesterol. More and more research is showing that eating fat does not increase your cholesterol. It’s eating other things like too many refined carbohydrates that are high in sugar and low in fiber such as cookies and cakes, is associated with lower levels of HDL and higher levels of LDL and triglycerides. This is associated with an increased risk for heart disease. Also contributors are things like the oxidized cholesterol and hydrogenated oils.
Tip number one – Eliminate hydrogenated oils.
Number two is minimize the use of vegetable oils in cooking. These would be oils like corn oil, soy, sunflower oil and other seed oils. These oils are not good for you because they are very high in Omega 6 fatty acids which are pro-inflammatory. I spoke about this in episode 11 entitled What’s The Big Deal With Fish Oil?
As I mentioned earlier in this episode but it bears repeating, oils cooked at high temperatures can cause free radical formation – which in and of itself is bad. But the free radicals can cause cholesterol and other fatty acids in your body to oxidize. Oxidized LDL cholesterol accelerates plague formation and heart disease.
So you want to avoid fried foods especially if they are fried with vegetable oil, which has a lot of Omega 6, which is pro-inflammatory. Foods can be fried without overheating the oil and causing this free radical formation. But how do you know if the oil has been overheated in the cooking process if it was prepared at a restaurant or someone else’s house? Do you know what it looks like if you overheat your own oil?
Oils have smoke points. The Cleveland Clinic classifies oils in smoke-point categories, such as high, medium-high, medium and no-heat. The smoke point is the temperature to which you must heat the oil for it to begin to break down the fats and form free radicals. You will see the oil smoke. Have you ever heated an oil, gotten distracted, then it starts smoking and the fire alarm goes off?
The more refined an oil is – the higher it’s smoke point. That’s one of the main benefits to refining an oil is to raise it’s smoke point.
When you’ve heated the oil past it’s smoke point – you really should discard the oil and start over. In fact, the fumes from the smoke should not be inhaled so you should ventilate the room as well.
See the link to the Cleveland Clinic chart of smoke points. But to give you a few examples – some low smoke point oils would be: unrefined or extra virgin olive oil and hemp oil. High smoke point oils would be: peanut, canola, refined corn oil and refined or extra light olive oil. These are the ones you need for deep-frying. But more of the oils on this list are high in omega 6. So they may be better for frying, but they are more pro-inflammatory oils.
Another thing about oils is you should not reheat oils. They should be a one-time use. But some restaurants will reuse oils. So when you get your French fries, you don’t know how many times the oil has been used. My mom back in the day before she changed her diet used to keep the can of lard on the stovetop that she used over and over. I guess my body has already done it’s share of anti-oxidizing. Generally medical problems that come from poor food choices are due to the long-term effect of toxic exposure. Your body just runs out of defenses and loses it’s capacity to defend you like it used to.
I have to admit that I didn’t really know why green olive oil was called extra virgin. I didn’t know where the virgin came from. But it refers to the fact that the oil hasn’t been heavily processed. What you’re getting is the oil that came from the olives. The advantage of an unrefined oil is you get most of the nutrients that the oil contains and the rich taste. The lighter or yellow olive oil has lost it’s virginity in the refining process. It’s not as flavorful or as nutritious – but it has a higher smoke point and is better for frying. Therefore if you are one who uses olive oil a lot and you like to fry or even sauté things, you should get two types of olive oil. Keep the extra virgin oil for your salad dressing or drizzling over food and use the yellow or light oil for cooking on the stovetop.
Tip number two – minimize the use of vegetable oils and fried foods.
I think you’ve heard enough about oil. These can be your first two steps toward cleaning up your diet. There are other things you can do without having to be obsessed with toxins and detoxing. And we’ll talk more about these things. But it’s easier to make permanent changes a little at a time.
I’d like to hear from you as to how you did reducing your oil. I told you my big thing was creamer – which I used everyday. I had to gear up to do that. What is it for you? Is it getting rid of that tin of Crisco? Is it to stop using margarine or those butter substitutes?
I’d love to know. Leave a comment on my facebook page.
Want something you want me to talk about? Call the show at 404-465-2399 or send me an email at drmarks @ beyondburnout.com
Oil smoke points
The role of dietary oxidized cholesterol and oxidized fatty acids in the development of atherosclerosis.
Plasma Oxidized Low-Density Lipoprotein, a Strong Predictor for Acute Coronary Heart Disease Events in Apparently Healthy, Middle-Aged Men From the General Population
Effect of Dietary trans Fatty Acids on High-Density and Low-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol Levels in Healthy Subjects
Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease.