is a major error to put corn oil among
the healthy macrobiotic oils to consume
regularly. Corn oil is too high in polyunsaturates
to be healthy and when it is heated, it
travels throughout the world, lecturing
Read the comments from:
Rosemary Triall - Robert
N. Carr, Jr. - Gale Jack
Tom Monte - Gordon
Alan Saxe, MD, PhD - Martin
Denny Waxman - Carl
Ferre - Lawrence H.
Meredith McCarty -
Roberto Marr - Susan
Also see Nutrition of
by Sally Fallon with Mary G. Enig, PhD.
I very much agree with Steve Acuff's
point. In my view, the encouragement of the
use of corn oil that we often see in the macrobiotic
literature is unwise. We may theorize, based
on yin-yang philosophy, that corn oil is healthy,
but the scientific literature tends to suggest
Corn oil is high in polyunsaturated
fat and tends to undergo oxidation more readily
than some other oils (e.g., olive). Oxidized
fats generate free radical damage to cells,
a process that is implicated in various degenerative
diseases, especially certain cancers. For example,
corn oil is used experimentally to promote tumor
growth in some laboratory models of breast,
colon, and other cancers.
Corn oil may also impair immune
function. I typically recommend to my patients
that they try and limit or avoid corn oil and
use olive or other monounsaturated or essential
I also recommend that they refrigerate
and light-protect all oils, as most commercial
oils undergo oxidation more rapidly at room
temperature and with exposure to light.
Gordon Alan Saxe, MD, PhD
I do agree
with Steven. Corn oil is not considered one
of the healthier oils, as are extra virgin olive
oil, sesame oil and flax oil (the only one of
the three that can't be heated). Those are the
oils I use. For baking I use a light walnut
Spectrum Naturals is a great oil company here
in Petaluma, California (in the San Francisco
Bay Area where I live). They have good educational
literature that explains all about oils.
As a cook, I gave up using corn
oil many years ago because it is too heavy and
imparts a flavor to everything. I find it makes
For salad dressings, a small amount
of a full flavored oil is very nice, such as
extra virgin olive oil, or toasted nut and seeds
oils such as toasted sesame, toasted almond,
toasted walnut and toasted hazelnut oils. But
for cooking, and especially for baking, when
you want a light dessert, the strained "light"
oils are best.
These reasons combine health with
good texture and taste.
We do not
recommend or use corn oil very often especially
for people with upper body or breast problems.
I do not think the occasional use, for generally
healthy people, when the taste is useful, is
If people are worried about omega
3s, they can eat some pumpkin seeds or
walnuts in combination with the Standard Macrobiotic
Diet. I also have not observed this problem
in friends or clients who practice macrobiotics
in an open and varied way.
Anyone who is making dietary recommendations
needs to measure themselves with nutritional
science, and within this science there are many
different opinions and currents. I have no problems
with the basic recommendations of Michio, particularly
With oil you need to be careful,
but most people consider the temperature at
which them start to smoke to be the main consideration
and corn oil is pretty high in this regard.
Omega 3 oils are found in soy products and dark
green vegetables as well as pumpkin seeds and
fish, all products we use.
John Macdougall is a good reference for these
considerations as is Michio's son who is a professor
It is never recommended that one
use corn oil as the only oil...there is safflower,
sesame, olive, etc
that can be part of the varied diet most counselors
I use more flax seed oil and occasional fish,
fatty fish in my diet, as well as other omega
3 adjustments to daily intake. There is always
something to learn, be it from scientific studies
or personal experience. Non-credo and open mind
are an important ingredient to meal planning.
Robert N. Carr, Jr.
In response to Steven's comments
about corn oil, I have never heard any recommendations
that corn oil should be among the oils consumed
This is based on my studies at the Kushi Institute
over many years and also on sitting in on consultations
with Michio and hearing his recommendations
to people who are sick and come to him for guidance.
The oil I use regularly is toasted sesame. I
have never used corn oil regularly, not because
of any nutritional studies or others' recommendations
but simply because I find it harder to digest
than sesame (and according to yin/yang studies,
that would be because it is more yin.)
As for the omega-3 issue, there
have been numerous studies done (I'm sorry I
don't have any before me) that show that the
macrobiotic diet provides a balance of nutrients
necessary for health as well as numerous lives
that have been forever changed by practicing
this way of life.
However, everyone practices it
differently--especially since when most of us
get some degree of health and energy back we
move away from thinking about our own condition
and become active in society - with teaching,
writing, managing food stores and many other
activities so it may be that there are deficiencies
in some people.
However, I don't recommend the modern way of
replacing omega-3's with RAW oils. Raw oils
are very yin and should be balanced with heat
and salt as in cooking - in my opinion.
Corn oil is definitely no good,
but everybody knows it. It's not even sold in
Bread and Circus, our natural foods supermarket,
anymore, for the simple reason that most corn
today has been genetically modified.
For the non-gmo corn oil -- which you may have
in Europe -- it's higher in omega 6 & 9
polyunsaturated fats, which oxidize rapidly
and can lead to disease.
Polyunsaturated fats are immune depressing and
are associated with higher rates of cancer.
I pesonally don't use corn oil
anymore because it has been genetically altered.
I use sesame or olive oil in my daily cooking
and safflower oil for deep frying.
Corn oil is now known to
be a GMO grain, oil-product so whether it contains
poly-un or mono-un or fully saturated fats is
not the issue any longer.
Stories abound-a farm with GMO corn has polluted
organic corn farms hundreds of miles away through
the air borne pollen-so you can do the math.
We prefer to
teach the principles rather than lists of foods
to eat ("acceptable") and foods to
avoid ("unacceptable"). Thus, we prefer
to teach people so that they can think for themselves
rather than having to ask someone else, be it
a counselor, a website, or even a magazine every
time there is such an issue as corn oil. So,
I see the issue on a much different level than
whether or not corn oil is "acceptable"
or "unacceptable." Corn oil, and raw
oils, are appropriate for some people at particular
times and inappropriate for the same people
at other times and for other people at one time,
and so on.
Thus, it is very good that Steve has brought
up the question and that many people have responded.
The more people know about corn oil the better
they can determine for themselves whether or
not to use it and at what quantity (quantity
affects quality as you know), and how to counter
the effects if and when it is used. One of the
principles we teach is that of variety - the
more foods one can include successfully in her
or his diet the better.
Of course, there is more to macrobiotics than
yin and yang and there is more to life than
macrobiotics, or any other system that attempts
to describe life in any kind of "comprehensive"
way. George Ohsawa and Herman Aihara both remained
current on the latest nutritional findings of
their day(s) and regularly commented on those
findings in relation to macrobiotic principles.
We do well to do likewise. So, again, I thank
you, Steve, and all those who have responded
and are responding on these issues.
from the gomf
know further about the details of what Steve
Acuff has written beyond what you mention here,
but it is mistaken to think that yin and yang
is limited or possibly opposed to nutritional
science. On the contrary, they are complementary,
and understanding nutritional biochemistry,
for example, gives one a greater appreciation
for the beauty of yin and yang in all phenomena.
I believe that is probably the
case for all areas of human knowledge and experience,
but I can't speak to that so well. I do agree
that one shouldn't be tied so conceptually to
yin and yang that it limits your ability to
appreciate perspectives that don't mention or
recognize these terms.
Regarding corn oil, it is not
"unhealthy" - certainly not in the
ways that hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated
oils would be, or butter or lard is. It is much
better in general than these fats and oils.
I tend to think of what separated
fats and oils we should be using in terms of
what have been used traditionally, in addition
to those that exist naturally in our foods.
When we look at most human cultures, there are
both animal fats and vegetable oils that have
been used traditionally.
The animal fats generally should be minimized
(butter, lard, ghee, etc.). Among vegetable
oils, there are only a few that were really
used as oils traditionally. These include olive
oil, sesame oil, peanut oil, and in some places
oils like sunflower or soybean oil. Other oils,
like corn oil, are really a relatively modern
food, and a result of food processing.
Corn is not a very concentrated
source of oils (you don't get very much when
you take corn kernels and grind them, unlike
sesame seeds, olives, or some other foods).
So, from that perspective, I think corn oil
could be minimized in favor of other oils.
The idea that heated oils are
"toxic" comes from the known process
that heating of oils results in higher levels
of free radicals. However, if you're using oils
that have been stored in a reasonable fashion,
it shouldn't be a major concern. In fact, I
don't think on a practical level it's much of
a concern at all.
It is a much greater concern if
you are eating at fast food restaurants that
reuse their oil in high-temperature fryers,
or if you eat at cheap restaurants that use
recycled oil. Of course, you can minimize some
of this by using cold-pressed oils (so they
haven't been exposed to high heat during extraction).
As far as omega-3 fatty acids
go, I think this concern is also overblown.
There is some question as to whether vegetable
sources of omega-3 fatty acids (usually, people
talk about alpha-linolenic acid in this context,
18:4n3) are readily metabolized to EPA (20:5n3)
and DHA (22:6n3), which are then metabolized
to all the important things that they do to
The best natural sources of the latter fatty
acids are fish oils, but the fatty ones which
are usually not recommended for regular consumption
in macrobiotic teachings, although there are
certainly instances when these would not be
bad for regular consumption. Just to throw some
confusion on this issue, there is some evidence
that alpha-linolenic acid actually increases
the risk of developing prostate cancer.
So, in general, I think a good
set of guidelines for oil consumption is that
for regular consumption, you should use vegetable
oils that are cold-pressed, that tended to be
used traditionally, and that are definitely
not hydrogenated (or partially hydrogenated)
- these are the really bad fatty acids. If you
want to include corn oil for its flavor or cooking
properties (different oils do have somewhat
different tastes and uses), then go ahead.
I'm not certain what is being
referred to as problems related to protein intake,
but that is a non-issue as well. Certainly,
we do know is that animal sources of protein
tend to have negative health effects, whereas
vegetable sources tend to have positive health
Lawrence H. Kushi, Sc.D.
1- best to encourage use of seeds & nuts
as much as possible, so as to diminish use of
2 - discourage use of raw seasoning oil such
as Med. people using a lot of olive oil for
salad, cooked vegs, pasta, even on bread etc.
everywhere in every meal! Very unwise such liberal
use, causes skin, liver & circulatory ailments.
3 - dicourage high temp. cooking w oil, i.e.
baking floury desserts, or pizzas etc. It might
even be wiser for baking such dishes, to use
already naturally saturated fats such as coconut
or other animal-like fats which are not changed
drastically by the high temp.
4 - Clear sesame I find best always, never trusted
dark sesame (toasted) , next just out of local
tradition, virgin, low acid olive oil, then
if one finds good quality, low heat, non-gmo
SOY oil, I think that is quite good for tempura,
although rapeseed oil I found is top of the
roost, but practically non-existing on any market
by Sally Fallon with Mary G. Enig, PhD.
Olive Oil contains 75%
oleic acid, the stable monounsaturated fat,
along with 13% saturated fat, 10% omega-6 linoleic
acid and 2% omega-3 linolenic acid. The high
percentage of oleic acid makes olive oil ideal
for salads and for cooking at moderate temperatures.
Extra virgin olive oil is also rich in antioxidants.
It should be cloudy, indicating that it has
not been filtered, and have a golden yellow
color, indicating that it is made from fully
ripened olives. Olive oil has withstood the
test of time; it is the safest vegetable oil
you can use, but don't overdo. The longer chain
fatty acids found in olive oil are more likely
to contribute to the buildup of body fat than
the short- and medium-chain fatty acids found
in butter, coconut oil or palm kernel oil.
Peanut Oil contains 48%
oleic acid, 18% saturated fat and 34% omega-6
linoleic acid. Like olive oil, peanut oil is
relatively stable and, therefore, appropriate
for stir-frys on occasion. But the high percentage
of omega-6 presents a potential danger, so use
of peanut oil should be strictly limited.
Sesame Oil contains 42%
oleic acid, 15% saturated fat, and 43% omega-6
linoleic acid. Sesame oil is similar in composition
to peanut oil. It can be used for frying because
it contains unique antioxidants that are not
destroyed by heat. However, the high percentage
of omega-6 militates against exclusive use.
Safflower, Corn, Sunflower,
Soybean and Cottonseed Oils all contain
over 50% omega-6 and, except for soybean oil,
only minimal amounts of omega-3. Safflower oil
contains almost 80% omega-6. Researchers are
just beginning to discover the dangers of excess
omega-6 oils in the diet, whether rancid or
not. Use of these oils should be strictly limited.
They should never be consumed after they have
been heated, as in cooking, frying or baking.
High oleic safflower and sunflower oils, produced
from hybrid plants, have a composition similar
to olive oil, namely, high amounts of oleic
acid and only small amounts of polyunsaturated
fatty acids and, thus, are more stable than
traditional varieties. However, it is difficult
to find truly cold-pressed versions of these
Canola Oil (Rapeseed oil)
contains 5% saturated fat, 57% oleic acid, 23%
omega-6 and 10%-15% omega-3. The newest oil
on the market, canola oil was developed from
the rape seed, a member of the mustard family.
Rape seed is unsuited to human consumption because
it contains a very-long-chain fatty acid called
erucic acid, which under some circumstances
is associated with fibrotic heart lesions. Canola
oil was bred to contain little if any erucic
acid and has drawn the attention of nutritionists
because of its high oleic acid content. But
there are some indications that canola oil presents
dangers of its own.
It has a high sulphur content
and goes rancid easily. Baked goods made with
canola oil develop mold very quickly. During
the deodorizing process, the omega-3 fatty acids
of processed canola oil are transformed into
trans fatty acids, similar to those in margarine
and possibly more dangerous. A recent study
indicates that "heart healthy" canola
oil actually creates a deficiency of vitamin
E, a vitamin required for a healthy cardiovascular
system. Other studies indicate that even low-erucic-acid
canola oil causes heart lesions, particularly
when the diet is low in saturated fat.
Flax Seed Oil contains
9% saturated fatty acids, 18% oleic acid, 16%
omega-6 and 57% omega-3. With its extremely
high omega-3 content, flax seed oil provides
a remedy for the omega-6/omega-3 imbalance so
prevalent in America today. Not surprisingly,
Scandinavian folk lore values flax seed oil
as a health food. New extraction and bottling
methods have minimized rancidity problems. It
should always be kept refrigerated, never heated,
and consumed in small amounts in salad dressings
and spreads. Tropical Oils are more saturated
than other vegetable oils. Palm oil is about
50% saturated, with 41% oleic acid and about
9% linoleic acid. Coconut oil is 92% saturated
with over two-thirds of the saturated fat in
the form of medium-chain fatty acids (often
called medium-chain triglycerides). Of particular
interest is lauric acid, found in large quantities
in both coconut oil and in mother's milk.
This fatty acid has strong antifungal and antimicrobial
properties. Coconut oil protects tropical populations
from bacteria and fungus so prevalent in their
food supply; as third-world nations in tropical
areas have switched to polyunsaturated vegetable
oils, the incidence of intestinal disorders
and immune deficiency diseases has increased
dramatically. Because coconut oil contains lauric
acid, it is often used in baby formulas. Palm
kernel oil, used primarily in candy coatings,
also contains high levels of lauric acid. These
oils are extremely stable and can be kept at
room temperature for many months without becoming
Highly saturated tropical oils
do not contribute to heart disease but have
nourished healthy populations for millennia.72
It is a shame we do not use these oils for cooking
and bakingthe bad rap they have received
is the result of intense lobbying by the domestic
vegetable oil industry.73 Red palm oil has a
strong taste that most will find disagreeablealthough
it is used extensively throughout Africabut
clarified palm oil, which is tasteless and white
in color, was formerly used as shortening and
in the production of commercial French fries,
while coconut oil was used in cookies, crackers
and pastries. The saturated fat scare has forced
manufacturers to abandon these safe and healthy
oils in favor of hydrogenated soybean, corn,
canola and cottonseed oils.
In summary, our choice of fats
and oils is one of extreme importance. Most
people, especially infants and growing children,
benefit from more fat in the diet rather than
less. But the fats we eat must be chosen with
care. Avoid all processed foods containing newfangled
hydrogenated fats and polyunsaturated oils.
Instead, use traditional vegetable oils like
extra virgin olive oil and small amounts of
unrefined flax seed oil. Acquaint yourself with
the merits of coconut oil for baking and with
animal fats for occasional frying. Eat egg yolks
and other animal fats with the proteins to which
they are attached. And, finally, use as much
good quality butter as you like, with the happy
assurance that it is a wholesomeindeed,
an essentialfood for you and your whole
Facts about Fats The Skinny on Fats
by Mary Enig, PhD, and Sally Fallon