Tag Archives: non-gmo

How to choose the right oil – Gringo Jack’s Part II on healthy oil

So what oil should we be cooking with?  Even more important than the health factor is the heating temperature of oils.  Known as the smoke point, each oil can take a certain temperature before bad things start to happen.  The smoke point is actually that – the point at which the oil begins to smoke.  The smoke point is when all the nutrients begin to degrade and potentially harmful compounds begin to form.

When an oil makes certain claims such as heart healthy or packed with antioxidants or helps to lower cholesterol, remember that these claims are no longer true once they pass their smoke point.  In fact, not only are the health benefits destroyed, but you could be ingesting carcinogens.   To clarify even further, an oils smoke point is dependent on how refined the oil is.  More refine, higher smoke point.  Less refined, lower smoke point.  Obviously, for cooking we are looking for a higher smoke point.

So, below are several factors we want to look at when choosing an oil:

  • Smoke Point
  • Types and ratios of fat content
  • Refinement
  • Process – chemical or pressed

We’ve created a chart that will give us some of useful information when choosing an oil.

Oil Chart

We can infer much through this chart!  First, you can see that Butter and Flax should not be used for high heat cooking as it has the lowest smoke point (along with the unrefined sunflower and safflower).

Conversely, canola, peanut, palm, corn and most of the refined oils are good to cook with.  However, let’s now look at the rest of the information.

While you can cook with palm oil and coconut oil (as well as butter on low heat), they are also the highest in saturated fats – coconut oil being a whopping 91% saturated fat!    To break it down further, however, both coconut and palm oil are very high in lauric acid (of the saturated fat), hence the coconut oil craze, since lauric acid is also used medicinally.  So, at this point, we certainly would not cut those two oils from our choices.

Now, take palm oil.  High smoke point and high in lauric acid of the saturated fat. However, palm oil also has a 10:1 ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3.  That would probably cut palm oil from our list of choices.  Again, canola oil comes out on top with a 2:1 ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3.

  • Let’s look at deep frying.  Temperatures for deep frying are between 325-400, so we need an oil that has a smoke point over 325.  Looking at our chart, we can infer several things:
  • Walnut oil has to be at least semi-refined, however also has a terrible Omega ratio and is expensive
  • Sunflower oil also has to be semi or fully refined, and also has a terrible Omega ratio.
  • Soybean oil again, has to be semi or fully refined with a lousy Omega ratio.
  • The same goes for sesame, safflower oil and peanut oil.
  • Olive and corn oil has a great smoke point, but a crappy Omega ratio.
  • Turns out, canola oil has a great smoke point, is the lowest in saturated fat and has the best Omega ratio!  Of course, this is assuming you are using expeller pressed, non-gmo canola oil so that you are not destroying the Omega 3s with the heat and chemical extraction and refinement method. Add non-GMO and you have the perfect oil for high heat cooking!

My favorite two oils are expeller-pressed, non-GMO canola oil and extra virgin olive oil.  For low heat cooking, I use the extra virgin olive oil for flavor and the extra nutrients in olive oil.  For any high heat cooking, I always use the good canola oil.


I am trying to find ways to incorporate some of the other oils into my diet, but on a limited basis.  I am definitely falling on the coconut oil, all the time craze as I believe the huge saturated fat level should be mitigated with moderation use.

So, there we go.  Gringo Jack’s uses expeller-pressed, non-GMO canola oil for our chips because we did the research and want to make the best possible product we can for you and your family.  I mean, hey a snack is a snack, but snacks made with good ingredients have their place and a rightful place it is – I mean, how dull diets would be without them!

Gringo Jack's Flaky Tortilla Chips
Gringo Jack’s Flaky Tortilla Chips





Will the Real Healthy Oil Please Stand? Gringo Jack’s uncovers the truth about oils.

The food world is getting harder to navigate.  Remember the 1960s and 70s when eggs were good for you?  Then they were bad, then good, then bad and now good.  My goodness, why can’t the healthy food community make up its mind?!


Well, science dictates the changes in healthy eating advice.  The more we know, the more we can get a handle on whats good and what isn’t.  We are learning so much more, so much faster as our scientific knowledge increases exponentially.  The more we learn about decoding dna and the more we learn about genes, the more we can narrow down what is good and what isn’t.

However, that knowledge also lends itself to changing the foodscape.  GMOs are an example of a “little bit of knowledge”.  So, not only do we have to keep up on what foods are healthy and unhealthy, but now we have a much wider variety of foods and food processes to study.

This is where oil comes in.  What oil is healthy?  Can I cook with a certain oil?  The internet is ripe with information for an against certain oils.  For example, there has been a huge campaign against canola oil.  Canola oil originally came from the rapeseed and was very high in erucic acid – a known toxin responsible for anything from heart to lung problems.   In the 1970s, a group of Canadians cross bred a new, benign plant for canola oil.  This new breed was called canola (Canadian oil low acid).


Of course, after this, the scientist at the forefront of this went to Monsanto where a genetically modified canola (still rapeseed, but no longer the toxic rapeseed) was created to withstand Round-Up.  Now, most of the canola oil made and consumed is genetically modified  Remember, the original rapeseed developed by the Canadians was not a GMO – it was naturally crossbred.

To make things worse, as you know, oil has to be extracted from nuts, seeds, grains, fruits and vegetables.  There are several methods for doing this, but most of the canola oil you buy at the grocery store is extracted using the chemical solvent method.  Using a chemical solvent, usually hexane, over 90% of the oil is able to be extracted.  However, this chemical is poisonous.  In fact, just breathing hexane can cause nausea and headaches and attacks the central nervous system. So, the hexane has to come out later.  The hexane is removed with high heat.  However, while this process removes the hexane, it is unclear as to whether there are trace amounts left and whether these trace amounts are unsafe.  High heat could turn whatever amounts are left into an inhalant.  Also, the high heat degrades the oil and changes the flavor (sometimes completely ruining the flavor altogether) as well as the nutritional makeup.  Actually, it is truly gross – you can find videos on the internet that will show you how the extraction is done and you may not want to eat after that!  Actually, here is a link to one of those videos:

So along comes non-gmo, expeller pressed oil.  Utilizing the Canadian cross bred canola, the oil is extracted via the centuries old natural method called expeller pressed.  A purely mechanical method is utilized and presses the seeds or fruits until oil comes out.  This method is definitely not as effective as the chemical solvent and gets only about 60-70% of the oil (as opposed to over 90% from the chemical method).  Hence, expeller pressed is more expensive.

The difference, however is night and day.  Forget the flavor which is hugely different from its chemical induced counterpart.  The method makes the difference between consuming poison to consuming one of the healthiest coils out there.  Add non-GMO to the mix and what you have is now an oil lowest in saturated fat of all oils and has an omega-6 / omega-3 ratio of 2:1!  Also, it has the highest smoke point (ie: canola oil 375 vs safflower or sunflower t 212 degrees),so that it makes it one of the best oils to cook with.  Once oils get heated past their smoke point, you wind up with carcinogens and free radicals – just what you DON’T want in your healthy stir-fry!

Next week, I’ll offer up a chart with all the oils, the advantages and disadvantages of each.  But, before ending here, you should know that Gringo Jack’s uses ONLY non-GMO, expeller pressed canola oil in both our chips AND our restaurant frying!  How many restaurants can tell you that your fries, chicken etc is fried in non-toxic, non-GMO expeller pressed oil?

Gringo Jack's Flaky Tortilla Chips
Gringo Jack’s Flaky Tortilla Chips

GMOs – Labeling

First, allow me to apologize – a family issue prevented me from being able to devote time to writing.  But, we’re back now!  Thank you to all that have been following this blog.

If you take an initial look at the issue of labeling, you might wonder what could be controversial.  I mean, letting the public know seems the right thing to do, right?

So why are the big-ag companies doing back flips to keep labeling laws from going into effect?  Unfortunately, part of the reason is because they know that people are still widely uneducated when it comes to GMOs.  If a label says anything like “contains or may contain GMOs”, an automatic assumption  may be made that GMOs are bad.   Also, the more the anti-GMO groups put out information on GMOs and stages protests, etc, the more influence this will have on the fears of consumers.  (Please keep in mind that this post DOES NOT mean to imply that GMOs are safe or unsafe – merely just perusing the thoughts and feelings of the public and what might go on in their minds.)

book cover for Sam Merwin Jr book, "A Matter of Policy - An Amy Brewster Mystery"
book cover for Sam Merwin Jr book, “A Matter of Policy – An Amy Brewster Mystery”

You see, friends – fear tactics are not a tool solely for Republicans – Liberals sometimes practice the same fear tactics.  Playing to people’s innate tendency towards fear works, despite being a sleazy way to get people on your side.

But, this issue isn’t about fear.  It is about informing people about what they are buying.  Cigarette pack warnings are an attempt to instill fear and make people reconsider buying cigarettes with negative messaging.   GMO labels are not implying any negative – they are simply telling you what is in your food.  A better comparison would be allergen statements or even ingredients – both are simply telling the consumer what is in the product.

Labeling GMOs is really a debate over labeling process attributes.  Should food processing, of which GMOs are one process, be labeled?  There are several ways to go here:

1.  Legislation that does not allow any GMO process statements – either containing or not containing GMOs.

2.  Legislation requiring all foods containing GMOs to be labeled.  A statement would accompany such label that disclaims government judgment on the safety of GMOs.

3.  Voluntary labeling with the use of GMOs or the absence of GMOs.  This seems somewhat arbitrary, leaving consumers confused.

4.  Voluntary labeling of the use of GMOs, but again, requiring a statement accompanying the non-GMO label that disclaims government judgment on the safety of GMOs.

The first option no longer seems viable as anti-GMO groups are not going away and neither is the issue.  By not allowing any labeling of process attributes, consumers could make a judgment call with little to no information.  (Yes, you might say that many people already do that when they go out to vote, but I digress! ;-)).  Lack of information leaves a ripe ground for conspiracy theories!

The second option might work as some of the onus is no longer on the small manufacturer to get verified, even though they will still have to go through the work of getting in house paperwork on ingredients to make sure they are not using GMOs.   But either way the issue goes, no longer are we going to be able to ignore the issue, so this could be the best option.

originally from sustainablepost.com
originally from sustainablepost.com

Under the anti-labeling guise, the third option above would be a continuation of what we have now.  However, that option – in my mind – is the least viable.  The confusion it creates in the minds of consumers is unfair, not only to the consumer, but to smaller manufacturers.  If one product is labeled non-GMO and another product is NOT labeled non-GMO, the natural inclination of a consumer is to believe that the product not labeled does contain GMOs.  But the cost of getting verified non-GMO is prohibitive to many manufacturers that might actually be non-GMO, but can’t afford to get verified.

Gringo Jack’s is going through the process of getting non-GMO verified and I can attest to several things:  it is very expensive and it is extremely time consuming and frustrating.  The requirements for paperwork are over the top (more on that in another post!) and it is a continuing cost every year once accomplished.

So, we’ve presented the beginning of the labeling issue, but there is so much more – evidenced by the many dollars being spent on the part of the anti-labeling campaigns as well as local governments fighting the groups fighting the labels.   Money is being poured into lawsuits, campaigns, advertising, marketing etc and so this issue deserves more time.

Next week will delve into what both sides have to say about the labeling.

GMOs and Food Sustainability – Part IV

Here are some crazy statistics:

  • According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), in a 2011 report, about 25% of the world’s agricultural land is now highly degraded.  The Intergovenmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says that climate change is going to further exacerbate the problem.
  • According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), 70% of global water use is used in agriculture.  However, the share of water is going to dramatically drop to 40% by 2050.
  • By 2001, the FAO food price index more than doubled its level from 2000-2002.  We’ve now had the longest cyclical rise in food prices in the last 50 years.
  • As population continues to grow, food supply demand will continue to rise and therefore prices will continue to rise while supply will continue to decline.


Taking these statistics into account, we know we have to do something as the dismal future looms ahead.  The GMO proponents feel they are doing something to help the situation.  According to these groups, some of the benefits of GMOs include:

  • Increased crop yield
  • Increased nutrition in existing crops  (read about the GM anthocyanin tomatoes)
  • Improved food production efficiency
  • Improved shelf life (about 60-70% of all processed foods you buy have GMO)
  • Decease resistant crops  (read about the late blight resistant potatoes)
  • Pest resistant crops

Those seem like some pretty cool benefits!  While some of these characteristics can be achieved using traditional or classical breeding methods (as they’ve been doing since the beginning of agriculture), not all crops are easily bred for the desirable traits.  The late blight resistant potatoes are an example of this.

However, the GMO community is trying to tell us that using biotechnology and genetically modifying crops is the same as cross breeding (the practice of thousands of years).  It is not the same.  And the claims of sustainability due to decease resistance and  pest resistance may or may not prove out.  Many of the GM crops are developing new and improved insects and deceases which could be strike one against sustainability.  During a time when we are learning about antibiotic resistance, we should consider the same with our food supply.

There are also indications of the following:

  • GE crops require more water and can not depend on rainwater
  • GE crops are more susceptible to secondary pests
  • GE crops depend on the chemicals developed by the bioengineer companies and therefore, crops become more costly

So, the questions of sustainability are a lot more complicated than the GMO community would have us believe.  However, one of the biggest issues might actually be – not whether or not GMOs can help the world’s food ills, but rather, if we rely on GMOs, are we going to ignore the myriad of OTHER proven techniques to sustain a quality food source (ie:  urban vertical farming as just one example in my mind)?

If we use seeds as our sole solution to the problems in food production, we must also consider that these seeds are going to be patented (yes, corporations can actually now own food sources!) and study all the potential problems that will bring.  Those problems could go a lot way to mitigate any potential gain to sustainability.

I could go on for pages citing studies on both sides of the sustainability argument – there are many.  However, trying to weed through these studies to find which ones are flawed, which ones are “industry funded” and which ones are put forth solely with an agenda in mind, is almost an impossible task!   Suffice it to say that we are ALL for safe and effective methods for feeding the world in the coming hard times.  However, I am not nearly as convinced that GMOs are a long term effective and safe method.

Obviously, technology plays an ever increasing role in the quality of life and its ability to improve quality of life.  However, just because genetic engineering is technology doesn’t make it the be all and end all solution.  Further, there are other technologies being developed that might not have the potential risks involved with GE.  But that being said, there very well may be a place for GE in a comprehensive solution to the world’s food problems.  IMHO, however, if we do use GE as a part of our plan, it should be for the benefit of our species and NOT for the benefit of a corporation.  I do not ever want a corporation owning any part of the human condition.

Next week – GMOs and food labeling.




Just What Are GMOs and the Controversary? part 1

Part One

Vermont is gearing up for a fight.  Yes, our small state that barely warrants a mention on the weather channel app or in the news is now in the news regularly.  For such a small state, we certainly have a way of being trendsetters as well as being on the forefront of civil rights and progressive legislation.  I’m so proud of our state!

But I digress.  Vermont has just passed new legislation requiring labeling of any food products containing genetically modified ingredients.  While there is a coalition of food associations (Grocery Manufacturers Association, Snack Food Association, International Dairy Foods Association and the National Association of Manufacturers) suing the state of Vermont, there is currently a motion in the US District Court to dismiss.    If the lawsuit proceeds, Vermont has already put aside $1.5M to defend the legislation.

What is this all about?  What is a gmo?  It is very difficult to research this online as most of the sites have a viewpoint and only push that viewpoint.

Before getting into what a GMO is, I would like to clarify the legislation.  The legislation DOES NOT disallow GMOs in food.  It simply states that customers should be able to KNOW what they are buying.  While one side screams that such labeling will scare people who don’t know what a GMO is, it doesn’t matter – we have a right to know what we are buying and feeding ourselves and our families.  I mean, my goodness, Canada won’t allow “all natural” on a label if the product uses enriched flour.  Why?  Because the vitamins in the flour are additives and therefore, the flour is not considered natural.   Talk about commitment to its people!

OK, now that I got that off my chest –   Wikipedia defines gmo as:

“an organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. Organisms that have been genetically modified include micro-organisms such as bacteria and yeast, insects, plants, fish, and mammals. GMOs are the source of genetically modified foods and are also widely used in scientific research and to produce goods other than food.”

Thanks to the Genetic Literacy Project for this photo.
Thanks to the Genetic Literacy Project for this photo.

The precursor to genetic engineering has been going on for several thousand years.  Humans would selectively breed crops with desirable traits (or genes) and not breed crops with undesirable traits.  Applied to humans, you can see where selective breeding relates to the new debate over designer babies ( a whole new debate).

Genetic engineering started in the 1970s when genes were able to be removed, added and manipulated to produce a desired result.   Commercially available gmos became available in 1976.  It is important to note that GMO does not always refer to food.  GMOs are used in medical and biological research as well as agricultural research.  Genetic engineering remains an important (if not one of the most important) methods scientists have in learning how to combat diseases and create pharmaceuticals.

Of course, in our discussion, we are talking about GMOs in relation to food.  Crops are able to be genetically modified to resist pests, pesticides and rot.  Crops can be modified to include certain nutrients or modified to sustainably grow in areas where such a crop would normally not grow.  They can be modified to grow bigger, thereby needing less room.  It was in the 1990s that GMOs were nicknamed, ‘Frankenfoods’.

corn cartoon

There are only a few crops that are genetically modifed but, according to the National Grocers Association, about 75% of all foods contain a gmo. If you look at some of the crops that are modified, you can see why:  corn, soy, canola, sugar beets.

BTW, so you don’t have to wait for next week, organic crops do not contain any gmos.

Next week…. so why all the controversy?