Coconut oil (& why it’s one of only three fats/oils in my kitchen)

There’s been A LOT of press coverage recently about an American organisation saying that coconut oil is not good for you. To use an American word – baloney!!

I explain in my article about fats why I use and recommend coconut oil for cooking. However, I had a kinesiology client this morning who asked whether to stop using it so I’ve dug out the following images to make it really clear.

What are we looking for in a healthy cooking oil? We’re looking for the oil to remain stable when heated. The most stable oils are those which have a high saturated fat content (the least stable are polyunsaturated oils – yes, the very ones your doctor may recommend! Rapeseed, sunflower, etc.). The only exception to this rule is olive oil which is mostly mono-unsaturated but has a naturally-occurring, built-in antioxidant (a tocopherol) which protects the oil’s structure when heated. The level of this antioxidant is highest in virgin or extra virgin olive oils.

This image shows the saturated, mono- and poly-unsaturated levels in popular cooking oils:

You can immediately see from the above image that Coconut oil is the most saturated, ghee (clarified butter) is next. My grandparents only ever cooked with lard. (I’m ignoring margarine because that’s a “Frankenstein food” – made in a factory by a process of hydrogenation and, along with white sugar, hydrogenated fats are about the worst things for your health you could eat.) So, coconut oil is THE most stable cooking oil you could use. 

Here’s another helpful image – which of these oils looks the most stable?

As for nutritional content, it’s true that most western diets are too high in Omega 6 – we need a balance of Omegas (essential fatty acids). This is why Omega 3 supplements (fish and flaxseed oils) come up as being needed so often with my kinesiology clients. And it’s true that coconut oil doesn’t have any Omega 3 content … however, I’m cooking with it, not using it as a supplement. And for cooking, it’s THE most stable oil you can buy. If you think it might be fattening, read my other article on fats.

 

NEW YEAR, NEW YOU – Step 2: SKIN

girl-1723686_1920Our skin appears to be waterproof, tough and protective. It is … to an extent … but it’s also porous. Think of your skin as lots and lots of layers of finely-meshed gauze. It allows small molecules in and out of your body. In my aromatherapy training, I learned that essential oils are absorbed into the bloodstream, and found in major organs like the heart and kidneys, within seconds of application to the skin. I even experimented myself to prove the old adage that a clove of garlic in your shoe gives you garlic breath within minutes. It’s true! Try it!

On the basis that everything we put on our skin is absorbed directly into our bloodstream and carried to our organs, we could think more carefully about the products we use every day. If you wash with a supermarket shower gel, shampoo and conditioner and then apply body lotion, moisturiser, perfume, antiperspirant and make-up … first of all you’re probably blocking your skin from being an elimination route for toxins and, secondly, all (or most of) those chemicals are going straight into your bloodstream. There are a lot of conflicting reports about the effects of the chemicals in personal care products – from harmless to cancer-causing (read this balanced article for more information). I take the view that if my grandparents didn’t use it, then I probably should question it because we don’t actually know the long-term effects yet. However, sweating and body odour are not widely acceptable in the UK in 2017. Here are some of my ideas and product suggestions:

  • Pitrok crystal deodorant – still wet from the shower, I rub my armpits with this salt crystal and it creates a skin environment in which the bacteria that cause body odour cannot grow. You simply don’t get smelly. There’s also a spray version that might be easier for hairy armpits.
  • I use a blend of organic seed and nuts oils as a natural moisturiser for face and body. I sell this skin oil in my clinic.
  • For extra winter moisturising, add a tablespoon of fractionated coconut oil to a hot bath once a week. You could include a few drops of essential oil to make a really luxurious soak!
  • Try sulfate-free shampoos and conditioners such as this UK brand or this one.
  • Wash with a bar of soap … any simple, unfragranced brand will do.
  • Perfumes used to be made from essential oils – now they’re made from thousands of chemicals. Save wearing perfume for special occasions and put it on clothes, not skin.
  • If you wear make-up all day, every day you’re exposing yourself to lots of toxins all day long. Give yourself a break from it when you’re at home and try natural brands from health food shops. Dr Hauschka and Lavera are usually widely available. Read this article for more on make up.
  • Finally, toothpaste – our mouth and gums absorb even more quickly than the skin (sub-lingually is the fastest route into the bloodstream for medication). This is my favourite natural toothpaste.

So our skin is highly absorbent, but it’s also an important elimination pathway. We sweat out water-soluble toxins – especially lactic acid and urea. These are the waste products of glucose and protein use – so we’re producing them all day and all night. If we block this elimination route with antiperspirants and personal care products which form a barrier on our skin, then we are making other elimination routes (especially the kidneys) work harder, and could even potentially cause a backlog of toxins – which the liver then has to handle.

We need two things to help the skin be a good elimination route and therefore support our kidneys … which in turn supports our liver:

  1. See Step One – WATER! It’s what dissolves and carries the lactic acid, urea and other toxins through the skin.
  2. Healthy, supple, unblocked skin.

skin-1648752_1920Our skin cells need fats or oils (as well as water) to keep them supple and porous. We can apply as much moisturiser as we like to the outside layers but it will only help on the surface (fat cells are too big to fit through the layers of gauze). Drinking plenty of water and eating a diet rich in healthy fats and high in vitamin E makes for healthy skin. Read my fats article for more about healthy and unhealthy fats.

Your homework for Step Two:

  1. Add one of the following to your daily diet: half an avocado (or a whole one!); a small tin of sardines or similar oily fish, preferably in olive oil; an egg; a handful of raw, unsalted nuts and seeds, or consider supplements with fish oil or a spoonful of flaxseed oil.
  2. razor-414909_1920Go through your face and body products – do you really want those chemicals in your blood stream in seconds? Chuck out any products that are old – they can actually damage your skin cells. Question whether all the products are really necessary – and are they stopping your skin from being porous? Stop using an anti-perspirant now!

*Join my mailing list by emailing me and I’ll send you a discount voucher code to use when ordering the products and supplements I recommend in this article.

 

Don’t blame your gall bladder!

Gall bladder disease is epidemic these days; two of my family members have had theirs removed, our best man is seriously ill with complications following a gall bladder removal, one of our neighbours has had a serious infection caused by the same. It seems as though this little sac is causing a health crisis.

Gall bladder symptoms can include: bloating, burping, nausea, diarrhoea, constipation, discomfort on right side of ribs or right shoulder after a meal, low alcohol tolerance, sweating, bad breath, smelly stools, fatigue after eating. If you have any of these symptoms, see my recommendations below or contact me for an appointment to evaluate your diet and nutrition. 

The digestive system
The digestive system

The gall bladder is, in fact, no more than a little storage vessel and pumping station. Its purpose is to store bile produced by your liver and to eject it into your small intestine when food is released from your stomach. Bile is a digestive juice which emulsifies fats – breaks them down so we can absorb them or eliminate them. If we don’t digest fats properly that has consequences all the way through our digestive system. Problems occur in the gall bladder when the bile produced by the liver stagnates, is of poor quality or is inadequate, ie, cannot cope, with the quantity and/or type of food we’re eating.

To sum up: GALL BLADDER HEALTH IS DEPENDENT ON LIVER HEALTH! So, having it removed and not changing your diet or lifestyle is not going to address the underlying cause.

Your liver could be producing poor quality bile because it’s struggling to cope with:

(a) stress – the stress response causes cholesterol to be released by the liver. This makes bile fatty; it stagnates in the gall bladder and then forms deposits (stones).

(b) sugary diet – sugars from carbs (bread, pizza, pasta, biscuits, cakes, sweets, puddings, etc) get stored in the liver = fatty liver = fatty bile.

(c) pharmaceuticals, alcohol, caffeine, food additives, fragrances – all chemicals create work for your liver.

(d) contraceptive hormones or HRT – oestrogen gets the liver to store and produce cholesterol = fatty bile.

(e) constipation – this is a vicious circle. Constipation means toxins and cholesterol are transported back to the liver from the colon for processing or storing; poor bile quality can cause constipation.

My six recommendations to keep your gall bladder (and liver) healthy:

  1. Drink plenty of plain water every day – 6 to 8 glasses or 2L.
  2. Reduce cholesterol production – by cutting out sugar, refined carbs, soft drinks, alcohol, cereals, grains. What should you eat? Vegetables, salads, fish & seafood, poultry, meat and eggs with good fats such as olive oil, avocados, coconut oil, nuts and seeds.
  3. Eat plenty of good fats but avoid all seed oils, margarine, deep fried food and dairy products. Swap your margarine for butter! Cook only with extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil. 
  4. Reduce the chemicals in your life. Do you really need those headache pills or are you just dehydrated? Are your skincare products packed with chemicals? Do you need air fresheners in your home? Are your cleaning and laundry products packed with unnecessary fragrances? 
  5. Eat foods/herbs with a cleansing effect – dandelion leaves, chicory, endive, radicchio, fresh mint, globe artichoke, radishes, lemons & limes, rocket, kale, watercress, cabbage, green tea. Take this milk thistle supplement.
  6. Avoid constipation – try this belly massage.

There are lots of other supplements and herbs that can help with gall bladder and liver health. Book in for a kinesiology session with me to find out what your body needs.

What is it with crisps?

checkoutI needed some extra income this summer so I’ve been working weekends on the checkout at a supermarket. It has really brought home to me the message that WE ARE WHAT WE EAT. Spend any amount of time looking at people and their shopping and you can clearly see the absolute correlation between health and diet.

One of the things that has shocked me most is the ubiquity of crisps. Just about every shopping basket contains a bag of crisps – of one size and type or another – from posh hand-cooked named potato varieties to strange puffs of something unrecognisable and flavoured like an exotic meal. There is a whole aisle of the supermarket dedicated to these savoury snacks.

CrispsAs a nation, us Brits must be eating our bodyweight in crisps each year. Why on earth do so many people buy sacks of 24 bags of crisps? (The quantity of non-recyclable packaging alone makes me feel queasy.) I wonder … is it because it’s only a small, light bag that we think they don’t count as food? Or that we can get away with eating them? Worse – why do we think every British adult’s and child’s lunchbox should contain a bag of crisps? Why does a supermarket ‘meal deal’ always include a bag of crisps? Do we think they are adding something to our nutrition? Or do we just believe they’re harmless to our health?

Crisps are BAD food. For a start, they wreak dental havoc because they are basically just starch – their digestion starts with the saliva in our mouths and they stick to our teeth better than sweets or chocolate. They are deep-fried at high temperatures in oil. (Don’t be duped into thinking the oils are healthy because they have pretty made-up names!) Any seed oil at high temperature becomes unstable (begins to create free radicals) and re-heating creates even more instability. Free radicals are most definitely a huge threat to our health. The ‘free’ (hanging on by a thread) molecule bits scavenge our body’s cells for a mate – at any price. They will even steal molecules from our very DNA to try to stabilise themselves. This is what causes diseases like cancer. Read the ‘Processes’ part of this Wikipedia article for more detail.

Unrecognisable ingredients!
Unrecognisable ingredients!

Furthermore, the ‘bad fats’ they contain cancel out the ‘good fats’ (omegas) in our diet – and the average UK diet is already very low in these essential fats. Finally, the flavourings they are coated with are high in artificial flavourings, sugar, artificial sweeteners (why??) and of course salt. Artificial chemicals are alien to our bodies and have to be neutralised and processed by our liver. A single serving pack of ready salted crisps contains at least 0.5g of salt. That isn’t a problem in itself but I bet crisp eaters are eating more than one of those little bags a day and I bet they’re also eating plenty of other foods high in salt – preserved meats (bacon, sausages, etc), ready meals, convenience foods (pasta sauces). So one of those little bags could well take them over the 5g recommended daily salt intake – for an adult.

Yes, crisps can be tasty but before you tuck in, please remember they are not food – in fact, they are anti-nutrition! If you’re in great health and your diet usually consists of lots of fresh vegetables and good sources of protein, then you can probably afford to ‘treat’ yourself once in a while. Otherwise, please leave them out of your daily diet!

If you want a salty snack, open a jar of olives or try one of these favourites of mine:

  • Tamari Seeds: put a handful each of (raw) sunflower and pumpkin seeds into a frying pan on medium heat. Stir all the time – do not allow them to brown! You will see the seeds begin to swell and puff up – at this point, remove the pan from the heat and drizzle on a teaspoon of tamari (wheat free soya sauce). Stir quickly and well. Leave to cool before serving.
  • Salt and Pepper Cashews: melt a teaspoon of coconut oil in a frying pan on medium heat. Add two handfuls of raw cashew or cashew pieces (they’re cheaper!) – stir continuously – don’t let them burn. As soon as they begin to turn a golden colour, remove from the heat and sprinkle on sea salt and fine black pepper to taste (do NOT stir). Leave to cool before serving.
  • Linseed crackers – get my recipe here.

All of these recipes should be stored in an airtight jar for a few days only (if there’s any left over!).

Herbs: how to keep summer flavours alive for longer

Fresh organic basil from Goldhill Organics
Fresh organic basil from Goldhill Organics

Nothing says summer more than a fragrant bunch of basil. Fabulous with tomato salad and added to omelettes. But I don’t eat pasta very often so making pesto with this bagful in my veg box from Goldhill Organics isn’t an option. I’ve come up with two ways to make my bunches of summer herbs last longer … Even into the winter months.

  1. Basil oil – I thoroughly blitzed all the stalks and some of the leaves, two cloves of fresh garlic, some sea salt and a good glug of olive oil in my Nutribullet. This will keep for weeks in the fridge. I use it to drizzle on salads and roasted vegetables. I brush it onto stuffed peppers before roasting them and drizzle it onto steamed fish or roast chicken.
  2. Basil butter – I chopped all the leaves, added a pat of butter, the zest of a lemon and one clove of fresh garlic before roughly blitzing in my Nutribullet. I put teaspoonfuls onto a plate and quickly froze them before bagging them for the winter. A taste of summer melted onto steamed fish, veggies, steak, jackets potatoes, etc.

Cook only with saturated fats (coconut oil, butter, ghee, lard) or virgin olive oil

olive-oil-968657_1920This is a contentious subject (my favourite kind!). Most people are still working with the misinformation that seed oils (rapeseed, sunflower, etc) are healthier and better for us than traditional fats and oils such as butter and lard. This is so wrong!  Polyunsaturated oils are the most likely to oxidise while on the supermarket shelf (especially in clear plastic bottles!) and the most toxic when heated to high temperatures. Saturated fats are the most stable and therefore cause the least health problems and no, they don’t make you fat – see my fat article here.

Olive oil is the exception. It is high in oleic acid which is mono-unsaturated and therefore oxidises less easily (and it should come in a dark glass bottle). The extra-virgin and virgin forms have added protection in the form of built-in antioxidants: tocopherols which protect it on the shelf and polyphenols which protect it at high temperatures. Read more about the dangers of seed oils here and about olive oil being safe to cook with here and here.

So, to sum up … buy the best olive oil you can afford and use it for ‘gentle’ cooking. I use organic coconut oil or butter for frying and coconut oil for roasting. I really must get around to making my own ghee … that way the watery part of the butter won’t burn in the pan.

Eating fat does not make you fat … or sick!

avocadoI’m fascinated by this myth. A lot of people still believe that eating fat will make them fat. Yes, there are bad fats – trans fats – which come from seed oils, margarine, hydrogenated fats and any cooking oil which has been re-heated. These are undoubtedly bad for us – they’re high in calories, have little or no nutritional value and lots of potential for negative effects on our health. But the fats in, for example, olive oil, oily fish, eggs and avocados are fantastically good for us and well worth their calories in terms of nutrition and health benefits. Yet I often hear these foods described as ‘naughty but nice’. The “good” fats in these foods can even counteract the effects of trans fats in our diets. Eating an avocado will certainly provide you with far more good nutrition and health benefits per calorie than a bag of chips!

The one food that has no nutritional value, lots of calories and most definitely can make you fat and sick is …. SUGAR. Science has known this for a long time (Dr John Yudkin’s amazing book ‘Pure, White and Deadly’ was first published in 1972) and yet we’re still told to cut down on dietary fat and take statins. Very simply, when we eat too much sugar (or carbohydrates which are broken down into sugar during digestion), our body stores the calories as fat. When we eat (good) fat, it’s broken down into fatty acids and absorbed for use in cell walls, for brain function, nerve transmission, etc. Any surplus is passed out as waste (pooh!). It’s basic biology … so why is everyone ignoring it? Could it be that the drug companies who make statins and the food companies who make processed food, don’t want us to know this basic biology?

That still leaves the question: why are our medical doctors still telling us to cut down on fat in our diet? And why are statins still widely prescribed on the basis of total blood cholesterol levels? Especially when the risks of taking them are high. Three measurements are currently provided in the UK from a blood cholesterol test: total cholesterol, HDL and LDL. However, we’re not usually told that there are two types of LDL – one that is a large and floaty type of LDL which is connected to eating fats but which is NOT connected to causing ill-health and a smaller, denser type which is most definitely correlated to heart disease (by hardening and furring up arteries). This last type of LDL comes from eating … yes, you guessed it … SUGAR. So, too, do Triglycerides. So why aren’t we told to cut out sugar and refined carbohydrates by our doctors? And why aren’t Triglycerides and the two main types of LDL shown on blood test results? Why do lots of so-called cholesterol-lowering products only refer to a total cholesterol level when it could be high due to having lots of lovely, beneficial HDL? I’ll leave you to work it out … more on sugar in another post.