The San Francisco Bay area is home to a variety of restaurants that are on a mission to provide delicious, healthy, and clean food. A number of these restaurants are very particular about the vegetable oil they use for cooking and frying.
Earlier this month I had the opportunity to visit three wonderful Palm Done Right customers, Kitava Kitchen, Eat Mamahuhu and Wholesome Bakery. We enjoyed a delicious lunch at Kitava Kitchen, where I also had the chance to have a chat with co-founder Jeff Nobbs.
Jeff is on a mission to help reverse the chronic disease trend that is plaguing the US — a staggering 60% of Americans suffer from chronic disease. Jeff argues that vegetable oil consumption has a tremendous impact on our health.
We have never eaten as much vegetable oil as we do today. Over the past 40 years the per capita added fats and oils in US food consumption increased with 60%, completely attributable to an increase in vegetable oil use. Soy, canola and corn oil represent almost 80% of current vegetable oil use in the US.
“Soy, corn and seed oils are bad oils, and the dangers of these oils on our health are overlooked” says Jeff Nobbs, while we enjoy Kitava Oakland’s freshly fried crispy brussels sprouts. “Most people don’t realize that unhealthy vegetable oils are used everywhere — from plant-based milk, to processed foods, and in the kitchens of the restaurants where we eat”, explains Jeff. “Many products that seem health-friendly have hidden ingredients that have an adverse effect on our bodies.”
The public needs to know about the dangers of unstable fats like soybean and canola oil, which become even more problematic when they are processed and exposed to high heat. “You can be eating a low-fat diet and be healthy, you can be eating a diet high in saturated fat and be healthy”, explains Jeff, “yet, what seems consistent, is that if people consume large amounts of oils that are high in omega 6 fats and oleic acid, it negatively affects their health.”
The Kitava Kitchen way
Let’s be clear, there is nothing wrong with using fat to prepare food. There are plenty of healthy options, like avocado and olive oil. Butter, ghee, coconut oil and palm oil are also good alternatives. These fats and oils are all low in omega 6 fats.
“For Kitava Kitchen we did over a year of research to figure out what oils we were going to cook with”, Jeff explains. “Our goal was to select the best oil from a culinary, health and environmental perspective.”
Jeff and his co-founder Bryan Tublin decided to use sustainably sourced palm oil to fry their food. They believe it is the best oil to work with for their dishes. And they talk about palm oil. They mention it on their menu, post about it on social media and have brochures at the cashier to explain why.
“The majority of our customers are not aware, and a tiny minority thinks it is amazing”, says Jeff. Most customers wouldn’t even know that their brussels sprouts are deep fried, to them they are just crispy. They choose Kitava Kitchen because they know the owners care and only work with clean ingredients.
Palm oil’s misconceptions
Jeff is aware that palm oil is a contentious topic. “When we posted that we use sustainable palm oil in our kitchen, it spurred all sorts of reactions about how bad, unsustainable, dangerous and inflammatory palm oil is”, says Jeff. People were really lashing out about it. “People are not aware that sustainable palm oil is a totally different beast than unsustainable palm oil”, explains Jeff, “similar to how factory farmed animals are very different from pastureland animals.”
To Jeff it is very simple. To break down the palm oil myth he focuses on two things. First, it is an amazing oil to cook with. It has a great fatty acid profile and is lower in omega 6 inflammatory fats. Second, there are good ways to grow and produce palm oil, and to solve the problems that seem to be so rooted in the palm oil sector. A few years back he visited oil palm farms in Ecuador to see it firsthand.
What we can do
According to Jeff, more consumers need to care about what fat or oil is being used to prepare their food, and actively ask about it. At Kitava Kitchen, he sees a growing group of customers ask which oils are being used. Yet, compared to gluten or vegan awareness, it is still only a few people. At the same time, chefs need to believe that customers prefer to eat at their establishment because they use good and clean ingredients.
The truth is it is really hard to decrease the intake of bad oil since it is used in so many products. Unless you are willing to eliminate all processed food, and only cook and eat at home, it is important to start asking companies why they are using soybean, corn or seed oils, instead of choosing healthier options. If you care about your health, you too need to create change.
To learn more about vegetable oil, health and nutrition, you can read Jeff’s blog posts that are published on his website. For my blog post I also listen to Dr. Anthony Gustin’s podcast in which Anthony and Jeff discuss the dangers of vegetable oils.
Check our stories about how palm oil can be done right: www.palmdoneright.com and join the movement.