Friday, 14 March 2014

Fats and Oils

Recently I went to a lecture given by Barbara Wren where fats and oils were discussed at length. The shocking conclusion was that none of us should be eating 'processed' oils (no, not even olive, coconut or flax) particularly not breast cancer patients for whom it clogs the lymph and is challenging to assimilate. Instead we should be eating only natural oils (ie those found in whole foods like avocado, whole olives, and oily fish). The further surprising statement was that we should also avoid nuts and seeds as a natural oil source, as they're too high in protein and are actually, next year's seed store. Historically, what decadent farmer would eat next year's crop? Gerson famously banned nuts from his healing regime as they're too high in protein, squandering valuable enzyme energy which could be better used to break down tumours. (As an aside, nuts and seeds contain high levels of phytic acid, a substance which reduces mineral bioavailability. To aid digestion nuts should ideally be soaked prior to consuming).

I came away feeling overwhelmed with this information, and slightly sceptical. Science has proven that fats (lipids) play a vital role in the functioning of the body. Lipids are necessary to form and maintain cell membranes and are needed for brain and nerve functions. Fats are also crucial for absorption and transport of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, and our energy resources are based on lipid metabolism. I believe that there are some health giving oils which we can safely eat, should we choose to, but the key is in moderation.

My favourite of these is raw, organic coconut oil. It's antibacterial, antiviral and antimicrobial. It's also rich in lauric acid (an effective immune system booster) and high in omega 3, a potent anti-inflammatory. (The omega 6:3 BALANCE is vital for good health. Ideally the ratio should be 2:1 but in most Western diets it's closer to 25:1!). Coconut oil has a high smoke point, so is safe to cook with. I use it every day - from roasting potatoes to baking with the kids. I'm often asked if it mars the flavour of dishes, but I find the flavour to be delicate and I really like it. (Off topic, coconut oil makes a fantastic natural make-up remover and moisturiser)

My other go-to fat is butter. Raw un-pasteurised is the king of butters because it's full of beneficial good bacteria and fat soluble vitamins. It can be hard to find, so second best is organic butter, ideally sourced from grass fed cows. In the UK Rachels Organic and Yeo Valley are probably the best shop-bought options as their herds are at pasture for 60% of the year. Ghee is butter's clarified sister, and has a high smoke point so is another great oil to cook with. Remember that any product derived from animal milk will contain oestrogen and Insulin Growth Factor (IGF). IGF makes those baby animals grow but also encourages cancer growth, so is best eaten in limited amounts.

Flax oil has a place within a cancer diet. It's rich in Alpha-linolenic acid (a plant based omega 3 oil). Use it in salad dressings mixed with apple cider vinegar, or to dress cooked vegetables, but never heat it. Johanna Budwig recommended flaxseed oil in conjunction with cottage cheese, the premise being that protein and fat should always be combined in order to facilitate absorption. (Lipids are only water-soluble, and therefore utilizable, when bound to protein).

Cold pressed oils (olive, avocado, walnut etc) should NEVER be used in cooking as they're unstable when heated. They lose their vitamin and mineral content when heat damaged, and become toxic and carcinogenic within the body. Instead, enjoy them cold and in moderation. I occasionally use organic olive oil drizzled over cooked vegetables or in salad dressings. 

The oils to totally avoid are trans-fats and hydrogenated oils. These processed fats are highly unstable, and oxidise in the body causing cell mutation and inflammation (the pre-curser to all disease). In arterial cells this inflammation can clog arteries, whereas in reproductive tissue it can create problems like polycystic ovary syndrome and endometriosis. Also avoid canola (rapeseed), sunflower and other chemically extracted, heat treated oils, which are often produced from GM crops, full of pesticides, toxins and deodorisers which are harmful to the body. These oils are prevalent in modern convenience foods. Read labels to avoid them in processed cakes, cookies, pastry, bread and condiments. 

We need good quality fats. We've long been sold the myth (no doubt through clever marketing by margarine companies) that natural fats like butter are cholesterol inducing, and can cause heart disease. The reality is that our bodies need a certain amount of good quality, unprocessed fats to operate optimally. 


  1. Hi Nicola . I completely understand you coming away from this lecture a little bit sceptical . Avoiding trans fats is an obvious (hopefully!) when you are a cancer patient. The nuts and seeds element is curious. The Gonzalez protocol recommends nuts and seeds in abundance if you are a certain metabolic type. There is such conflict even on healthy foods when you are a cancer patient. I believe that you just have to go with what feels right for you with common sense and moderation prevailing..

  2. Hey Amanda,
    I think you're totally right.... personalising treatment (and diet) is 100% the way to go, it's just the figuring out part which is complicated! I think that the point of the lecture was to draw awareness to how much processed oil is in our diet (by processed I mean any form of oil which is not in whole food form). It certainly made me aware of how much coconut and flax I was eating. Having said that, I would be verging on dangerously thin if I didn't eat seeds and nuts. Thanks for your comment and for reading the blog :)