Our Mortal “Temples”

I had a bad habit. When birthdays came around, and it was time to whip up a cake, I would hit the supermarket and grab the package of white icing that would be waiting there for me. It looked good and gooey on the label. Slathering it on the cake, it always spread with ease and went down that way too. I purchased icing like this for a long time—the last time only a little while ago. This last time, I took a long look at the ingredients.

It was loaded, among its multiplicity of nasty ingredients, with partially-hydrogenated oil. This stuff can kill you—no kidding. Despite its presence in the supermarket (a place where one might reasonably expect to purchase food), these oils may not be food at all. Webster’s defines food as “material consisting essentially of protein, carbohydrate, and fat used in the body of an organism to sustain growth… and to furnish energy.”

Hydrogenated oils do just the opposite of what authentic “food” oils do. They sap us of energy rather than furnish us with it. And the creepy thing is that hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils have been packed into almost every processed food, from bread crumbs to frozen chicken fingers. Just mosey on over to your local school, and take a look at the labels on the packages of the “snacks” in the vending machines. It’s likely that most of these “snacks” are packed with hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils.

So what does this have to do with our faith? Our bodies may be “Temples of the Holy Spirit,” but these temples are mortal. If the food we are eating destroys these temples, then the jig is up. There is only one chance to use our temples the best we are able to do God’s will.

Our bodies do need oil—just as much as our cars do. But God made our bodies to need a particular kind of oil. Hydrogenated and partially-hydrogenated oils are not these oils. These latter oils don’t occur naturally in nature, but are man-made. They are heated in a way that causes a kooky change in their molecular structure, making them more solid, and less likely to spoil.

A can of vegetable shortening once sat in the back of my kitchen cabinet for a few eons, until I finally stumbled upon it. The stuff still looked good as new. That’s hydrogenation at work.

Changed (hydrogenated) oils—also known as trans-fats—excel at keeping food from going bad. But they also excel at making unsuspecting people sick. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, trans-fats have been linked to stroke, diabetes, heart disease, chronic conditions and inflammation. According to U.S. News and World Report, inflammation itself has been linked to cancer, depression and to Alzheimer’s.

Looking at what now passes for food in America, it’s hard not to see traces of a particular type of sin called greed. Costs go down when shelf life goes up. And that means more profit, independent of the physical damage done to human beings. It’s disturbing that hydrogenated and partially-hydrogenated oils were ever allowed into foods and onto supermarket shelves. Given recent research, it is even more disturbing that the government permits them to stay there.

These oils may be financially good for food manufacturers. The food sits there practically forever, and never goes bad. But they are bad for humans. Perhaps the government’s logic is that what’s good for food manufacturers must be good for us too! Interestingly, this is the same government that deems itself worthy to take over “health” care. The truth is that some of what has been permitted to sit on our supermarket shelves does to the body exactly what sin does to the soul—destroys it.

American health care costs could quickly be cut by knocking this stuff off the supermarket shelves. Harvard researchers have concluded that simply eliminating trans-fats from food in this country could prevent up to 1 in 5 heart attacks. Most European countries have either banned these bad oils, or are making plans to do so. I still wince when I think I ever fed them to my family.

Hence forth, we’re declaring our house a hydrogenated oil free zone! Olive oil and flax seed oil here we come! Bring on the good omega 3 oil foods like salmon and walnuts!

So what do we cover our cakes with now? Honestly, I do not know. Maybe we’ll try home-made whipped cream with fresh strawberries like my grandmother once did.

What I do know is that, as good stewards, we are called by God to protect the multiple “Temples” that house the Holy Spirit in our families. And so I will begin with more vigor to face the challenge of fighting the evil stuff in the food on the supermarket shelves, just as I face the challenge of fighting the evil stuff sitting on the magazine racks each time I check-out. And, from this day forward, I’ll do all I can to keep the likes of hydrogenated and partially-hydrogenated oils out of my home. Thank goodness, there will no longer be a place in my pantry for them.

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  • http://prairiehawk.me PrairieHawk

    How about a few words on the health effects of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS)? HFCS is made by processing corn starch with enzymes to make a compound that is roughly one-half fructose and one-half glucose. Because of tariffs on sugar, this stuff is actually cheaper in the U.S. than natural beet or cane sugar. In fact it has made soda so cheap to make that it is the culprit behind the “super-sized” soft drinks at fast food restaurants and convenience stores. Add to that the fact that there is evidence that HFCS suppresses the body’s normal mechanism for feeling full, and you have the perfect recipe for an epidemic of obesity and diabetes, especially among our nation’s children.

    We can take our food pantries back. We can order water at restaurants, stop buying HFCS-containing sodas and foods, and complain to manufacturers and retailers. I think the biggest and most beneficial thing we can do would be to stop eating processed food all together and go back to a diet more like what our Grandmothers cooked for us. It isn’t hard and once you’ve done it you wonder why you ever ate all that junk anyway.

  • fishman

    Might I suggest powdered sugar whipped with butter and a just a little bit of water.
    Adjust amounts to arrive at the consistency you like. Much healthier for you.
    Although, I suppose one could go on to argue the health effects of sucrose at that point in time. So much of our food is only ‘partially’ healthy.

  • http://www.catholicexchange.com Mary Kochan

    ah, fishman, you speak of buttercream frosting. Every baker should know this simple sweet that is easily colored and can be endlessly varied. I like the Martha Stewart version.

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