Crisco’s A No-Go!

Crisco is probably one of the first big, brand name processed trans-fats. It was originally used to make soap and candles. Thanks to hydrogenation this cottonseed oil became an edible lard-like product. The name Crisco is a bit of an acronym for crystallized cottonseed oil. Yummy!

Crisco and the Proctor & Gamble company heralded in a new era in food processing. Margarine has been around for about 100 years. It is cheap to make, inexpensive to buy and in the face of saturated fat fears, deemed a healthy choice. Just the processing alone should make you stay away from margarine. Manufacturers start with cheap, poor quality oils like cottonseed, corn, soy or canola. These oils are extracted using high heat and pressure which makes them rancid. Rancid oils cause cell damage and premature aging.

The oils are steam cleaned before ground nickel, a catalyst for the hydrogenation process is added. Hydrogen is then introduced. Along with the ground nickel, high pressure and heat force hydrogen atoms into the oil atoms. Partially hydrogenated oil is semi-solid. At this point emulsifiers are added because the current product is a grey lump of grease. The product is then steam cleaned again to remove odours and bleached to get rid of the grey colour. Finally synthetic vitamins and natural yellow colouring is added.

Margarine was promoted as a healthy alternative to butter because saturated fat was believed to cause heart disease. The maligning of fat began in 1953 with Dr. Ansel Keys. The misguided reasoning goes something like this: “If people eat fat they are more likely to die from heart disease.” Of course the human condition does not work in a neat linear fashion. Since the creation of margarine and the Oreo cookie we’ve turned into processed food junkies. Furthermore, the low fat – high carbohydrate diet we’ve been consuming for the past fifty years has resulted in greater obesity and heart disease deaths. It turns out the trans-fats in margarine are far deadlier than saturated fat.

Polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) like Canola, safflower, corn and soy oil have been promoted as a heart-healthy alternative. These oils have been touted as cures for cancer, the prevention of obesity, and inflammation diseases like arthritis. Research is slowly showing that the opposite is true. PUFAs are highly unstable and become rancid when exposed to heat. Nearly all processed food is made with rancid PUFAs. Consuming rancid oils causes inflammation which is often the precursor to diseases like  arthritis and heart  disease.

What about butter and lard? These natural sources of fat are not directly linked to heart disease. Prior to the early 1920’s heart disease was rare. Back then butter and lard were the fats of choice. The famous Framingham Heart Study found that those who ate the most saturated fat and cholesterol also had lower serum cholesterol. In other words eating fat did not raise blood cholesterol levels. Saturated fats like butter and coconut oil are stable and safe at high temperatures. Our bodies need saturated fats for proper brain and nervous system function and cell function. We also need it for good lung capacity and healthy skin. Vitamins A,D,E and K need saturated fat in order to be utilized by the body.

Monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) are found in nuts, pumpkin seeds, olives and avocados. These are heart-healthy fats. More importantly these fats may help reduce inflammation. People who suffer from arthritis often find the inclusion of MUFAs reduces pain and stiffness associated with the disease.

The science of nutrition is a funny thing. For every health study promoting the benefits of saturated fats there are others refuting it. With so much conflicting information out there what are you supposed to do? The paleo diet focuses on natural, unprocessed foods. You shouldn’t worry about the amount of fat in your diet when the bulk of your food comes from vegetables, fruits and lean protein. Moderate fat intake is important; however, your diet need not exceed 30% total fat. A small portion of your fat intake can come from saturated fats. Cooking in coconut oil and drizzling a little butter on your steamed broccoli is fine. Salmon and other cold water fish are high in healthy omega-3 polyunsaturated fats. These are essential for your health. The rest of your dietary fat should come from monounsaturated sources. Sliced avocado on your salad with olive oil and a closed handful of walnuts for a snack are ways to get these healthy fats in your diet.

Most importantly do not ever eat margarine!

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  1. […] Crisco is probably one of the first big, brand name processed trans-fats. It was originally used to make soap and candles. Thanks to hydrogenation this cottonseed oil became an edible lard-like product. The name Crisco is a bit of an acronym for crystallized cottonseed oil. Yummy! Crisco and the Proctor & Gamble company heralded in … Read more […]



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