This is in regards to ghee and coconut oil, don't these have to be highly processed to become what they are or are they processed a certain way that is acceptable.
For me, the turning point is when you break a plant/animal down into something that it wouldn't really be in the original food form. Something like coconut oil would be in a very similar form if you just straight-up ate the coconut. Same with olive oil. Corn, however, is broken down and reformed into hundreds of different compounds and additives that aren't, largely, a natural food product and may not be digested properly/effectively and might have adverse effects on our health.
If you do eat butter, then this thought process holds, since you're consuming milk fat in a very similar form as what you'd get if you just drank unprocessed milk. Dairy still has its whole controversy, though.
The second part to this is looking at the nutrition of the oil on its own. A food being "processed" isn't usually bad in and of itself, but what we have come to call "Processed Foods" contain lots of oils that we know, from a scientific standpoint, have very high levels of Omega-6.
It's important to view food holistically through a Paleo lens. Take what we know about grains, legumes, dairy, fats, n3/n6 ratios, etc. and gauge how good or bad a food may be. Then make a choice about if it is right for you.
Ghee is just clarified butter (all you do is melt the butter and physically remove the dairy solids) and coconut oil can be cold pressed from the meat. There really isn't a lot of processing that happens.
It's all about the level of processing and what is acceptable. Of course, this is something we will all have to answer for ourselves. I mean, since a cow doesnt grow steaks, you could say that the act of slaughtering and butchering is processing and you would be right.
As far as ghee and coconut oil, and even most cold pressed EV olive oil for that matter, the processing to get the end result is fairly minimal and does not change the nutritional make up of the original product that much.
Just watch how canola oil is made and you'll see a clear difference in the way seeds are industrially processed to obtain oil vs. the relatively minimal 'processing' it takes to squeeze oil out of macadamia nuts, olives, or to turn cream into butter.
This video will make you never want to eat canola, corn, soy, etc. oil ever again.
I think this is a good question / point and I think that oils should be consumed in moderation, and the Nourishing Traditions folks make the same point. You need some kind of fat to cook with, but that shouldn't be more than few teaspoons per dish. Salad dressing has an oil component but you shouldn't need a whole lot there either. I don't think you should be chugging the stuff.
When I think "processed foods" I think things like boxed cereals, Pop-Tarts, crackers, cookies, chips, fruit strips, granola, ice cream, most dairy products, bread, pizza, basically about 2/3 of your average grocery store. I think that, generally, each step between how the food exists in the natural state and when it goes into your mouth decreases its value.
Olive oil is an interesting conundrum... you can't even eat olives right off of the tree. To eat them you have to cure them, and to get the oil, you have to process them a different way. However, the health benefits of olive oil are widely known. Maybe this is just an exception to the rule.
Like "optimal", "processed" is a vague term that is thrown around a lot in the paleo community, and, while useful, can lead to exactly this kind of confusion. I think talk about processed foods is more useful than "optimal"- it's a good rough guide, but it only gets you so far.
I think a better guide is a combination of empirical science, evolutionary biology, and knowledge of traditional foods. In the case of ghee and coconut oil, both have been used for a long time in traditional cultures, both (perhaps especially ghee) probably fit into the "EM2" concept proposed by Dr. Harris, and empirical science has so far demonstrated no harm, and some benefits, to the consumption of medium- and long-chain triglycerides, even in relatively large quantities. That would be the idea, at least. I'm any of these claims could be false, but that's the framework I would use.
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