After being poisoned by pesticides in 1980, I seriously turned my passion and attention to health. I obsessively studied literature, created a method for making oils with health in mind, developed the first ever flax seed oil, authored several books on the effects of oils on health, and enthusiastically educated the public in about 40 countries on the effects of oils on health and disease.
One of the biggest discoveries I made over the years, was how oils were impacted by heat and the damage they do to our bodies. If you truly value your health, you need to read this.
When you fry or deep fry food, you change health-supporting, naturally occurring food molecules (proteins, starches, fats/oils) into damaged, unnatural, inflammation and cancer-causing molecules. Damaged oils hurt your health. Any food damaged by overheating it with oils also hurts your health. All in all, you pay for the time you save by faster cooking with a sicker body and shorter life.
Who taught you to do that? Mostly, the oil industry promoted the use of oils for cooking foods. What was industry’s incentive for promoting the health-hostile use of oils for cooking? Maybe they wanted to sell more oil.
During my childhood (I turned 80 years old in 2022), cooking meant using hot water to prepare foods. Cooking in oils is not an old, traditional habit. The mega salad and cooking oil industry began only at the beginning of the 20th century, just over 100 years ago. Mass production, and the processing of oils to make them colorless, odorless, and tasteless began at that time.
Cooking oils line store shelves on every continent, usually packaged in plastic bottles, and sometimes in tin cans or large tins. Industry damaged these oils by processing to extend their shelf life; it treats oils with a feast of harsh chemicals and then bleaches them. This ‘chemical feast’ produces a dirty, smelly mess. Then, industry uses a second chemical feast to clean up the mess it made with the first chemical feast. It deodorizes, molecularly distills or wiped film evaporates them at frying temperature to blow off the bad odors produced by the harsh chemicals and bleaching clays.
The industry’s marketing has been highly successful. No matter where you go in the world, most people of all cultures now cook their foods in oil. Most people think that they couldn’t live without eating fried foods. But this fried taste is always the same and overpowers the thousands of nuances in tastes and fragrances that fresh plant-based foods by nature have. It’s a marketing-hustled, acquired taste.
The sweet truth is that you do not have to keep living as though you had no choice. The sweet truth about oils is that more health benefits come from good oils made with health in mind than from any other aspect of nutrition. Why? Oils, the most sensitive of our essential nutrients, support the healthy functioning of every one of your cells. Fresh, they play important roles in hundreds of different ways in your body, including oxygen metabolism and energy production. Protected from damage done by light, oxygen and heat, they retain their essential health benefits.
When you protect good oils with the care they need, they protect you with the care you need. When they get care, they give you health care. When you protect them, they protect you. Protected and undamaged, they protect and improve your health.
Your day’s normal supply of oil, about 28-56 grams (2-4 tablespoons), comes mostly in the form of so-called salad and cooking oils. 60 quintillion damaged and potentially toxic molecules come into your body with every tablespoon of cooking oil – multiply that by 2 to 4, the number of tablespoons of oil you eat each day. When you fry your foods in such oils, you can multiply the number of the damaged molecules by perhaps another factor of 3-6 times.
When you repeat this daily for 20 or 30 years, what do you get? You get a body in chronic pain, inflamed, immune-suppressed, sick, tired, oxygen-deprived, and depleted. You get a body prematurely racked and possibly terminal with cancer, heart disease and other serious health conditions. When health becomes seriously important to you, you will stop using such oils, because they are not in their natural state, and are therefore incompatible with health, which is your natural state.
Because none of these kinds of damaged molecules existed in nature, life never made a genetic (DNA) program for breaking them down and making them either harmless or useful to the body. Your immune system cannot disarm them. In the body, they interfere with natural processes. They act as monkey wrenches into the biochemical works. They interfere with your health. They can cause disease and premature death.
In your frying pan, oils that have already been damaged by industrial processing (as I’ve described above) sustain even more damage by light, air, and heat acting on them simultaneously. This kind of damage creates even more unnatural molecules and far more health problems. You’ve already heard that foods become toxic when you overheat them. Most people don’t think clearly enough about this.
What kind of temperatures damage oils? In the presence of light and oxygen, every 10°C (18°F) rise in temperature, no matter what temperature you start with, speeds reactions with light and oxygen by 2-4 times. What does this mean in practice? Here’s the math. Assume that the rate of reaction just doubles every 10° C. In comparison to the rate of damaging chemical reactions in an oil at freezing temperature (0°C), an oil at 180°C will react at a rate of 2 times itself 18 times. That produces an exponential increase in the number of damaged molecules. Keeping in mind that the ‘ideal’ deep frying temperature is between 177 °C and 191 °C, follow me in writing out the numbers.
At 10°C, the rate of reaction is double the rate at 0°C. At 20°C, the rate is 4 times that at 0°C. At 30°C, the rate is 8 times that at 0°C. At 40°C, the rate is 16 times that at 0°C. At 180°C, the rate of reaction will be 262,142 times faster than it is at 0°C. At the high end of frying temperature, 250°C, the rate of reaction is more than 33 million times higher than at 0°C. The damage at such high temperatures is huge. The oil becomes a toxic mess. The longer you maintain that temperature, the greater the number of molecules that change from natural to unnatural and toxic.
These unnatural molecules in oils cause inflammation when you ingest them. Inflammation is your immune system’s response to unnatural molecules in your body. Life designed your immune system to alert you when you are under attack and trained it to deal with molecular enemies. Many different kinds of unnatural molecules trigger your immune responses. Plastics, pesticides, industrial chemicals, pharma drugs, synthetic preservatives, and cosmetics are on this list, as are all unnatural molecules created from natural molecules during food processing.
Life did not create a way for your immune system to break down the unnatural molecules created by frying. Why can’t your immune system break them down? It’s not punishment. It’s just that unnatural molecules did not exist in nature and life did not need to make a way to break them down. They persist in your body and interfere with your body’s natural, biochemical workings.
Inflammation often leads to degeneration in any and many different tissues in your body. It’s the first step in the development of most major degenerative diseases. This applies to both localized and systemic health issues. Damaged oils also disorganize oxygen metabolism and impair energy production; some people notice that every time they eat foods fried in oil, they feel tired and heavy. It’s a sign. Foods are supposed to give you energy, not rob you of it.
Inflammation also increases risk of cancer. Fried starch and sugar, fried protein and fried oil/fat each raise the risk of cancer, independent of one another. Anything you fry will fry your health. All this is due to the changed molecules. A 2016 study showed that cooking oil fume exposure increased the risk of lung cancer among Chinese nonsmoking women.
Here’s my suggestion for how to best use a frying pan. Take it out of its hiding place. Turn it upside down. Hit yourself on the head with it, to associate the frying pan with pain. Then throw it out. Permanently store it in the garbage bin (you can also donate it or check with your local recycling program to find out if they can recycle it as scrap metal). Free yourself from its destructiveness. If you keep and use your frying pan, you’ll cause yourself a ton of life-shortening pain.
Oils go well in salads, smoothies, shakes, purees and soups, on hot, steamed vegetables, sweets, starches, proteins and fruit. There are no foods that should not be taken with oils. Many people ask how to use good oils in foods. I’m no cook. My idea of a good meal is to eat a lot of raw foods. My stove is the most underused equipment in my home. Only when someone visits me does my stove get turned on, because they turn it on.
If health is what you want, take responsibility for learning the facts. Then you have a foundation to also take responsibility for changing your choice. When I learned about the damage done to oils, I stopped eating fried foods. That is the single most positive nutrition-related step I’ve taken for health in my life.
Throw out your frying pan and your cooking oils. Add oils made with health in mind to foods after the food come off the heat. Add good oils just before you eat the foods. That way, you get the health benefits. Oils also enhance food flavors, and they improve the absorption of oil-soluble food ingredients into your body. Many of the oil-soluble molecules in foods have health benefits, which means that good oils actually make your good foods healthier.
Udo Erasmus has extensive education in biochemistry, biology and an MA in Counseling Psychology from Adler University. He is the author of Fats and Oils, Fats That Heal Fats That Kill, Choosing the Right Fats, Omega 3 Cuisine, The Book on Total Sexy Health, and the upcoming Your Body Needs an Oil Change: How to Use Good Oils to Look, Feel, Think, Do, & Heal Better. Udo is the creator of Udo’s Oil® 3·6·9 Blend, a multiple award-winning mix of plant-based, unrefined, certified organic food oils made with health in mind.