Bitesize Health Hack #9

You are invited to…

Get oiled up!

There is one ubiquitous toxin that most of us are unknowingly taking into our bodies on a daily basis with devastating consequences to our health.  It has been shown to damage cell membranes, particularly in the nervous system and brain and has long been associated with reduced energy, cancers, heart disease, obesity, chronic inflammation, skin diseases, immune dysfunction, liver damage and premature aging.

Sounds like something to eliminate right?

Now if you’ve followed us for a little while, you’ll know we’re not big on suddenly cutting something out of your life, even if that means a short-cut to a healthier, happier you.  Our approach is more about filling your life with the good so that there really is no room (or desire!) left for the bad.  And a sudden or big change rarely works anyway – sometimes your physiology (body, mind and even soul!) needs time to adjust with easy bitesize steps.

But there is absolutely ONE thing that we do believe everybody should eliminate, or at least reduce, from their diet TODAY!  And no, it’s not sugar (which is much easier to metabolise out of your system with a few simple hacks) – we’re talking about highly processed commercial seed and vegetable oils – yup those innocent looking bottles of yellow stuff on the supermarket shelf.

set of vegetable or sunflower oil in plastic bottle isolated on white background


Eliminate ALL highly processed commercial cooking oils and margarines from your pantry.

Coconut oil on the wooden table

The Challenges

Challenge #1 – What to use for cooking?

When it comes to cooking, there are absolutely no challenges to this hack.  You simply throw out the bad oils and replace with several healthy options:

  • Coconut Oil
  • Butter and/or Ghee
  • Cold Pressed (extra virgin) Olive Oil

Challenge #2 – Hidden refined oils

Unfortunately, most processed foods contain refined oils (and not just crisps and other junk - even the health-food options like protein bars and mayo), so you need to check the labels on all your boxed and bottled foods in the pantry.  If you can’t find alternatives using healthy, unprocessed fats, you may need to try making them yourself or gradually reduce your intake of those products.

Challenge #3 – Eating Out

This hack is more about what you do at home if you only eat out occasionally.  But if you eat out regularly, then you'll need to pay a little more attention to what you order..

Unfortunately, it’s not just your local fish and chip shop that uses copious amounts of vegetable and seed oils - even the healthiest restaurants tend to cook predominantly with refined vegetable oils and margarine, making it next to impossible to completely eliminate damaged fats from your diet if you eat out regularly.

Avoid deep-fried food and other oil-intensive dishes and if you regularly pick up lunch, eat out regularly or enjoy takeaways, then consider gradually moving to a more homecooked style of eating (even if you outsource the cooking or use meal kits where you simply add the cooking oil of your choice).  You could also call around to local restaurants to find out what they use for cooking or if they are willing to cook your food using butter or coconut oil instead of seed oils.

Friend Friendship Dining Celebration Hanging out Concept

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My take on the


(if you’re all about “But why…?”)

Neurotransmission in the Synapse. Neurons and nervous system (3d illustration)

Fat isn’t inherently bad.  It has been the primary fuel source for humans since they first evovled and facilitated the development of the complex human brain.

When it comes to nourishing the cells in your body, fat is important… like REALLY important.  In fact, you ARE fat (and no I'm not talking about those extra bits you might be carrying around).  Every living cell in your body has a membrane responsible for allowing compounds to move in and out of the cell so that it can function properly.  These membranes are primarily formed from the quantity, and more importantly, quality, of fats that you get from your diet.

So, if your diet is high in damaged fatty acids, then those damaged fats get incorporated into the building blocks of your cell membranes (including neuron cells) and you literally become what you eat – crappy, damaged fatty acids.  Unlike sugar, which is broken down through metabolism into glucose, which is not inherently damaging in small amounts, your body literally assimilates these damaged fats into the very fabric of your body

This is particularly true in the brain where there are copious amounts of fat in neuronal membranes – in fact 60% of your brain, by weight, is fat!  These fats insulate your brain, protect it from shock and help your nervous system to maintain a healthy temperature.  The transmission of electrical signals across neuron synapses also depends on fatty acids, as do neurotransmitter levels2.

This huge impact that damaged fats have on brain health, including both cognitive function and mental health issues, is particularly concerning, especially if you are starting to experience forgetfulness, brain fog or difficulty focusing.

But why do some fats and oils offer tremendous health benefits, while others are so incredibly destructive?

Commercial vegetable and seed oils in the shop are highly damaged for two reasons.  Firstly, they are processed using very high temperatures and sometimes chemical processes9.  Secondly, the types of oils used tend to be primarily polyunsaturated (as they are liquid at room temperature), but this makes them unstable and thus highly susceptible to damage from chemical processing and even routine exposure to light, heat, and oxygen.

So while polyunsaturated fats found in chia seeds, cod liver oil, fish (and fish oil), flaxseeds, grapeseed, hempseeds, pine nuts, sunflower seeds,  soy and sesame seeds are loaded with health benefits8 in their natural form, processing these fats into oils causes significant oxidative damage (we won’t go into oxidation here, but suffice to say a rusty old nail is another example of oxidation), which is made even worse if you use them for cooking.  Ingesting these fats promotes oxidative (free radical) damage to cell membranes and other tissue in the cardiovascular system, immune system, nervous system and brain. Over time, free radical damage and the ensuing inflammation causes premature aging, obesity, fatigue, burnout, compromised digestion, skin disease, hormonal imbalances, high blood pressure, heart disease, liver damage, sub-optimal neurological function, immune dysfunction and even cancer1.

Total elimination of these damaged, highly reactive fats is critical to allow your body to repair at the cellular level.

On the other hand, the molecules of saturated fats, such as grass-fed animal fats (butter, lard), coconut oil and avocado are very stable, making them less prone to oxidation when exposed to heat, light or oxygen and thus good choices for cooking.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, there are actually little to no reliable studies that have shown that saturated fats, by themselves, are unhealthy.  In fact, saturated fats have been shown to be an excellent source of energy and provide enhanced nutrient absorption, immune function, hormone production and protection against oxidative damage.

Monounsaturated fats (in their natural form), such as nuts, avocado, olives, egg yolk, lard, chicken and duck fat are universally regarded as healthy, lauded for enhancing cardiovascular and immune function and offering protection against heart disease. They are more stable than polyunsaturated fats, but can oxidize at higher temperatures, making them suitable only for cooking at lower temperatures,

Extra-virgin olive oil is not processed using high temperatures, but is instead ‘cold-pressed’, making it a great option for fresh salad dressings and sauces and low temperature cooking.  Other oils can also be cold-pressed, making them a healthier option, but not always suitable for high temperature cooking.  These are not usually as easily available as extra virgin olive oil.

And the absolute worst of all the fats is Partially Hydrogenated Trans Fats, which occur through heating an unsaturated fat (typically a vegetable oil) to a high temperature under extreme pressure and mixing it with toxic chemical solvents to saturate the carbon bonds with hydrogen, rendering the fat solid at room temperature and increasing shelf life.  What could go wrong, right?

Chemically altered trans fats are easily oxidized to form free radical chain reactions that damage cell membranes, also promoting systemic inflammation, obesity, immune system dysfunction, the oxidation and inflammation process that characterizes heart disease and many other serious health problems.  Trans fats are considered to contribute to over half a million deaths every year and WHO aims to remove them from foods by 202311

Caprese Salad.Mediterranean salad. Mozzarella cherry tomatoes basil and olive oil on old oak table. Italian cuisine.

So please, for the love of all that is good in your life, throw away that margarine and toss your bottles of vegetable and seed oils and ANYTHING in your pantry containing these damaged fats.

Start switching to healthy options.  They may have a slightly unfamiliar tang, but very soon you'll be preferring them to your old versions, which will seem very unappetising.

Instead whizz up some delicious home-baked butter cookies, cook a curry with butter or ghee, throw together some poached eggs and avocado - or drizzle healthy oils over a fresh salad - all simple and tasty options - no extra work and no deprivation necessary!


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  1. Primal Health Coach Certification course (Mark Sisson), Modules 3, 4 and 6 (See for more from Mark Sissons)
  2. The end of Mental Illness, Daniel G Amen [2020], Chapter 18
  3. The Essentials of Sport and Exercise Nutrition, Precision Nutrition, Berardi et al [2018], Chap 6
  4. The Case for Keto, The Truth about Low-Carb High Fat Eating, Gary Taubes [2020]
  5. Why oil is bad for you -
  6. For a deeper dive: Dave Asprey Podcast with Cate Shanahan regarding oils
  7. More about processed Vegetable Oils
  8. Polyunsaturated fatty acids and their effects on cardiovascular disease
  9. What the Evidence Really Says About PUFAs
  10. For more information, this comprehensive article will help -
  11. World Health Organisation stance on trans fats