Navigating the Arguments on Gluten, Vegan Oil Use and Fat

I feel the need to voice frustrations on my research of grains, gluten, the use of oil in cooking, and the effects of various fats. You and I both know there is terrible confusion out there when conducting a Google search on any of these topics. Popular YouTube videos and articles by medical doctors, chiropractors, PhD researchers, and other health enthusiasts make polar opposite claims. They are at war with each other over acclaimed facts and substantial research in health and nutrition.

It irritates me to see smart people who understand biology and nutrition, adamantly say why their own philosophy is real science compared to others who allegedly miss the point. What is going on here? Our health is at stake. Time is precious, and people want to know what they should and should not eat.

Say ‘bye’ to the good-old days of eating anywhere you like

Just about every restaurant and eatery out there uses cheap, rancid cooking oils loaded with too much omega-6, hormone-laden meats that were fed grain, and other harmful ingredients. Just about anything that is not organic will have glyphosate residue. This Monsanto pesticide destroys the gut lining among other negative effects.

For a while, Indian restaurants were one of my favorite cuisines until I gave them up. I love using spices such as turmeric, black pepper, cinnamon, cardamon, etc., due to their numerous health benefits. I learned quite a bit about Ayurveda in 2011 when I got into yoga and meditation. Though I enjoyed stopping at Indian restaurants to eat, I soon realized that I had to cease going in order to maintain my health standards.

Most restaurants out there, unless they’re high-end (expensive) and consciously managed, save money by using conventional grains, meat, dairy, eggs, flour, vegetables, fruits, and cooking oils. A couple restaurants I know of in the San Diego area are Café Gratitude and Haggo’s Organic Taco. These restaurants use only high quality ingredients devoid of GMOs, to the best of my knowledge.

However, that doesn’t necessarily mean it is ‘healthy’ to eat lots of their meals. Consuming too much organic GMO-free canola oil for example, will increase your inflammatory markers. If you are sensitive to certain lectins (like most people are whether they know it), and you have a weak intestinal tract from previous damage, your menu options are limited.

That said, I can’t just eat anywhere I please. It’s not easy—unlike the good old days when virtually everything was naturally organic. Back in the 50s and 60s you could stop to eat at just about any restaurant of your choice without worry. Now unfortunately, we live in a toxic world where almost every eatery is chalk-full of borderline poison. If you want to reach your optimum wellness and fitness potential, stay out of 99% of restaurants regularly.

Most cooking oils from restaurants are genetically modified and rancid

It didn’t take long for me to stop going to restaurants, unless they were the limited organic, conscious ones. Most eateries and takeout places serve junk oil that has been genetically modified. Why? Because it’s CHEAP. Obviously it’s more expensive to supply organic cold-pressed oils at your restaurant.

Thus many restaurants, in an effort to save more money, will often use the same oils over again in deep frying. Even if they claim that they change their oil frequently, it might not be after every heating cycle. Once oils are heated to smoke point they become dangerous to health due to their volatile nature at the molecular level.

Moreover, it is wise NOT to cook with oil in most cases due to the danger of rancidity. Also, added omega-6 vegetable fats may overburden your fat limits if you already have plant sources of fat in your food, creating more inflammation and free radical damage.

The omega-6 to omega-3 ratio should be 4:1, researchers say. However, the Standard American Diet (SAD) often results in a ratio of 40:1!

My experience with gluten

Growing up, I never had problems with gluten-containing grains such as wheat, barley and rye, until around 2012 when I left the Marine Corps. I became vegetarian for the most part, and was eating wheat in the form of pasta and other whole grain that I usually bought at Whole Foods Market. These products were almost always organic, or GMO-free at the least.

Here’s the problem. Around late 2012 I noticed an eczema rash on my right ankle. It got worse the following year even though I ate clean in all regards. The rest of my body was fine, but this annoying skin inflammation would not go away. I knew something about my diet had to change.

Recently I’ve seen great improvements after employing a strict regimen of removing ALL gluten, eating plenty of greens, and breaking my vegan diet by taking pharmaceutical-grade cod liver oil high in retinol (vitamin A). I also started taking supplemental vitamin D along with zinc, for tissue repair. After about 6 years of dealing with this awfully embarrassing, flaky and itchy rash, I’ve recently seen it start to diminish.

It’s almost gone. The eczema only comes back when I eat gluten for a week. Yes, I have experimented extensively with my diet to pinpoint the problem—sort of like a ‘biohacker.’ I guess you could call me one. It’s not just gluten though, which is a minor ‘lectin.’ There are numerous lectins in the seeds and skins of most plants, some of which can be removed by pressure cooking. Others however, like gluten, can be boiled or even pressure cooked for long periods of time—but the lectins will not be destroyed.

I have said, “Maybe it’s not the gluten, but the glyphosate, since it’s sprayed on crops and causes leaky gut.” I decide to consume only 100% organic wheat products like Ezekiel Bread, which is also sprouted. I bought my old 365 (Whole Foods brand) organic whole wheat pasta again. I honestly miss the taste. Nevertheless my health comes first.

I tried this last week—for the last time—because after noticing my old symptoms come back, I said “Enough.” The rash on my ankle started returning with annoying itchiness and red swelling (inflammation). Acne and skin pimples also returned on my neck along as well as on my left thigh, for whatever reason.

Moreover, I am absolutely sure I do not have celiac disease because I have eaten wheat and other gluten-containing grains my whole life, and never had symptoms. These skin problems developed in 2012 when I got out of the Marine Corps.

Come to think of it, I did have mandatory vaccinations during my 6 years. That’s another beast to investigate, and also reverse at all costs.

Today’s wheat is not the same

Since the 1970s, wheat has been hybridized. A laboratory process involved changing the genetic structure of wheat grass, making it grow short and stocky. Dr. William Davis has a lot of information on this because he researched it for his groundbreaking book, Wheat Belly.

Basically, wheat was hybridized by an interbreeding process through the work of Norman Borlaug. This is not the same as Einkorn wheat that was an earlier hybrid of the grasses’ interbreeding. In fact, the wheat mentioned in the Bible was the Emmer variety. Unlike humans who pass on a fixed number or chromosomes to their offspring, grasses such as wheat can crossbreed by contributing chromosomes in otherwise complex ways.

Dr. Davis also clams that since about ten-thousand years ago when humans stopped grazing as nomads and introduced grains, we stunted our growth and caused all kinds of inflammatory responses in our biology. This includes tooth decay.

Nonetheless, many people whether vegan or not don’t buy into the claims that gluten should be avoided. They feel it doesn’t seem to bother them. The question I have concerning this whether they ever eliminated gluten for a time period as an experiment to see if they felt better.

I know that when I first tried this experiment by removing gluten, I felt ‘lighter.’ Of course I had physical manifestations in the form of skin issues, but I noticed my mood changed as well.

I began to notice that the brain fog went away. Fogy thinking is sort of hard to describe, especially if you’ve never had it. It feels as though your cognitive functions still work, but with the added sensation of heaviness. In other words, it’s hard to know whether you have a clear mind, until you actually remove what is causing it.

Whole Grains are nutritious and excellent for the gut

I have heard Dr. Davis and others say that humans shouldn’t be eating grains at all. They argue that our ideal diet should be animals, vegetables, tubers and other starches in moderation, and fruit when in season. This sounds too much like typical Paleo doctrine though, and the only health leaders advocating this are not vegan—but omnivores. It seems to support the notion that they are too comfortable with their way of eating, regardless of the emerging science about grains for a healthy microbiome.

When I say “plant based diet” I don’t necessarily mean vegan. It simply implies getting most of your foods from plants—as a base. If you include small amounts of animal products, that’s your choice. As vegan doctor Michael Greger, MD, once said, it’s not “black and white” when referring to the benefits of moving toward plant-based eating.

That said, I personally have chosen to be vegan. I like what the science says on anti-aging and disease prevention concerning plant-only eating, and the way I feel overall.

Nonetheless, plant-based doctors and plant-based advocates generally agree that humans benefit most from a diet of whole grains, legumes, seeds, nuts, fruits and vegetables. There is substantial protein in grains, which combines with the amino acid profiles of other plant proteins, making them complete (all eight essential amino acids—like steak). In addition, grains are loaded with high quality fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Whole grains such as oats, millet, and buckwheat are loaded with soluble and insoluble fiber. This not only cleans the colon and arteries but gives the good bugs in the GI tract what they need to thrive.

Another criticism among omnivorous eaters is that too much phytates exist in grains, which blunt mineral absorption like zinc and iron. This is far fetched through. Not only does phytic acid protect against cancer, but it can be diminished through soaking or sprouting. Grains, legumes, lentils, and peas can also be combined with illiums like garlic or onions to help absorb minerals that might be otherwise get blocked by phytic acid. This method has been tested with success; thus some feel sulfur content to be responsible for this.

Absurd claims by vegan advocates to avoid all oil without exception

Even though I am no fan of cooking oil, it doesn’t mean that oil is inherently bad per se. There are health experts and doctors in the vegan community who vehemently criticize the notion of cooking using oils on your foods, even if it’s GMO-free and organic.

A little fat is needed in order to absorb plant polyphenols. If you are eating a big salad, without any avocado, nuts (or perhaps a little virgin olive oil), you are likely losing out on mega benefits of all those colorful antioxidant compounds in the plants. They are probably passing right through your digestive tract and out the other end.

Therefore, let’s keep a little common sense and perspective with regards to oils and fat. Yes, olive oil is processed, but if it’s unfiltered, cold-pressed and organic—it’s packed with valuable polyphenols from the olives.

The anti-oil advocates argue that you’re missing out on the lost fiber and other nutrients that have been discarded during the oil-making process. However, this is silly. As mentioned above, if your’e consuming a quality grade coconut or olive oil, for example, you’re still conveniently getting much of the ‘good stuff.’

Using small amounts of clean oil is not unhealthy

If you only use a little clean oil with your meal, assuming your plate is not overloaded with nuts or avocados, you are not overburdening your plate with calories. The fact that lots of plant product is discarded to make a small amount of oil—does not mean that MATH doesn’t apply.

In other words, using a reasonable amount of oil on a healthy starch, legume or grain meal that does not have nuts, avocados, or other whole plant source of fat, is not an issue. In fact, in that case you will get the small amount of necessary lipids needed to help absorb the fat-soluble antioxidants in the food.

As long as your oil is GMO-free, and preferably organic, a little won’t put your omega-6s out of balance so long as you’re getting enough omega-3. I personally follow Dr. Michael Greger’s advice and consume about 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed everyday, usually on my oatmeal in the morning.

I’m just using my intuition and acquired knowledge. I still avoid snacks like chips, and entrees at vegan restaurants that contain oil even if they’re one-hundred percent organic, because I don’t want to overburden my body with omega-6 fats. That said, sometimes I prefer a small amount of good olive oil on my salad instead of whole olives or nuts. What’s the big deal?

Why are the anti-oil advocates so extreme in this regard? It’s because they blanket all Americans as lacking self-control or moderation. Instead of being logically accurate with common sense, they dumb it down for the average person.

However, my readers on this blog are conscientious and above average. I deliberately geared this site for people like you. So, to you high caliber health advocates—this cookie cutter advice is NOT for you.

Put good saturated fat on a ‘budget’ and use monounsaturated options

I have had an interesting relationship with saturated fat since my plant-based journey began. Though high levels of saturated fat may increase LDL cholesterol and clog arteries, this an indirect response due to inflammation and oxidation at the arterial lining. Take away the substances that cause inflammation and oxidation, like sugar and excessive carbs, and you have less of a threat.

Hence, polyphenols in foods such as olive oil, tea, cocoa, and other plants are shown to have been shown to profoundly enhance arterial health by lessening stiffness and reducing inflammation. These phenolic compounds act as water on a fire by preventing free radical damage (aka. oxidation) that causes inflammation and plague to form. A diet devoid of these phytochemicals is a prescription for heart disease.

Nevertheless, vegetable and fruit oils have been shown to inhibit cardiovascular function after a heavy meal. The vegans love to rant on this and say that even olive oil has been shown to do this in some studies. Therefore, eliminate organic olive or avocado oil? This is absurd! Yes, avoid processed polyunsaturated vegetable oils like the plague (corn, canola, soy, safflower, peanut, etc.), but don’t skimp out on the beneficial

However, the bottom line is: (1) keep inflammation under control by consuming polyphenols and other anti-inflammatory foods that contribute to heart health, such as omega-3 fatty acids; (2) stop consuming processed pro-inflammatory vegetable oils high in omega-6 (which imbalance your vital EFA ratio); and (3) stop consuming sugar, whether from excessive fruit, fruit juices (i.e. carrot juice), excessive grains, and refined flour.

It seems that both benefits and drawbacks exist with consuming saturated fat. As one who avoids animal products altogether, that would be coconut and palm oil for me. Still, a little saturated fat doesn’t seem dangerous considering it is a type of fat that cannot oxidize, unlike polyunsaturated fats.

I have heard chiropractic doctors and other natural health researchers say that the body uses saturated fat for cell membranes and hormone production. My argument again points to common sense and self-regulating of one’s consumption. If a little saturated is actually beneficial, then have self-control rather than going cold-turkey on avoidance. It’s about being mature and responsible.

Dr. Andrew Weil, MD, has modified his stance on saturated fat over the years. He says we should have a “budget” on its consumption. Emerging studies conclude that saturated fat and cholesterol ALONE do NOT cause heart disease (atherosclerosis: hardening of arteries). Rather, the plague is formed by oxidation due to inflammation, which elevated blood sugar levels have a lot to do with.

Conclusion

We are living in an age of information overload. This is not necessarily a bad thing considering that all the information is at our fingertips. The only requirements are self-control, focus, and determination to discover the truth for yourself concerning health. These hot topics (gluten, oil use, and fat) take work to uncover the truth.

There’s so many opposing views among otherwise intelligent and reputable people out there. A major reason for this is the agenda of such people and the groups they associate with. If a corporation or food industrial entity (i.e. American Egg Board, National Dairy Council) wants to sell a product or promote a diet, they will often fund studies that are biased toward their prerogative. They often pay doctors and lab researchers for studies that favor their ultimate motive.

Thus you can use the same bias as a vegan and say that all animal products have absolutely no good use. This is just nonsense. Look at the way our ancestors have been eating for thousands of years—most of the time WITHOUT heart attacks.

I see doctors, many of whom I still listen to and respect, say opposing claims about gluten, oil and saturated fat—largely because they are defending their own dietary lifestyles. That is, the carnivores don’t want to give up meat, and the vegans don’t want to recognize facts that may conflict with their own opinions.

Everyone in these opposing camps say that what they claim is the ‘true science.’ Sure. Truth is, one of them is right, and the other is wrong. If 2 + 2 equals 4 to one person and 3 to another, both cannot be right.

That is why I do my own research and really hone in on what these people are saying. After all, it’s my body and future health that’s at stake—not theirs.

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