Recently, a friend of mine asked me what was so bad about eating packaged foods with hydrogenated oils. I was able to form a partial answer — “they are bad for the heart and the brain”, I said. I wanted to offer my friend a better answer, and so here, for anyone wishing to boost brain power and overall health, I’ll share a bit of my recent research on how the oils we eat either boost or damage our health.
Hydrogenated Oils, found in many packaged foods, are vegetable oils that once in a liquid state have had hydrogen and pressure added to them and thus they become semi-solid oils. This process changes the chemical composition of oils that were originally unsaturated and turns them into trans fatty acids, or trans fats, also known as hydrogenated fats. This is bad news because partial hydrogenation destroys the oils molecular structure creating toxic trans fats — a plastic like substance. Thing is, the body doesn’t know what to do with this plastic substance so it isolates it in a special kind of protein and stores it in the walls of the aorta and other arteries. Some states have banned the use of trans fats in restaurants and food manufacturing, and, some major restaurant chains have discontinued using trans fats because trans fats are in fact associated with health risks.
Hydrogenated Oils raise low density lipo-protein, or LDL — (known as the bad cholesterol) and at the same time trans fats lower the high density lipo-protein, HDL, (good cholesterol) according to research done at The Cleveland Clinic. High LDL (bad cholesterol) levels in the body lead to the accumulation of cholesterol in the arteries which end up forming plaque — plaque that narrows the interior of the arteries and increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.
The impact on the brain comes from the fact that high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease increase the risk of developing Multi-Infarct Dementia, (MID), a condition which results from multiple strokes disrupting blood flow to the brain and in turn causing damaged brain tissue. These strokes are often “silent strokes” or strokes with no clinical symptoms when they occur. Down the road, symptoms of Alzheimer’s become present including short-term memory loss, getting lost in familiar places, imbalanced emotions, and loss of bladder and bowel control.
Recent research is showing that consumption of trans fats greatly increases the risk of birth defects, obesity, and many degenerative chronic diseases including diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer’s. The long-term consumption of these deadly fats cause the break down of cell membranes throughout the body including nervous system tissues, eyes, and brain, and spinal cord.
But wait! This information is being presented to inspire all to eat better oils — to basically focus on the good fats and oils and crowd out the desire or longing for bad. Good fats and oils are found in raw foods — avocados, young coconuts, olives, extra virgin olive oil, cold pressed flax seed oil, hemp seed oil, truly raw organic nuts and seeds, and cold pressed coconut oil. These foods provide us with one of the world’s best anti-oxidants — raw plant fats! The bad reputation of fat comes, primarily, from heated fats. Bad fats (Trans fats) are found in many packaged foods like candy, cookies, crackers, cereals, bakery products, margarine, fried foods, mayonnaise, and salad dressings. If the label says ‘vegetable shortening’ or ‘partially hydrogenated oil’ — well — to continue thinking clearly for life — think twice about eating these fats, yeah, for life.
The best way to kick a less than healthy habit is to replace it with a new healthy practice. In the case of healthy fats — fats that actually increase circulation to the brain as well as provide the brain with necessary fuel — here’s a few ideas. Look for Extra Virgin Stone Ground Olive Oil and avoid cooking the olive oil — use it unheated to create dips, spreads, dressings, or sprinkle it alone on vegetables and salads. Flax Seed Oil and Hemp Seed Oil are two other oils to enjoy raw, unheated. With extra virgin olive oil, flax oil, and hemp oil, the delicate healing properties of these oils becomes oxidized when heated and these healing oils actually become harmful to our health when heated.
When choosing oils safe to heat — butter, ghee, peanut oil, avocado oil, and coconut oil are the best choices and, out of these, coconut oil is by far the very best choice for cooking. Coconut oil can tolerate high heats and it resists amazingly well to the highest cooking temperatures and does NOT create any oxidized toxic particles harmful for your body. Coconut oil is – by far – the safest among all other healthy cooking oils.
With snacks, go the extra mile (you can find all these foods on line) and look for raw cashews, unpasteurized almonds, wild jungle peanuts, raw sunflower , hemp, chia, and pumpkin seeds, cacao (raw chocolate), coconut butter (heavenly desserts can be made out of coconut butter — it is not an oil but rather a thick creamy butter made from whole coconuts). When seeking out walnuts, pecans, brazil nuts, filberts, and macadamia nuts, try to find a small orchard or very small company that vows all nuts have not been dried at temperatures over one hundred and twenty degrees.
Being creative in the kitchen is another way to enhance brain health — it’s a win-win game — the game of tapping into the creative powers of the brain while trading all the less than excellent-for-your-health fats in for the best-fats-for-the- brain will give your brain, uh, more fat to chew on.
This article is only a small representation of ways to rejuvenate the brain. At TBM, we do offer a formula for enhancing brain function — Renewal. This formula works to increase blood and qi circulation to the brain by incorporating traditional plant medicines like ginkgo and bacopa into the prescription. Other healing foods for the brain will be featured in future articles.
Until we ‘chew the fat’ again.