More Thoughts on Fats: Remember Oleo?

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More Thoughts on Fats: Remember Oleo? 

A report in Third Age asks the question:  

"Which dietary element has been linked to breast cancer?" 

The answer, no surprise, is dietary fat.   Both breast cancer and prostate cancer rates are higher in persons who consume the most fat, regardless of their background and other factors. 

Another report (unfortunately I misplaced it) takes some people to task for trying to accomplish a fat-free diet, asserting that persons on a fat-free diet die sooner that those not so strict with their intake.    Unfortunately, statistics can say anything you want them to say (for instance, were the people going for a fat-free diet already in poor health?), leaving us unsure of the best choices.

A fat free diet probably isn't healthy at all for most people.  But the kind of fat makes a big difference.   The bottom line isn't in yet.  Many sources have led one to believe that peanuts and peanut oil isn't among the healthiest ones, olive oil being the overall winner in most expert's opinions.   But a report from the Bowditch Group in their newsletter, NutriNews, has surprising facts.  A compound identified in peanuts and peanut products, has been shown to inhibit cancer growth, as well as to protect against heart disease.  In their NutriNews 64, they report:

Researchers at the State University of New York at Buffalo examined the SIT (beta-sitosterol) content of several peanut products. They found that snack peanuts contain 160 mg SIT/100 gm and regular peanut butter contains 157 mg SIT/100 gm. Peanut oil contains approximately 198 mg SIT/100 gm, and is a good source of SIT. In fact, refined peanut oil contains 38 per cent more protective SIT than refined (pure) olive oil. 

Dr. Weil explains why he is against margarines and other hydrogenated fats.  He writes about the origins of margarine.

"Margarine was originally developed as a cheap substitute for butter, made out of some fairly unappealing ingredients: beef fat, milk, chopped sheep's stomachs and cow udders (which were then treated and shaped into a glossy white lump using heat, lye and pressure)."

There was tremendous pressure from the dairy industry to ban margarine when it first was invented.  When finally approved, the dairy people had won half the battle;  margarine was white like Crisco or lard.   Except for the poorest of the poor, many of whom already used lard as a "spread" and as cooking fat, no one wanted white "butter" on their table.   Crisco gained hold rapidly, however, as many cooks used lard in pie crusts, bread and other baking and frying by choice, and were accustomed to white stuff.

During the latter part of World War II, severe food shortages occurred.   Britain was scarcely able to produce any food at all, nor were most European and Oriental countries.  The USA and Canada were breadbaskets not only for our own population, but for all the troops overseas and some of the foreign population as well.  Ration books were issued for items in short supply, including sugar, meat, fish, chocolate, and butter.  Oleo, as margarine was known, came into its own.  Toward the end of the war and for some years afterwards, oleo came in a plastic pouch, a novelty in itself, with a breakable capsule of coloring inside.  One would hold the pouch, squeezing until the warmth of the hands made it malleable, find the capsule and pinch until it broke.  Then the oleo was kneaded and mashed until the color was even.  

In the middle of World War II, several related families, including my mother and father and myself, moved into a communal home, a large farmhouse with enough land for a large garden and some pigs and chickens.  Thus we had plenty to eat during that difficult time.  

There were ample hands to share the work, a good thing since my paternal grandfather, Rev. Linn Williamson,  was dying at home, cared for by my grandmother, and my own mother and my Aunt Edith were both pregnant.   One family member even made lye soap from liquid filtered through ashes and rendered pork fat, which was then coarsely grated for laundry soap and other mundane cleaning chores.   Everything possible was saved, mended, or produced at home, and since all of the adults had a rural or semi-rural background, and had been through the Great Depression of the thirties, they knew how to do it.  Lard on bread, however, was not an option!   We didn't have a cow, and so we used that new wonder, oleo.   

I remember begging to mix it, and they usually let me as it was something that got me out from under foot, although I could rarely break the capsule myself.   The color, a bright orange red, would mix into thick marbled streaks, then into lacy patterns, and finally the whole packet would turn a warm butter-yellow.  

In "Margarine: The Spreadable Inedible?" Dr. Weil writes:

"In order to achieve that solid, spreadable consistency, margarine makers had to hydrogenate the vegetable oil, in effect turning it into a saturated fat.  

...the heat and chemicals used to harden vegetable oils into margarine change fatty acids into unnatural shapes, called trans-fatty acids (TFAs)..      ...trans-fatty acids not only contribute to heart disease, but may also increase cancer risks, promote inflammation and accelerate tissue degeneration.    

Finally, both butter and margarine may contain residues of toxins.  Drugs (in the case of butter) and pesticides tend to concentrate in fat."

Go ahead - eat fat.  But in moderation, and try to limit it to the healthier ones, especially olive oil, nuts, especially walnuts and peanuts, oily fishes, especially salmon, mackerel, sardines and anchovies,  flaxseed and other oily seeds, avocados and olives.  If your weight and cholesterol are normal, eggs yolks are highly nutritious, too.   Avoid  palm and cottonseed oils, and all possible animal fat.  Spend your calorie intake on something healthy that tastes great.  You won't feel deprived and you'll do a body good. 

Related articles:

The Sneaky Kitchen
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