macrobiotic oils by Simon Brown
Here we explore how to eat a healthy range of macrobiotic oils. The term macrobiotic oils applies to oils that are natural, healthy and satisfying. When eaten with a healthy diet, including fibre, anti-oxidants and foods that lower cholesterol oils and fats are a very healthy part of our diet.
why do we need fats?
Fats and oils help us maintain our health and have been a part of our natural diet for potentially millions of years.
Each human cell has a fat membrane and fat is an important nutrient for good health. Fat can protect organs, provide insulation in cold weather and are a store of energy.
At the same time too much fat, and most importantly, too much of certain kinds of fat, can compromise our health.
what are fats?
Fats can be chemically defined as a group of natural esters of glycerol and various fatty acids. Using the term fat suggests they are solid at room temperature, such as with butter or cheese, and using the word oil, indicates they are liquid at room temperature. Olive oil is an example of an oil. Fats and oils can be divided into four groups. Most foods rich in fat / oil will have mixture of the first three type of oil / fat.
what are saturated fats?
These are most commonly found in meat, dairy foods and eggs.
The most common claims are that too much saturated fat increasing the risk a high blood pressure, heart attacks and poor circulation. Research suggests excess saturated fat increases the risk of colon cancer and breast cancer.
At the same time saturated fat is chemically stable. It does not break down during cooking as easily as poly-unsaturated oils. From this perspective, saturated fats would be idea for use when cooking at high temperatures. So for frying and baking, butter could be better than an oil high in poly-unsaturated oil, such as sunflower oil.
Another option for baking would be to use coconut oil, which is high in saturated fats, but comes from a plant source.
what are monounsaturated oils?
These are most commonly found in fish, fish oils, olives and olive oil and sesame seeds.
There are no widely accepted claims of health risks from eating these oils as part of a natural diet. Many of the cultures that use these oils enjoy longer life expectancy and reduced incidence of degenerative illness.
These oils are relatively stable in cooking. So olive oil would be a helpful choice for adding to soups and stews as well as for frying. The main disadvantage is that olive oil has a low smoke point, so that the food will taste burnt if heated to high frying temperatures. As soup and liquids do not exceed 100c olive oil can easily be used in these dishes.
Monounsaturated oils are associated with health in terms of our joints, nervous system, brain, skin, arteries, heart, blood pressure and liver.
what are polyunsaturated oils?
These are commonly found in vegetables oils, including sunflower, corn, safflower, as well as in many nuts and seeds, along with sea vegetables and beans.
The main concerns with polyunsaturated oils is that they can break down during cooking, or even if stored in sunlight. If this happens they introduce unstable molecules to our bodies, called free radicals. These are implicated in accelerating the aging process. At the same time foods high in anti-oxidants will neutralize the free radicals. So eating lots of vegetables, fruits, herbs, nuts and seeds, as well as drinking teas, minimizes any harmful influence.
It is interesting to note that issues with polyunsaturated oils occur when the oil is extracted from its natural source. So the oil in seeds and nuts is protected and safe. It is only when it is extracted, that it become vulnerable and exposed. A healthy way to consume these oils is through whole nuts and seeds.
Polyunsaturated oils are thought to lower cholesterol, improve joint problems and reduce inflammation.
what are trans fats?
Trans fats are found in some processed foods and often labeled as hydrogenated oil or fat. They may be used in frying in restaurants.
These are liquid oils that are hydrogenated and converted to a solid, spreadable fat. They primarily come from an artificial process. Trans fats have been banned from restaurants in New York and in some European countries as there are concerns about trans fats elevating cholesterol levels and increasing the risk of heart disease.
what are essential fatty acids?
Humans are thought to need fatty acids omega 3, 6 and 9 in our diet for health. Essential fatty acids, help regulate inflammation within our bodies. There are claims that they help with our joints, brain and nervous system.
Essentially, omega 3 helps reduce inflammation whilst omega 6 may increase inflammation. A diet that is high in omega 6 without omega 3 risks inflammation and is thought to increase the risk of heart disease as arteries become inflamed increasing blood pressure.
Flax seeds, chia seeds and fish are good sources of omega 3.
Some confusion occurs between the temperature that oils break down and become unstable, and the temperature oils begin to smoke at. Some oils high in polyunsaturates have high smoke points, meaning they can be heated to very high temperatures to create a very crispy texture when frying. These oils can also break down and become unstable at very low temperatures even though they do not smoke at these temperature. Generally refined oils can be heated to higher temperatures before they smoke, however, this does not means they are safer as the temperature they break down at can be much lower than the smoke point.
variety of macrobiotic oils
Many foods will have various forms of fat or oils in them. Some ingredients will have more of one or another. So a generally healthy diet, with plenty of plant foods including nuts, seeds and beans will ensure we have the oils we need. It is worth noting that many of these foods have all three types of fat / oil but that some are high in one or two kinds.
Traditionally humans have derived oil from whole foods, such as seend, nuts and fish. In terms of processed oils we have the longest history of eating sesame and olive oils.
When using processed oils ideally they would be as natural as possible. So cold pressed virgin oils would be a healthy choice.
toxins and fat cells
Our body cleverly appears to store potentially harmful toxins among our fats cells. This keeps toxins away from essential organs. When we release fats, some of the toxins can return to our blood, and when this happens the toxins can contribute to flu like symptoms. One way to help eliminate toxins is to eat sea vegetables, that according to research encapsulate the toxins in a way we can eliminate them more easily.
foods that help eliminate fats
Certain foods are thought to help eliminate fats and these are; lemon, daikon/mooli, radishes, mushrooms (especially shiitake), sea vegetables, vinegars and green vegetables.
In addition Jasmine, Green and Oolong teas are thought to help eliminate fats.
exercise and fats
Regular exercise and stretching can help use up fats and encourage the body to turn them in energy if combined with a healthy natural macrobiotic style of eating.
choosing sources of oil
There are many ways of looking at oils and trying to decide what is healthy or not. We could try the test of time approach and look at human evolution, we could look at what kind of oils societies that live the longest eat, we could rely on scientific research, we could use folk law or any of the numerous theories that abound. Each will suggest different oils are better than others. For me, more than anything, I like to take a broad approach and then test it out on myself. So for me I enjoy using olive and sesame oils most. I like some saturated fat, particularly in the winter, and I occasionally use a wider variety of plants oils, such sunflower oil, raw on my food. I love eating nuts and seeds. Tahini and nut butters can be satisfying sometimes. Combined with lots of other natural foods and exercise I feel I can enjoy oils whenever I feel a desire to eat them.
For help with a macrobiotic diet and macrobiotic oils, book a macrobiotic consultation with Simon. Call 07543663227 or email to discuss your personal situation.