This past 40 years we have been instructed to cook with the most harmful kinds of refined fats and oils and to avoid the most important ones that we have relied upon since the dawn of human history.
Virgin coconut oil is one of the most important oils to support health yet until very recently it disappeared from the kitchens of Malaysia. The coconut oil industry here in Malaysia, which until the 1960’s was one of the most vibrant in the world, was almost completely gone by the late 1970’s when we were encouraged to replace its use with imported vegetable oils, corn, soya, sunflower etc. Then as local palm oil production gradually increased, the use of coconut oil was discouraged in the homes of Malaysia.
The main reason behind this was the creation of the saturated fat myth being promoted by the Doctors, nutritionists and other "health" authorities under the clever lobbying power of vested business interests from the vegetable oil and pharmaceutical industries. Until today the notion still widely persists that Coconut Oil and Coconut Milk are high in cholesterol, when they are actually 100% cholesterol free.
Naturally, this propaganda campaign against tropical oils also led to the loss of livelihoods of countless coconut farmers and coconut oil producers in rural Malaysia, especially devastating to coastal communities because coconuts grow best on sandy soils where almost nothing else will grow.
Doctor Frankenstein recommends we eat margarine for heart health
After filling our pantry with refined oils, next we were encouraged by these same Doctors and Government health spokespeople to no longer use ghee or butter but replace it with the most damaging of all processed oils; margarine and vegetable shortenings. Margarine is created via the hydrogenation process that produces a product with a very long-shelf life, stability and enhanced taste. However, this comes at a huge price to health as margarine has introduced into our diets for the first time in human history, one of the by products of the hydrogenation process, artificial trans fats. These have contributed to global health issues of high LDL cholesterol, arterisosclerosis, heart disease and diabetes. Despite the reduction in use of margarine in homes in recent years, it is still predominantly used in Asian restaurants and fast foods and in a majority of commercial baked goods, doughnuts, cakes, pie crusts, frozen pizza, biscuits, cookies, crackers, spreads and much more. Even products that list on their Nutrition Facts “0 grams of trans fats” are allowed to contain less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving. If you see ingredients referred to as “partially hydrogenated oils”or "vegetable shortening" then this will likely contain trans fats.
The last nail in the coffin - Low Fat FoodsPutting all fats into the same category has created an even darker side, with the "low fat" processed food industry. By taking advantage of the fear generated by the anti-cholesterol / anti-tropical oils campaign, these foods encourage people away from fresh foods, eggs and meats to processed low fat high carbohydrate foods and this has had devastating results worldwide. When fats are removed from foods it became necessary to increase the carbohydrate content and the disastrous consequences of this can be seen all around us. This radical change in fat consumption from traditional fats like coconut oil, ghee and butter has had a major impact on our health. Here in Malaysian it has been a major contributing to the highest incidence of obesity and diabetes within Asia.
If it ain't broke don't fix it
Those countries that had the strongest culinary traditions that were not influenced by the processed food industry and pharmaceutical lobbying, such as many communities in the Mediterranean region, were saved by their unwillingness to change their traditional ingredients so they have avoided many of the harmful effects on health from the introduction of processed foods. These same "old school" medical researchers are now studying what is the Mediterranean Diet "secret formula" to explain their greater longevity and reduced incidence of heart disease and metabolic conditions, when in reality the only secret is that they stuck with the fresh ingredients, saturated fats and oils they have used for centuries.
In tropical Asia, it was the communities farthest from access to processed foods and who maintained their traditional diets that have enjoyed statistically less occurrence of preventable metabolic diseases. As they could not afford expensive supermarket cooking oils, margarines and low fat foods they continued to prepare fresh foods and make their own coconut oil the traditional way from the coconuts that grow freely all around them. This lower incidence of heart disease is especially prevalent in coastal communities in Sri Lanka, the Philippines and India that consume higher than average coconut products in their diet. It was also observed that as all these communities adopt modern fast foods, refined sugars and processed oils then the incidence of heart disease increased proportionally.
The real culprit affecting the epidemic in obesity and preventable metabolic diseases is not Western foods, but the processed oils, trans fats, low fat processed chemical laden foods and an excess consumption of sugars and carbohydrates that are now hiding in plain site and have become the new norm in almost all diets worldwide and especially here in Malaysia. The first bold step to reclaim our health independence is to throw out the processed vegetable oils in our kitchens and start cooking with coconut oil again and there's no shortage of types of coconut oil to choose from for every kind of recipe; Virgin Coconut Oil, Raw Coconut Oil, Odourless Coconut Oil and Coconut Butter.