Friday, November 28, 2008

Nursing Mommas and Dietary Oils

I was asked by a friend (several weeks ago - blush) about hydrogenated oils, and why I avoid them especially when nursing. Her comments were:
Since I read your follow-up to my comment on your twins :-) I have been researching hydrogenated oils and their effect on breast milk and our bodies. I guess this is a little new to me as I haven’t really thought or heard much about this before, but I am very glad you brought it to my attention. (I am kind of ashamed that I haven’t been awakened to it sooner as I try to be reasonably attuned to our nutritional needs, but I don’t normally do a lot of researching in this area). I intend to make some changes right away. I think it will be tough in some ways, though…I mean, we go through a LOT of peanut butter and I don’t know if it is reasonable to think that we could just start making our own since we don’t even have the equipment to do so…(what do you do? Do you have a grain mill and an attachment to make your own p-nut butter?) What do you use for cooking oils? I read here that canola, corn, and safflower oils should be avoided, so I am curious about how you do it and would appreciate your input to help me get started, when you have time. Do you use coconut oil? I purchase 50# pails of it for my soap making business, but have never once used it for cooking (although it is food grade). Do you use lard in place of shortening? Do you make your own bread, and if so, what do you use for the oil? We actually sell a lot of honey wheat bread since my oldest dd has gotten quite proficient at it, and we took it to sell at our local farm market every Saturday this summer. I’m realizing that perhaps my baby’s birth weight was noticeably lower so that I would come to learn about this nutritional concern for our family. But if you have any links to share or helpful info, esp. on how you do it. I’d love to hear it!

I kept putting off answering this until I had some time to do a little research and post links, etc., but  realize that may not happen for some time still. But it is an interesting subject to Google should you be interested, and anyone can do it (Google stuff, that is). The basic gist is that hydrogenated oils, partially hydrogenated oils and trans fats all have a deleterious effect on breastmilk - production and the actual constitution of the milk.

What I'll do instead is just answer the basic questions and share our experience.  :)

When I first started learning about oils, which ones are health-supporting and which ones are not, I could not afford to just change everything we did overnight. Firstly, I did not know how, secondly, it would cost too much and be wasteful of what we had on hand. So, like every other change we made in our diet and lifestyle, when something ran out, we replaced it with something better... never to go back except in an emergency. When the canola oil ran out, (that the media had told me was so good for us), I bought extra virgin olive oil. When the margarine was gone, I started buying real butter and have not looked back.

It was more expensive to replace the bad stuff with the good stuff, but we squeezed money from somewhere else to make it work. We purposely canceled our health insurance policy and used the money to add to our grocery budget and to learn about our health. We also changed around how we shopped by buying in huge quantities in order to save more money to put into healthier ingredients.

Now, we only use three main things as oils for cooking. I use extra virgin olive oil for anything raw like mayonnaise or salad dressings (because it is unstable when heated). I use coconut oil and butter for cooked foods. Coconut oil is very stable at high temperatures, so it is what I use for anything fried. I also use coconut oil for most things that call for shortening. Pie crusts turn out best for me with butter, though. I buy the coconut oil in 5 gallon buckets, too. With grocery prices going up so much recently, I stepped back to expeller-pressed coconut oil (a lot cheaper) instead of the virgin coconut oil that I had been buying, because it was going to overly stress my grocery budget. I purchase butter 36 pounds at a time from a local food co-op.

We do not use lard (pork fat) at all because it is not part of what YHWH has called food for us. Trust and obey... for there is no other way, right?

We make our own bread (gotta love that Zojirushi!) and use either butter or coconut oil in our bread recipe. The coconut oil seems to make the bread keep a bit longer, too.

Peanut butter is a tough one. We use it a ton, too, but I do not think I have it in me at this time to actually make it. (I have to be honest and admit that it never crossed my mind before.) Too many other irons in the fire, I guess. What we have done in the past is buy 5 pound containers of peanut butter whose only ingredients are peanuts and salt from our food co-op. That is a great plan if you really want to cut back on usage, because it does not taste as good (at least to us). A better plan that actually works out to be very close in cost is to buy Smuckers brand natural peanut butter from the grocery store. If you have a Trader Joes nearby, they also have a good price on healthy peanut butter. If the cost is still an issue, spread really thin.  :)

[EDIT: Be sure to check the comments below, where Amy tells us how she makes peanut butter from scratch with just a food processor!]

So, I hope that helps. I'd be happy to help with more questions, too, if you need!


  1. We also went through the pnut butter issue and found that we like the Kroger brand with peanuts and salt only, mixed with our own raw honey, kept in the pantry (not fridge) during the cooler seasons of the year.
    Thanks for your wonderful blog. I don't know that I have ever commented, but enjoy reading

  2. We also get our coconut oil from Tropical Traditions and our all-natural peanut butter from Frankferd Farms.

    Here's a kid-friendly p.b. recipe: Mix 2/3 c. pure peanut butter (smooth, no salt added), 1/3 c. palm shortening or coconut oil (or a mix thereof), 1/4 c. honey and 1/2 tsp salt in a food processor.

    If you can't afford the natural peanut butter, it is a lot cheaper to make your own. I buy roasted, no salt peanuts with red skins and then just put 2 cups peanuts in a food processor (I have the ultimate chopper) with 2 tsp. olive oil and chop, chop, chop.

  3. Amy~

    Oh, I'm so glad you told us *how*!

    Having never looked into it, I would never have thought it would be that simple.

    Thank you, thank you!

  4. This is really helpful! Thank you!

  5. Thanks for your encouragement about oils....I've been reading here and there alot lately about coconut oil. I'm just gonna have to take the plunge and spend the money on it!

    I recently came across a handout from a class I attended at Whole Foods a while ago. One of the notes I had written, " The two worst ingredients for us: hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup."

  6. Hello oldpathsfamilyfarm! It's wise of you to use coconut oil for your cooking.

    The standard cooking temperature for most foods seems to have become around 350° F. But by cooking something at this temperature, you actually damage the molecular structure of the food.

    I believe that a far better temperature for cooking, the maximum temperature to set the oven on, is 225° F. You can cook almost anything at this temperature.

    Although coconut oil is stable when heated, it has a moderate smoking point when used for frying, which means you need to keep the temperature under 350 degrees F (175 C).

    Just my two cents. Take care.

    Your Drugstore in a Bottle

  7. We try hard to avoid hydrogenated oils also. But I am a peanut butter junkie! We buy Teddie Old Fashioned All Natural Peanut butter. We go through so much of this stuff that I called the company to see if we could order it in case lots, but sadly I was told they only sell to retail outlets :( Here in new england it's going for $2.49 for a 16 oz. jar.

  8. I knew that the hydrogenated oils were bad and we have cut way back on them, but I didn't know the effect on the breast milk to such a degree. But we are not sure what to do, as our budget does not allow Coconut Oil (except for the stuff from WalMart which we are very unsure about) and I am pretty dairy intolerant, so we only use butter in limited amounts.

    Does anyone know where to get Beef Lard (Tallow, Suet?)?

    We do however, occationally, spend a little more and get almond butter instead of Peanut butter and are pretty convinced it is healthier.

  9. You can also turn your butter into ghee, clarified butter oil, which is very healthy (much cholesterol is removed with the casein in the butter) and has a high cooking temperature. You can deep fry, etc. Makes all foods delicious. There are steps to make ghee online if you do a web search. You can read the health benefits of ghee also. I think you'll like it and your family, too.


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