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How Vegetable Oil Is Killing Us

By Shawn K. Inlow

I was sitting in Jared Ricotta's office over in The Swamp. That would be the Penn-Highlands healthcare facility near Philipsburg, Pa. I had been trying to get an idea of how best to take care of myself into my retirement years.

I had donated a kidney some years ago and had been drinking too much beer and had gotten to a place where I had been running myself into a ditch. My numbers were going the wrong direction. I had been diagnosed with stage one kidney disease, which is especially troubling for someone with only one kidney. It appears that the last thing a kidney donor needs is to be on a donor list themselves. I'd been to a kidney doc who tried to put me on a blood pressure medication that made me feel like I was going to die. I couldn't take even a little of that stuff.

A different doc said that if I showed up to my next appointment and was dropping weight, I wouldn't need medications to care for my ailing kidney. But I needed to consider some basic changes. So I went to Jared, my regular doc, to try and work out what those changes should be. "I've never had high cholesterol in my life, but my numbers are showing high cholesterol," I told Jared. "I'm overweight, and this blood pressure medication is going to kill me first." "I don't care about your cholesterol right now," said Ricotta. "But you might want to think about your diet." Jared recommended a little booklet called "Food Rules" by Dr. Catherine Shanahan. "If people could just follow the simple rules in that book," said Jared, "I would be out of a job." Weirdly, I already had a book by Dr. Shanahan, "The Fatburn Fix," in my e-book library. I had heard about the book on a podcast or something and downloaded it at some point. I started there. I took that book to heart and, over a two month trip out west, implemented the advice. It was life-changing. I knew the changes I made were making a difference. My gut was evaporating. I felt better. But when I came home and stepped on the weight scales, I was shocked to have lost 25 pounds - without exercise - during my trip. You can go and get a book by Dr. Shanahan if you like, but I'm gonna boil it down for you.

It turns out that the modern food system is really bad for you. Shanahan describes how the human body is designed to burn fat, and will do so if you just get out of the way. But people today fill their pie holes with a lot of high fructose corn syrup and processed food, which offers your body sugar to burn. This trains your body NOT to burn, but instead to store away, fat. I found out two important things:

1. the right fats are good for you and

2. vegetable oil is bad for you.

Fat, when burned by your body, is more efficient and provides more energy than anything else. The fats that are good for you are saturated and monounsaturated fats. So, bacon and eggs, whole milk, steak, butter... THAT's the ticket. These fats are constructed in a way that cannot oxidize in your blood stream. Oxidization causes damage. A "saturated" fat is a molecule that has no spaces along the molecule where oxygen can combine. A "monounsaturated" fat is one that has only ONE place for anything to combine with chemically. And being that oxygen is a big fatty, it requires TWO seats at the table to combine, monounsaturated fats also prevent oxidization in the bloodstream. A polyunsaturated fat? Like vegetable oil? Which is in almost everything you can buy in a supermarket? CAUSES oxidization in the bloodstream and damages your cells. So, dude. Cut out polyunsaturated fats such as vegetable oil. That margarine you're using because you think it's good for you is doing precisely the opposite thing you think it's doing. So this "fatburn fix" that Dr. Shanahan is pushing kind of works the whole "keto" vein that is so popular right now. Reading this book explains to you the why behind the keto.

It helps, of course, to cut down carbs. I decided to eliminate beer from my diet, for example, which was probably the biggest part of my problem. But it helps most to limit carbs (you know: toast) in the morning. Your body can handle some carbs better around dinner time. Ezekiel bread is a really good kind of bread, or, you can be like me and go for some of those crazy good Dave's Killer Breads. It also helps to understand that fruits, which Weight Watchers calls a "zero" in their points system, metabolize straight into sugar, which also defeats your body's retraining into a fat burning engine.

When you retrain your body to burn fat, like it is supposed to, you'll find out you're not hungry so much anymore. These days, I eat two small meals per day and I am more energetic and feel better all the time. The nice thing about "The Fatburn Fix," for me, was that it offers a lot of ideas about what foods are best and what are the good sources of the right fats. I am back to drinking whole milk instead of 2%. Bacon and eggs are good all the time. Avocados are magic. Corn tortillas are better than those made with white flour (white flour - BAD). Olive oil: also magic. Cook with butter, yo. I've heard it said that the quality of a kitchen is directly proportional to the amount of butter within it. This appears to be entirely TRUE. I've also found out that eating out at restaurants is pretty bad for you. Most places offer you portions that are just way out of line and you leave there feeling gross once you've made these changes. A cool thing, however, is that you CAN have a burger and fries at your local place for dinner and that's basically a lot of good fats for you. You just hope your restaurant is not cooking with vegetable oil.

Whole food. Basically vegetables and beans. Great for you. And if you want some peanut butter, there are kinds that don't use vegetable oil. Sometimes I just eat a tin of tuna in olive oil. That might sound gross to you, but it's a protein bomb and there's no cooking involved. I hate cooking. Also really good? Mixed nuts. I eat 'em by the handful. Salt, according to Dr. Shanahan, is good. I have no idea what my numbers are going to be when I make my next trip to my kidney doc. I promise I'll come back and let you know. But I get the feeling I'm going in the right direction for the first time in years. I just FEEL different. Better.

Otherwise, you can just go to Trader Joe's and read some labels like everybody else. I was looking around: There are no fatty's at Trader Joe's.

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