If you have read the last two weeks’ columns you may still not be clear whether coconut oil is good or bad for you. This highlights a major problem in our Western, privileged society. Most of us are suffering from a surfeit of calories and a plethora of food choices. We are constantly bombarded by information and claims about the miraculous benefits of “super foods” and the food industry has a huge stake in this.
The dairy, beef and plant oil industries in particular, spend millions of dollars releasing mis-information about why their products are an essential part of the human diet. Many readers may know that the Canada Food Guide is being “revamped” - it was surely no coincidence that the representatives of the the Beef, Dairy and Plant Oils industry were able to get extra plugs in the guide - with dairy somehow even being touted as a “food group” on its own. Even the healthiest of people are still eating yogurt every day believing it to be a great source of protein and calcium. Unfortunately, it is still being recommended by cancer agencies around the world, including our own BCCA despite the evidence that dairy is associated with an increased risk of hormone driven cancers such as breast and prostate.
Now, unfortunately, many companies are jumping on the “Plant Based” bandwagon. Any product with a green leaf or banner on it, or the word “Natural” emblazoned across the jar or box, is likely to sell up to 30% better than it did in its previous packaging. Once again, if you are reading an ingredient list and trying to make sense of it, comparing percentage of this versus percentage of that, just put the box down and go buy a bunch of carrots!
Rather than asking which added fat or oil is better for us or more likely to aid weight loss, or less likely to contribute to heart disease, I think the more useful question would be, do we need any extra added oil at all? Many leading nutrition experts such as Dr Caldwell Esselstyn, Dr Michael Greger and Dr Dean Ornish think not and have proven with good studies that no added oil or fat confers the optimum health benefits. We have been conned into believing that we need to add extra “healthy fats and oils” into our diet. In a plant based diet with small amounts of nuts and seeds and whole foods such as avocado it is easy to get sufficient fat in its natural form. Even so called healthy natural olive oil is still a highly processed product which packs a whopping 125 calories per tablespoon. Next time you are using olive oil thinking you are whipping up a healthy low calorie stir fry, try measuring out a tablespoon in the pan and you will be shocked to see how much less it is than the “splash” you usually use!
Going back to common sense, would we buy into the argument that we should eat a Snickers bar every day, because the healthy “plant based nut fragments” in it, make it better for us than a Mars bar? I think not!