Hot olive oil is carcinogenic. I'm trying to cut to the chase in
my writing -- can you tell?
When extra virgin olive
oil is heated to its smoke point of around 300º Fahrenheit, bad
things happen. Its protective anti-oxidants become cancer-causing
free radicals. I know, I know...bring on the cop-out onslaught of
"Everything causes cancer, there's no point in worrying about it."
Wrong. That's the answer given by two groups of people, and
(spoiler alert) you don't want to be in either group.
First, and more acceptable, is the group
of people who really haven't looked into health and nutrition at
all. OK, hey, this is a diversified society. Not everyone has to be
an expert in every subject. Some people can grow the food, others
can study chemistry, and some can sell the apples at the market.
It's 2015, as Tricia would say. You're a productive member of
society, but you're busy. I know. You see a commercial saying "I
Can't Believe It's Not Butter is a healthy choice," you run out and
buy it, and you figure you're doing a decent job in life. Well,
you're wrong. At minimum, really though, shouldn't every adult
eater in America take a few minutes out of the upcoming "dancing
with famous people" show and perhaps start to learn a bit about
what you're putting into your body?
Secondly, and less acceptable, is the group of people who simply
don't care about what they've learned. These are the people who
read the same books about olive oil that I did, saw the
explanations about why it's a bad idea to heat olive oil in your
wok on stir-fry night, but keep doing it anyways. "Everything
causes cancer, so why should I bother switching to a healthier
option?" Gee, I don't know, maybe because you don't want to be on
the wrong side of "1 in 2 American men will get cancer in his
lifetime." Ladies, you're 1 in 3. Want specifics? Here's the full
wheel of fun: Lifetime Probability of Developing or Dying from
Here's a thought that not many people seem to care about.
Not everything causes cancer. There are actually lots of
things that don't seem to cause cancer. What about trying some
pesticide-free vine-ripened fruits and vegetables? Maybe refrain
from spraying yourself down in poison perfume every day? I'm not
saying you can simply walk through life making all the right
choices and be guaranteed cancer free. I am saying that there's
this whole thing called "epi-genetics" that effectively blows out
of the water the old lazy assumption that your genes have
predetermined whether or not you will get cancer or be obese, etc.
Not true. Your genes throw you into the world with a certain set of
probabilities, such as a 30% risk that your breast cancer switch
will be flipped on. Sure, that sucks, but it's not a death
What can you do about it? Something! Epi-genetics reminds us
that our lifestyle matters just as much, or more, than our genetic
predeterminations. "Only 5-10% of all cancer cases can be
attributed to genetic defects, whereas the remaining 90-95% have
their roots in the environment and lifestyle. The lifestyle factors
include cigarette smoking, diet (fried foods, red meat), alcohol,
sun exposure, environmental pollutants, infections, stress,
obesity, and physical inactivity." Nobody hates that alcohol part
more than I do, believe me, but the overall point is still
This was supposed to be about olive oil, wasn't it? Well, now
you know why I don't cook with olive oil. I cook with organic,
grass-fed butter, and my husband prefers coconut oil, both of which
have higher smoke points than olive oil does, meaning that we can
cook at higher temperatures more safely. Some of you will google
this "hearsay" and find websites that say not to worry about it,
because all cooking of all food breaks down nutrients and produces
some free radicals, and your body is programmed to deal with that
small amount of carcinogens. You'll be fine...probably. Really?
How's that working out for you? Which group of the "1 in 2
Americans" do you think you're in? Clearly, friends, we are
bombarding our bodies with way too many carcinogens these
YOUR CHOICES MATTER. Make some.
Anand, P., Kunnumakara, A. B., Sundaram, C., Harikumar, K. B.,
Tharakan, S. T., Lai, O. S., ... Aggarwal, B. B. (2008). Cancer is
a Preventable Disease that Requires Major Lifestyle Changes.
Pharmaceutical Research, 25(9), 2097-2116.
Why would I need or want to do this? Why haven't I
purchased a commercial deodorant in about two years? Why haven't I
let my husband, either? The bottom line is that I just don't feel
comfortable slathering on a toxic armpit cocktail, when I know that
what I put on my skin has a good chance of being absorbed into my
bloodstream. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: If you
wouldn't eat it, don't put it on your skin, either.
I also don't like the idea of blocking off the body's drainage
system, so I had already stopped using anti-perspirants years
before finally ditching the deodorant, too. (Not sure what you're
using? Check the front label. "Deodorant?" Just covering the smell.
"Anti-perspirant?" Also preventing your body from releasing the
sweat.) My armpits are made for excretion, and that's just what
they'll do. One of these days, I'll probably sweat all over
Really, though, it's not nice to sweat all over people, and it's
particularly rude to have the sweat smell like the noxious fumes
that we all know it can. Yet, I feel that primal urge to allow my
lymphatic system to do its job and clean out some bodily sludge.
Yes, I do think that using a commercially-produced anti-perspirant
and deodorant contributes to the development of breast cancer and
other ailments. But I guess I have to sit around and wait for a
study to prove that sealing in your body's toxins and then layering
more on top of that is bad for your health. Seriously, doesn't
anybody else wonder why Dove is the breast cancer researcher out
Or, I could make the choice that I know is healthier for my body
(and my husband's body, too). Thus, one rainy afternoon two years
ago, I jumped on Amazon and ordered myself some arrowroot powder
(after not being able to find it in local stores). The rest is
history. Instead of simply leaving you with the basic recipe I've
been using and loving, I'll take you on a pictorial journey
afterward. Note that if you do try this at home, the common
expectation is that there is approximately a 1-2 week "learning
curve" for your body to really have the opportunity to excrete
build-ups that you've been holding hostage for most of your adult
life with your commercial anti-perspirants. Translation = you might
smell worse during this time. This, too, shall pass, and at the end
you'll likely find that you don't smell as bad as you used to.
Here are your simple ingredients:
Mix 1/2 cup coconut oil with 1/4 cup arrowroot powder and 1/4
cup baking soda. Add essential oils such as orange, lemongrass, or
tea tree, and scoop into an old, cleaned out deodorant container to
harden for a few hours. (Don't worry about those bottles of wine in
the background. Those are for later, when you can celebrate your
accomplishment if all goes well.) Simple, customizable, delightful.
Remember, it's more meant to be a deodorant than an
anti-perspirant, but my husband finds it does both well. I guess
I'm just a sweatier fella. But at least I'm not usually a smellier
That's the normal way. This week, I tried to plan for our
upcoming medical mission trip to Nicaragua, where it is oh-so-hot
every day, by customizing the usual recipe to prevent it from
melting. Yes, coconut oil has a melting point in the 70s, so it
would be like trying to use a puddle of deodorant instead of a
stick if I took along the usual stuff. So, after googling for a
while, I found a suggestion to melt and add beeswax into the usual
recipe to raise the melting point (beeswax has a really high
melting point, like 170 -- not even Nicaragua can match that). It
The resulting deodorant was very brown, as a result of using
dark brown beeswax the first time. OK, I can live with that. Here's
the bowl of leftover brown deodorant that I will scrape with a
spoon and use until it's gone before wasting an ounce. Yes, this is
the state of affairs of toiletries in my home.
The photo at the beginning of my post is what it looks like in
stick form, which is much more socially acceptable, I know. It's
almost normal looking...just brown, and bumpy, unlike the usual
smooth off-white result for temperate at-home usage. Ah, Nicaragua,
the things I do for you.
I know it's not summer yet, not even spring, but here I am,
thinking about what I'll use for sunblock when I head to Nicaragua
in just 10 short weeks. Yes, during Tri break in April, several
volunteers and I will head to sunny Ometepe Island in Lake
Nicaragua on a medical brigade for the non-profit organization
Natural Doctors International. It's not exactlyonthe equator, but
it's much closer than Chicago. We'll almost certainly burn if we
aren't prepared. I should know, because Nicaragua turned me into a
crispy piece of bacon last year! And that is the only one time in
my life that I'll say anything negative about bacon.
Nicaragua 2013 on our medical brigade for Natural Doctors
So, back to the sunblock options. Clearly I chose to wear
nothing to protect me from the sun last year. If
you've seen me, you know I'm fairly far over on the pale end of the
spectrum, so this was not the correct choice. That was just bad
planning on my part.
I'll do it right. I could use the standard, commercially prepared
sunblock from the store. Yikes. Have you ever looked into the
ingredients list and the health impact of some of those
ingredients? If so, you're ready to move to the next option with me
-- coconut oil. I actually used Trader Joe's Organic Virgin Coconut
Oil straight out of the jar while vacationing in Puerto Rico a few
months ago, and I am mildly happy to report that I barely achieved
a tan at all, despite my hours in the sun. Slather that stuff on,
and not only do you have the benefit of looking like an oiled up
body builder (that's me for sure), but you have the benefit of
approximately SPF 10 with none of the side-effects of conventional
On a side note, I'm generally against using sunblock of any kind
on a regular basis. Why? I like making Vitamin D. It's my body's
job. When you block the sun -- specifically, the
UVB rays -- you block your body's ability to synthesize
Vitamin D. Oops. Coconut oil blocks many of the UVB rays, which
also contribute to skin aging, etc., but it allows approximately
10% of them to get through and get the Vitamin D process
I'm personally bothered by the research available linking common
sunscreen ingredients to cancer (specifically
-- skin cancer!), hormone imbalance
(infertility), and neurological disorders, thus, I do not slather
it all over my children's skin or my own on any type of regular
Check out this article for a brief summary of some of the issues
associated with sunblock and some of the reasons that coconut oil
can be a better choice for your health overall: Ditch the Toxic Sunscreen; Use Coconut Oil
Instead (Natural Society).
Here is the Environmental Working Group's database of
sunblock (and other cosmetics), where you can search by brand,
see the overall rating of your favorite cancer-preventing cancer
causer, and see the health hazards of each individual
Finally, here is a snapshot of the results for a product I used
to use on myself. Curses. It scores a 7 out of 10 on the toxicity rating system,
where 10 is the most toxic.
Choose wisely, my friends.
• So What Is Chinese Medicine?
• Jabbing Nerves with Needles
• Mission in Nicaragua
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