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Birke Reports – Don’t Let Cooking Oils Fool You

Thank you for following along with my travels on Facebook… I’ll be back soon, but in the meantime I have a special guest post from one of the most inspirational people I met this year – 13 year old – local food and organic farming advocate – Birke Baehr. If this is the first time you are learning about Birke – you’ve got to check out his TED Talk and his new book “Birke On the Farm” – especially if you have kids. I am super proud to call him one of my friends and who knows he might just become a regular around here…so watch out, he’s a firecracker!

First of all, I’d like to thank Food Babe for inviting me to be a guest on her blog, I’m very excited! We have been talking about working together and I really like hearing about her ideas and recent adventures.

I’d like to start by sharing with you a certain line of products that have popped up in my local “healthy” supermarket. The day after Christmas I was shopping and noticed a large display in the middle of the aisle. Spectrum, a well known brand of organic oils and cooking products has introduced some new products. My family has bought Spectrum coconut oil and some of their other organic oils because they have such an extensive line of organic products. But, what caught my eye that day was this whole new line of products they have introduced. They’re canola oil blends and it seems that they have mixed non-organic canola oil with coconut, peanut, and olive oil just to name a few.


Now for those of you who don’t know canola oil is…

“It is widely recognized as the healthiest salad and cooking oil available to consumers.” (But it is not!) It was developed through hybridization of rapeseed. Rapeseed oil is toxic because it contains significant amounts of a poisonous substance called erucic acid. Although canola oil contains only trace amounts of erucic acid it is also one of the top 4 genetically modified crops. You can read more about the history of canola and how it is a big con here.

Spectrum is owned by Hain-Celestial Group; which probably has the largest conglomerate of well known organic brands such as: Arrowhead Mills, Celestial Seasonings, Rice, Soy, and Almond Dream, and the Garden of Eatin’ just to name a few. In 1999 the H.J. Heinz Corporation bought 19.5% of the company but then sold their stock in 2005.

During the Prop 37 GMO labeling campaign the Hain-Celestial Group sent out a press release stating that that, “The Hain Celestial Group, Inc., a leading natural and organic products company, today publicly announced its endorsement of the mandatory labeling of food products containing genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) in accordance with international standards, citing its long compliance with those requirements adopted in Europe and other international markets.” They also donated $25,000 towards YES on GMO labeling. On the other hand the former owner of almost one fifth of the company H.J. Heinz Corporation gave more than $450,000 against labeling.

Olive Oil Spectrum

After learning a lot about their stance of GM foods Spectrum seems to be very supportive on labeling. In fact, I discovered that they are a part of the Non-GMO Verified project. Yet, I also find it very interesting that they haven’t done a press release on their new line of products nor are they featured on the Spectrum website. Since canola is one of the top GMO crops, something is really bothering me about these canola blends. Hopefully we will hear more on these new products and my concerns will be addressed. I don’t want to condemn this company; only shed light on these new products and their history and leave it up to you to make the decision.

Please leave me a comment and let me know what you think.

Also if you are wondering…you can check out Food Babe’s three favorite cooking oils here –

More About Birke Baehr

An Internationally recognized speaker and youth advocate for sustainable food and agriculture, Birke has visited and volunteered at farms around the United States and recently published his first book, “Birke On The Farm“. Birke has spent the last four years traveling around the United States and Italy visiting organic farms and learning from the farmers who steward those farms. He has attended numerous organic agriculture seminars and workshops; including one with renowned farmer and author, Joel Salatin who Birke looks up to in his pursuit of new thinking about food and agriculture. Birke continues to educate himself in this genre and intends to be a sustainable organic agriculturist in the future. He has a passion for educating others, especially his peers, about the destructiveness of the industrialized food system and the enlightening alternatives of sustainable and organic farming, food and practices. You can follow Birke on Facebook and Twitter.

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65 responses to “Birke Reports – Don’t Let Cooking Oils Fool You

  1. My favorite cooking oil is nutiva’s coconut oil. Foodbabe, what do you think about ghee purchased from Indian stores? Safe to consume?

    1. Make your own ghee. This is a very healthy source of gut repairing, immune building butyric acid, Buy several pounds of organic salt free butter. Melt in, preferably glass, or nickel free stainless, saucepan, bring to a boil and skim off all foam that surfaces; you’ll begin to hear a frying , crackling, sound. When that sound stops remove from heat. Cool and pour into a glass storage container. Store in refrigerator. Use as much and as often as you wish. I divide mine amongst several containers, and allow crushed garlic cloves to flavor one batch. Makes a wonderful healthy spred. Butyric Acid, remember this healer !!!!

      1. Okay, decided that to avoid HEEHAW answers, I’d go to the ,”Horse’s Mouth”, to offer the readers a scientific answer. Ghee, make it fresh, don’t buy it ready made,
        is the best oil for frying, sauteing, oven frying, broiling,barbecue sauces.
        It is not long but too much to quote so here is the link that will allow you to apply real science to nutrition:

        Enjoy, and prosper in health.

  2. This is a great post! I have heard a few things myself about these oil “blends”. My favorite oils are organic toasted sesame, organic walnut and organic coconut oil. Thanks for spilling the brand on canola oil. Many people still believe it is healthy.

    1. Hello, Melissa. Yes, ALL Canola oil was made unsafe decades ago for human consumption by the extended shelf life motive, when it’s intrinsic factor was GMO’d out.
      Everyone, however, needs to learn about the Human Individuality focus on food stuffs selection. I love the taste of sesame oil, but it clogs my blood flow. Coconut,Hemp, Flax, and Olive Oils are superfood medicines for me.
      Reading Changing Your Genetic Destiny, by Connecticut Scientist, Professor, Dr. Peter J D’Adamo; a foremost authority on Epigentics, Diet and Lifestyle is mandatory . It brings food choices out of the Dark Ages, at last !!!! One person’s healthy food choice is truly another person’s poison. Max Plank Instiute scholar and Naturopathic Doctor, Paavo Airola, as early as the 1960’s was beginning to voice this truth. Go organic, eat no processed foods, and then eat only the foods designed for you, by your blood type, your genetic specifity, your early life environmental exposures. Bad genes can be turned off, good genes can be turned on. The marvelous body and brain.

  3. Thanks for a great article. So glad young people are “getting on board” with the GMO because you are the ones that can change things for us all! So, is all canola oil, even if listed as organic, really GMO?”

    1. I wouldn’t eat canola oil even if it is organic because it is still an unhealthy oil with unhealthy properties (as Birke mentioned above), even if it is not genetically modified.

    2. I wouldn’t eat canola because it is toxic (organic or not!). Best oil bet is coconut oil. Period end of story. Good brands are Dr. Bronner’s, Nutiva, and a few others.

  4. What oil do you use for baking? I tried melting Nutiva’s Coconut oil, but then it clumped back together when I mixed it with the dry ingredients in my recipe.

    1. I second what Amy said. I have the same problem about already melted coconut oil solidifying even when kept other ingredients at room temperature to avoid the problem.

      What do you think about “Liquid coconut oil” by Nature’s way?

      Though they have an organic semi-solid version of coconut oil, this liquid coconut oil isn’t organic though it’s non-gmo.

      1. We use Spectrum’s Coconut oil in our pancake mix and we had this problem as well until we tried refrigerating the oil before we put it into the mix. Once we did this it no longer clumped together. Give it a try.

    2. Coconut oil works fine with baking. Even if it does start to solidify after melting it down, the product will turn out fine when it comes out of the oven because it will melt back down in the oven. If it still bothers you, you can use real, organic butter from grassfed cows. You can also try palm oil which is the same family as coconut oil and is not damaged by heat.

      1. Palm oil is however HORRENDOUS for the environment and endangered species. Huge areas of ancient rainforest are being cleared daily to grow this crop and indigenous wildlife such as orangutans are being killed and displaced. Google it and see for yourself. AVOID PALM OIL!

      2. Yes, the majority of companies don’t give a crap how they get the palm oil and it’s devastating to the environment. However, Nutiva says theirs is sourced from organic farmers, does not harm the environment and It’s Fair Trade. Take their word for what it’s worth but Foodbabe endorses them.

    3. Coconut oil will solidify at 74 degrees. Make sure ALL the ingrediants are aboue that temp or it will get hard.

    4. Coconut oil’s solid at room temp is no different from real butter. Unless your other ingredients are really cold it will not solidify upon combining. I use it in most of my baking now. The friction of the beater distributes it evenly. I let my liquids reach room temp before combining. A better cooking / baking control.

  5. Thanks for the info. It’s hard to trust big companies, seems like they are out to fatten their own wallets. Love reading Food Babe’s blog and hearing from Birke. Keep up the good work 🙂

  6. I haven’t had any issues when I use it for baking. I melt it down and add it to my wet ingredients then add the dry ingredients. I use it in pancakes and all of my baking.

  7. i know canola oil is toxic to our bodies….why would they blend it with good oils, is it to make us think it becomes healthy when its mix….?????

    1. As long as Americans are striving to be Conspicuous Consumers (constantly buying bigger, better, faster computers, phones, tv’s cars, houses, and other such stuff) then low cost food is always going to be in demand.

      The general public still thinks that canola is a GOOD oil thanks to the marketing efforts from special interests and it is cheap–at least cheaper than to most other [healthy] oils. Blends, therefore, are perceived as a healthy affordable alternative to more expensive oils.

      1. Joshua, that’s probably the best way I’ve heard the general public explained. You’re completely right on why this blend would even be developed, it’ll be perceived as healthy by people that aren’t educated on the subject or think eating truly healthy is too expensive and they will purchase it, especially when it’s sold by in a “health” food store by a pretty well respected brand. Sadly, perception, not education on a product is enough for some people to make a purchase decision.

  8. What a great article. Birke, you are such a great role model and someone for our country’s youth to look up to. Such knowledge for a 13 year old! I am impressed 🙂

  9. You need to take over Vilsak’s job at the Dpt. of Agriculture, Birke. I think you’d be much better for the job! You’re an excellent presence and role model for kids and adults, love what you are doing!

  10. Great info Birke! I don’t use Spectrum oils. But it is interesting that they are trying to make a positive spin on something that is already known as being bad (canola).

    I use coconut oil for almost everything. I purchase mine at Costco. It is Carrington Farms unrefined, cold pressed, organic, extra virgin, coconut oil. It does impart some flavor which can be beneficial in most instances. It is especially good with popcorn.

    As far as coconut oil clumping back up, if the recipe calls for water, i also heat the water up. This really helps in keeping the oil liquid.

  11. I was just wondering what the reasoning behind using coconut oil is. I do not understand this fad. Coconut oil has more saturated fat than olive oil or safflower oil.

    1. It’s not a fad – it’s been used for centuries in asia and other countries. It is made up of medium chain fatty acids – that actually help fat to release from your liver – improving your metabolism. It’s amazing and I’m not the only one who recommends it.

    2. It is not the saturated fat that is the problem, it is the type of saturated fat that you need to do some research. Coconut oil is a MCT (Medium Chain Triglyceride).

      Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) are fats with an unusual chemical structure that allows the body to digest them easily. Most fats are broken down in the intestine and remade into a special form that can be transported in the blood. But MCTs are absorbed intact and taken to the liver, where they are used directly for energy. In this sense, they are processed very similarly to carbohydrates.
      source: (

      1. Thanks Ron for a scientific response with a reference. Glad to have someone give a response to my question finally without the answer being straight opinion.

      2. Coconut Oil is not an MCT. MCT is a man made product; fractured, fractionated. I’ll leave it to you to do your own research. This computer gadget is great for that.

  12. somebody mentioned palm oil… I thought it was the most toxic kind of oil. I only use sesame olive oil. I am trying to use coconut for high heat and baking for my family of 9. but its hard for us to get used to. what is the next best oil for that? is palm an option?

  13. Great Article! You are a very unique teenage boy! I only use EVOO first cold pressed & organic virgin coconut oil, and organic unsalted butter!

  14. Teeny little problem with coconut oil….no stir fry. It’s smoke point is too low for high temp flash cooking. Peanut oil is my choice

  15. I have tried using coconut oil more, but what can I use if I don’t like the strong coconut taste? What else can I use for baking?

    1. I always use butter in baking – I think in a lot of cases, butter can be substituted for oil.
      Or you could try olive oil – depending on how much you need to use, there may be a slight olive oil taste to it.

    2. For stir fry or other high heat cooking try Ghee (Clarified Butter), it has a high smoke point and doesn’t require refrigeration. If you’re local supermarket doesn’t have it you can get it at Trader Joes. Search comments in this thread and you’ll see a comment from David about Ghee, in fact Google it and you’ll learn a lot more.

  16. Thanks Vani for sharing Birke’s great article! It is good to know the motives and how much companies are willing to invest towards positive eating for all Americans. The amounts donated toward each campaign, either for or against, is quite different from the other. I appreciate also knowing that this company is on the fence and I will be sure to continue to read labels to make sure they don’t change what I typically use from them that has been gmo free. Thanks bunches!!! You are indeed an inspiration!!!! Sherra in TN

  17. I am just learning about the health benefits of coconut oil and in my searches I, of course, have come across conflicting information. What do you think about the following information? I don’t know what to believe anymore.

    Researchers from the Heart Research Institute in Australia studied the body response from eating meals containing good fats versus bad fats. Participants were fed with meals prepared with either coconut oil (high in “bad” saturated fats) or safflower oil (high in “good” polyunsaturated fats). After only 3 hours, researchers found the participants fed with the coconut meal high in saturated fat had a significantly reduced blood flow due to arteries’ reduced ability to expand. After 6 hours, researchers found that the good high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol’s anti-inflammatory properties had decreased after the saturated coconut meal, but improved after the polyunsaturated safflower meal. The results of this study were published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology in August 2006.

    1. Hi Kristy – You can find conflicting information on almost any topic. Food Babe is a huge advocate for coconut oil and we believe that it is incredible for your health.

      1. For hundreds of years scientists believed that Earth was flat. Gladly, we believe in Science and new scientific research proved that Earth is not flat. This whole blog is based on credibility that you are doing research and making a conclusion from that. When you simply reply to a user, who is stating a “scientific research”, by what foodbabe “believes” in and illogical argument such as “you can always find conflicting information”, people see through that. I am one example. The moment I saw your reply, I completely disregarded this article and question the intentions of your “beliefs”, which seems to be focused on making money and you believe if you admit you are wrong you will lose people’s trust.

        I understand its hard for you to question what you have supported in the past. I suggest you reference the research studies you used to come up to the conclusion. Once new studies are done conclusions can be changed and that’s a good thing. Otherwise we will still be believing Earth is flat.

    2. Some years ago I poured over a complicated report resulting from a nutrition/cancer study, which concluded the nutrients had no protective advantage. Now, no mention was made that a large number of participants were terminal cancer patients. Nor that the amount of the nutrient was 1/100th of the established therapeutic value recommended to maintain the health of a normal healthy person. Nor were patients required to have stopped smoking nor the use of alcohol. The whole thing was a deliberately set up ruse to defame naturaal medicine.
      Likewise unless we educate ourselves with the fist scientific information on diet, , blood type,genetic expression, lifestyle, we are still trying to find the right color to make the square wheel work. And when it comes to protecting profits turf believe me the humanitarian supplement makers and the organic weiner producers will line up with the rest of the profiteers to declare any profit threatening truth , “AIN”T SO.” I don’t get paid to plug this and I’m getting a bit weary trying. When I interned a lifetime ago at a Psychiatric Hospital, a ,even then, very old joke was that insanity is repeating the same behaviour and expecting a different out come. Read Change Your Genetic Destiny, author , Scientist, Internationally Acclaimed, Professor of Clinical Studies, Bridgeport University; Practitoner at His large Modern Naturopathic Clinic, Physician of the Year, Naturopathic Scientist of the Year; Invited Keynote Speaker at the International gathering of the World’s top scientists in the the Scientific Field of Epigenetics and the Founder of the Institute for Human Individuality, Connecticut, USA, Doctor Peter J. D’Adamo. His father James, also a life long practicing Naturopathic Dr.

    3. If you have any Indians (from India) at work. There’s a good chance they can tell you what the best coconut water is.

    1. Yes I would like to know about this also! I use a good bit of olive oil in cooking but Food Babe does not discuss this (that I can find)! Thank you!

    2. By high user, Marina do you mean, you’re “tall?” Yuk…..
      Extra Virgin Cold Pressed Olive oil is like wonderful medicine. In the USA , however, you have to be very careful because it seems you can take a barrel of used car oiul, add a tsp olive oil and name it , “Olive Oil.” The key is to buy Organic Single Estate Extra Virgin Oilive Oil; or Certified BIODYNAMIC Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

  18. What is the best oil for frying? I realize frying isn’t a healthy way to cook, but my husband is Puerto Rican, so every now and then we have to fry some plantains. I’d love to know what kind of oil would be best for this!

    1. Birke is incorrect; erucic acid was misunderstood. That has been clarified. It is not the most important argument against Canola Oil. The removal of Canola’s inrtrinsic factor to extend shelf life to, “forever”. rendered it unfit, unsafe for human consumption. There is no original normal seed known to allow reversing the crime.

    2. You need to read , “Change Your Genetic Destiny.” It will tell you which oil is healthy for you and which for your husband according to your blood types.
      Organic Grape Seed Oil, Coconut Oil, and Ghee; make your own by boiling unsalted organic butter and skimming off the health destroying solids); are health safe at high heats; oilive oil will withstand sauteeing heat. Never heat flax nor hemp, and use Canola and Cottonsee oils to lubricate door hinges.
      Tell your grocers what you will not buy and why. Don’t bother ARGUING. I told one grocer I was changing loyalty unless certain changes were made and that I would take others with me. It took two months for that giant chain’s computer to realize customers had been lost. I also emailed the head office and talked calmly and respectfully with call center reps. The changes were made. I have more organic’s choice and whole wild frozen pacific salmon.

  19. We cook with the following three fats: ghee, mustard oil and peanut oil. What are your views on these three oils for cooking. Could you suggest some safe brands available in the US for the same.

    Thank you

  20. Dear FoodBabe,

    Thanks for this report. I have known Canola oil is not healthy for a long time but whenever I go to the health food store, their products are loaded with the stuff. Even more infuriating is when they have a label that says something like Safflower and or Canola Oil.

    Could you do a story on the fake health foods in our stores? I don’t buy very many processed foods, but every now and then I need to get a bar, crackers, etc. and it’s so hard to find anything with truly good ingredients in the health food store. No one holds them accountable…. and they keep spreading the misinformation by pushing their products as healthy.

    1. There is no confusion. Read Eat 4 Your Type. The confusion is caused by the truth
      about the one size fits all diet. Just isn’t so. The oils healthy for your blood type may not be so for another blood type. That’s just how it is. No insult intended but it’s the first science on food.

    1. The only intelligent comment is, Oils , like all food, are individualized choice; meaning your blood type determines which oils are safe and healthy for you. For me, flax, hemp, cocnut and olive oils heal and keep my weight at a normal level. Large amounts of Flax oil will help rapid weight loss in obese persons.

  21. Hi all,

    I also could find nothing about olive oil, peanut oil. I always just used olive oil and Smart Balance in a pinch. I have no clue if Smart Balance is even safe to eat and until recently stopped using those no-cook cooking sprays.

    I am trying to lose weight and know that too much of a good thing (oil in general) is not a good thing. I see advertised on tv, pans that proclaim that you need no oil to stir fry or make an omelet. Are these pans safe to use? And if not, are there alternate stir fry, omelets… methods to control oil intake in general? Oh, and best pan to use!

    Dazed and confused

  22. I bought a package of mixed olives and feta from Whole Foods in a hurry. I didn’t notice the oil used for packing was canola. What’s the deal with Whole Foods? I’m starting to find a lot of junk ingriediants in many items including fructose corn syrpe in some of their own breakfast bars.

  23. I have been looking on this website for more informaton on olive oil..How can you get the FDA to do something about the adulterated olive oil? Not all of us can afford to buy the organic olive oil from a health food store or off the internet. If the bottle says 100% cold pressed olive oil how does that pass? Who can start a campaign to have this changed? It makes me sad that when someone tries to make healthy eating a priority that they have to break the bank to do so.

  24. What is a good replacement for canola oil if you can’t use coconut or soy and need a non flavored oil for baking, etc? Thank you.

  25. I am Indian and we do a lot of high heat coking. I cannot cook with coconut oil. Can you please let me know if peanut oil, olive oil , sunflower oil are good?

  26. I was surprised you don’t have anything about the evils of extra virgin olive oil on your site. Much of the EVOO that comes from Europe is cut with inferior oils. Sometimes it’s even cut with rancid oil.

    That’s why I only buy California olive oil.

    Funny thing…people think any olive oil is healthy.

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