(NaturalNews) For years we've been told to avoid butter and instead use vegetable oils as our primary fat source. Mainstream science claims this will save our hearts. But industrial oils like soybean, corn and canola oil are hiding a dirty little secret: consuming them could very well increase your risk of cancer.
What Are Polyunsaturated Fats?
Unlike saturated fats and monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats (also known as PUFAs for short) are linked by multiple double bonds. This is what makes polyunsaturated oils highly unstable and vulnerable to oxidation.
The Cancer Connection
Many experts now acknowledge that refined polyunsaturated oils are damaged fats and should be avoided. This leads to the assumption that cold-pressed organic oils are acceptable because they are less refined. However, even gently processed oils are unstable and oxidation can still occur once these fats are in the body. Oxidation is linked to cancer and other degenerative diseases.
In addition to the dangers of oxidation, there are also bonafide concerns about the omega-6 content of polyunsaturated oils. A recent San Francisco study demonstrated that under laboratory conditions, omega-6 fatty acids could accelerate the growth of prostate tumor cells.
Other studies show that improving the omega-3 to omega-6 ratio can lower the risk of certain cancers. Experts vary in their specific ratio recommendations, but most suggest a ratio of between 1:1 and 1:4 at most. The average modern diet has an omega-3 to omega-6 ratio of 1:20 or more!
The blame for this can be squarely placed on the rapid increase of vegetable oils in our diets during the past century. While some vegetable oils do contain small amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, for the most part they consist of omega-6. While some recommend increasing omega-3 consumption to combat this effect, this problem is far more effectively resolved by reducing omega-6 intake. Eliminating or drastically decreasing polyunsaturated oil consumption is the best way to do this.
How to Decrease Your Polyunsaturated Fat Intake
Here's how you can cut excess PUFAs from your diet:
1. Avoid commercial fried foods. With very few exceptions, these are cooked in polyunsaturated oils and contain highly damaged fats.
2. Avoid commercial salad dressings, mayonnaise and other fatty condiments. Unless otherwise noted, these are generally made with refined vegetable oils.
3. Avoid commercial baked goods. These usually contain a lot of refined flour and sugar, so they should be avoided anyway. But their high PUFA content gives you another good reason to leave these items alone.
4. Cook and bake with butter, coconut oil, olive oil and other heat stable oils. Frankly, these taste a whole lot better than veggie oils anyway, so making this trade should be easy.
5. Go easy on the nuts. While these may be hailed as a health food by many experts, in excess nuts can easily skew your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio and push your polyunsaturated fat intake over the limit. Hazelnuts and macadamia nuts are the most forgiving since these contain the lowest PUFA content.
A Historical Perspective
There are no traditional cultures who liberally used polyunsaturated oils in their diets. Keep in mind that these cultures often exhibited excellent health and did not suffer from modern diseases such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease. We should take a hint from our ancestors and ditch the polyunsaturated oils.
Elizabeth Walling is a freelance writer specializing in health and family nutrition. She is a strong believer in natural living as a way to improve health and prevent modern disease. She enjoys thinking outside of the box and challenging common myths about health and wellness. You can visit her blog to learn more: www.livingthenourishedlife.com/2009/10/welcome.html
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