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Cooking without Seed Oils in Fort Worth
In today's world, we are constantly bombarded with information about what we should and shouldn't eat. One topic that has gained traction in recent years is the controversy surrounding seed oils, particularly canola and sunflower oil. As these oils have become more common in our diets, it's important to take a closer look at their origins, their impact on our health, and why we should consider reverting to the cooking fats and oils that were popular in the early 1900s.
At the end of this article, we'll provide resources on where you can purchase natural fats like Beef Tallow, Lard, Olive Oil, Avocado Oil, and other natural fats in Fort Worth.
A Brief History of Seed Oils
Seed oils, extracted from the seeds of various plants, have been used for centuries in various forms. However, the mass production of seed oils as we know them today can be traced back to the early 20th century. Canola oil, for example, is a relatively recent invention. It was developed in the 1970s as a healthier alternative to rapeseed oil, which contains high levels of erucic acid, a compound known to cause heart problems.
Sunflower oil, on the other hand, has a longer history. It was first commercialized in Russia during the late 1800s and made its way to the United States in the early 1900s. It gained popularity due to its high smoke point and mild taste, which made it an ideal choice for frying and baking.
The Shift from Traditional Fats
In the early 1900s, people primarily relied on traditional fats, such as lard, tallow, and butter, for their cooking needs. These fats, derived from animals, were rich in saturated fats and were used for generations without any significant adverse health effects. However, the rise of seed oils coincided with a growing concern about the impact of saturated fats on heart health. As a result, seed oils, which are high in polyunsaturated fats, were marketed as healthier alternatives.
The Problem with Seed Oils
Despite the health claims surrounding canola and sunflower oil, recent research has shown that these oils may not be as beneficial as they were once thought to be. Here are some reasons why you should consider avoiding them:
- High Omega-6 to Omega-3 Ratio: Both canola and sunflower oil are high in omega-6 fatty acids, which, when consumed in excess, can lead to inflammation in the body. An ideal diet should have a balanced ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. However, most modern diets are heavily skewed towards omega-6, largely due to the widespread use of seed oils.
- Processing: Canola and sunflower oil undergo extensive processing, which involves the use of high heat, chemicals, and solvents. This processing can strip the oils of their natural nutrients and create harmful byproducts, such as trans fats and oxidized fatty acids.
- Unstable Fats: Polyunsaturated fats found in seed oils are more prone to oxidation than saturated fats. Oxidation can create harmful free radicals in the body, leading to inflammation and cell damage.
The Return to Traditional Fats
As the drawbacks of seed oils become more apparent, many people are turning back to traditional fats, such as lard, tallow, and butter. These fats, which have been used for generations, are more stable and less likely to oxidize when heated. They also contain a more balanced ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, which can help reduce inflammation in the body.
Although canola and sunflower oil have been touted as healthy alternatives to traditional fats, emerging evidence suggests that they may not be as beneficial as once thought.
The Synthetic Oil Paradox
One common thing we see is Americans balking at plant based meat and in the same sentence, gorging themselves on plant based butter -- aka margarine! Plant Based Butter is packed full of harmful seed oils and synthetic, unnatural ingredients that are proven to be harmful to human health. In fact, in one study, it cemented why cooking with natural, animal based fats, is a healthier alternative than cooking with synthetically made seed oils.
But before we get to the long lost study of cooking fats in an insane asylum, we have to explain who started the war against natural cooking fats.
The Nebraska Businessman's Anti-Beef Fat Crusade
In the late 1980s, a Nebraska businessman named Phil Sokolof embarked on a personal mission to fight against saturated fats, particularly beef fat. Having suffered a heart attack at the age of 43, Sokolof attributed his health issues to his high consumption of saturated fats. He decided to use his fortune to wage a war on these fats, targeting fast food chains like McDonald's.
Sokolof's public relations campaign included full-page newspaper ads that condemned the use of beef fat in McDonald's French fries. The ads, which featured headlines such as "The Poisoning of America," prompted widespread public concern over the health risks associated with consuming saturated fats.
In response to Sokolof's campaign and the mounting pressure from consumers, McDonald's eventually replaced beef fat with vegetable oil, specifically a blend of seed oils, in the early 1990s. This change marked a significant turning point in the fast-food industry, as other chains followed suit and embraced seed oils as a seemingly healthier alternative to traditional animal fats.
The Surprising Findings of the Minnesota Insane Asylum Study
Ironically, while Sokolof's campaign led to the widespread adoption of seed oils, research conducted around the same time revealed that traditional fats like butter might actually be healthier than their industrially-produced counterparts.
One such study, known as the Minnesota Coronary Experiment, took place between 1968 and 1973. In the study, researchers replaced the saturated fat in the diet of participants from an insane asylum with polyunsaturated fats, primarily from margarine. The aim was to determine whether this switch would lead to lower cholesterol levels and a reduced risk of heart disease.
However, the results of the study, which remained largely unpublished until 2016, revealed a surprising truth: while participants who consumed margarine did have lower cholesterol levels, they also experienced a higher mortality rate than those who continued to consume butter. This finding cast doubt on the widely accepted belief that margarine and other seed oil-based products were healthier than traditional fats.
The story of Phil Sokolof's PR campaign against beef fat and McDonald's highlights the power of public opinion in shaping food industry practices. However, the findings from the Minnesota study remind us that it's important to critically examine the research behind the health claims of various food products. In the case of seed oils and margarine, it turns out that traditional fats like butter may indeed be the healthier option.
Before the era of seed oils, cowboys across the Fort Worth area relied on traditional fats to cook their hearty meals while out on the open range or at their ranches. Lard, tallow, and rendered beef fat (also known as suet) were staples in their outdoor kitchens, providing the necessary energy to fuel their physically demanding lifestyle.
These natural, unprocessed fats not only offered a rich, robust flavor to cowboy cuisine but were also easily accessible, as they were derived from the animals they raised and hunted. Meals like chili con carne, campfire biscuits, and fried steak were cooked to perfection using these traditional fats, creating a taste that's truly reminiscent of the Old West.
Today, as more people are rediscovering the benefits of traditional cooking fats, the culinary heritage of the Texas cowboys serves as a testament to the time-honored practice of using natural, unadulterated ingredients for a healthier and more flavorful dining experience.
Here are some resources to find high quality cooking fats locally in Fort Worth, Azle, Weatherford, Cleburne, Granbury, Decatur, Crowley, and more:
The Fort Worth area boasts several locations where you can purchase high-quality lard, tallow, and even rendered duck fat. Here's a short guide to help you find the perfect source for your natural cooking fat needs.
- Local Butcher Shops: Fort Worth is home to a number of excellent butcher shops that offer natural cooking fats. Pay a visit to establishments like The Meat Board or Burgundy's Local to find premium, locally-sourced lard, tallow, and other animal fats.
- Farmers Markets: Farmers markets are an excellent place to find fresh, locally-produced cooking fats. Check out the Cowtown Farmers Market, Cleburne Farmers Market, or Clearfork Farmers Market to connect with local vendors who can provide you with top-quality, unprocessed fats.
- Health Food Stores: Health-focused grocery stores like Central Market or Sprouts Farmers Market often carry a range of natural cooking fats, including organic and grass-fed options. Browse their shelves for lard, tallow, ghee, or even coconut oil to add depth and richness to your dishes.
- Online Retailers: If you're unable to find the specific cooking fat you're looking for in-store, online retailers like US Wellness Meats or Fatworks offer a variety of high-quality, natural cooking fats that can be shipped directly to your door.
By choosing to cook with natural, traditional fats, you're not only adding flavor to your meals but also making a healthier choice for you and your family. Fort Worth offers a variety of options for sourcing these ingredients, making it easy to embrace a more wholesome approach to cooking.