Paavo Airola - Let's Live - October 1977PrevNextIndex
A Case For Freshness
The Health Hazards of Stale and Rancid Foods
THE READERS of my columns in
Lets LIVE are aware of the fact that
Optimum Nutrition is one of the most
important positive factors affecting
one's health. There are other vital factors, of course, such as proper and
sufficient exercise, absence of severe
emotional and physical stresses, rest
and relaxation and a positive state of
mind. We all know that lack of exercise, smoking, drinking, negative state
of mind, unhappiness, depression,
constant worries and tensions, and
other emotional and mental stresses
can break down one's health and contribute to the development of virtually
any disease in the medical encyclopedia. But none of these can bring
about such rapid and devastating deterioration of health as malnutrition
If faulty nutrition can destroy one's
health, it would be logical to conclude
that improved, or optimum nutrition
would help in preventing disease and
restoring one's health. "The father of
medicine," Hippocrates, said 2,500
years ago that "our food should be our
medicine - our medicine should be our
food." The problem is, that although
we all agree on the importance of good
food and proper nutrition for good
health, there is great disagreement
among nutritionists when they attempt to determine
What Is Proper Nutrition, or what constitutes an Optimum Diet for Optimum Health.
There are those who believe that
our American supermarket-sold food
is the best and the most nutritious
food in the world, which will provide
perfectly adequate nutrition - and
there are those who claim that over-refined, denatured, supermarket foods
are making us all sick. There are those
who advocate a 100% vegetarian diet
and claim that too much meat will put
us into an early grave - and there are
those who swear by a high-animal protein diet, with lots and lots of meat.
There are those who advocate eating
only raw, uncooked, "living" foods,
and those who consider the discovery
of fire the greatest boon to man's nutrition.
There are those who say that grains
and seeds are for the birds, that they
are acid- and mucus-forming and
should be avoided like the plague and there are those who consider
grains, seeds, and nuts to be the most
important, complete and potent health
building foods of all. There are those
who consider tomatoes, garlic, and
honey to be health-building and disease-preventing foods (actually, excellent examples of Hippocrates'
designated foods as medicines) - and
those who malign them and call them
poisons. Then there are nutritionists
and health writers who want to please
everyone (just like the politicians do)
and advise eating anything that you
like, or "what agrees with you," as
long as it is natural and unprocessed.
Who is right, and whom can you
believe? Not an easy task to decide,
indeed. Why is there so much confusion? Why are there so many contradictory claims on practically every
issue of nutrition and health? If you
become discouraged by the fact that
so many experts disagree and contradict each other, you will be pleased to
know that most nutritionists agree on
several basic issues of optimum nutrition. For example, they agree that
the diet with the greatest potential for
optimum health, prevention of disease, and long life must be comprised
from the foods that are:
- natural, organically grown on fertile
soils without artificial fertilizers;
- whole, unprocessed, unrefined, with
all the nutrients nature put into them
intact, nothing removed and nothing
- poison-free, without toxic chemicals
used in producing, processing, or packing.
Vital Factor Overlooked
After mentioning the issues of nutrition that nutritionists agree
and disagree about, let's now look at one
issue that most experts simply overlook. This is the issue of freshness of
It is imperative, absolutely essential,
that foods in the Optimum Diet are
not only natural, whole, unrefined, unprocessed, and poison-free, but also
FRESH. Now, this doesn't seem to be
anything new. We all understand, read
about, and talk about fresh foods. But,
while we give lip service to freshness
of foods, we do not seem to mind, or
simply overlook, the fact that most
foods we eat today are not fresh by
any standard of nutritional quality.
The tragic fact is that most of the
foods eaten today are at best old
and stale, devoid of much nutritional
value, or at the worst, so rancid that
the toxic, carcinogenic chemicals, that
develop in the foods as a result of
rancidity, pose a serious threat to
ones health. This fact is not only
overlooked by supermarket shoppers,
but also by health advocates who
spend much effort and money to provide themselves with so~called organic health foods.
The Common Denominator
There are two kinds of nutrition researchers or investigators, both of
whom have their place: 1) those who
conduct clinical and laboratory experiments on animals or in test tubes; and
2) those who use an empirical approach-traveling around the world
and studying the eating and living
habits of various native groups known
for their exceptional health, absence
of disease, and long life. I belong to
the latter group. I am in good company. As did Dr. Weston A, Price, Dr.
R. McCarrison, Dr. Paul Bragg, Dr. Alexander Leaf, Betty Lee Morales,
John Tobe, and Dr. Bernard Jensen, I
traveled in many countries and observed firsthand the nutritional factors that seem to be common to all
groups that achieve superior health.
One of these factors, noted by me
as well as all the above-mentioned
investigators. is that healthy natives
always eat their food fresh. By fresh,
I mean right from the tree, from the
garden, or from the field. Of course,
the absence of sophisticated transportation and storage facilities such as
refrigerated trucks and refrigerators,
and the absence of such chemical
wonders as food preservatives, antioxidants, and mold inhibitors,
has necessitated a strict observance of this
freshness factor. Natives have had to
eat their food fresh, because the very
next day food was spoiled and inedible.
I have noticed that even when
they cook their foods, they never save
leftovers for the next day, but feed
them to their animals or chickens.
Vegetables and fruits are picked at
the peak of their ripeness and eaten
the same day, at the height of their
nutritional value. Bread (or chapatis,
piirakka, or tortillas) is baked every
day and always eaten fresh. The flour
is made at home or in a local village
mill in small quantities to prevent rancidity and staleness. Even those who
live in the cities shop for their food
at the market every morning, buying
only enough for one day, sometimes
only for one meal. These natives are
guided by their natural instincts as
well as forced by necessity and prevailing conditions to eat only fresh
Today, in highly civilized countries
such as the US, you can buy supermarket produce that looks - thanks to
man's ingenuity in the areas of harvesting, chemical preserving, spoilage
inhibiting, refrigerated transportation,
storage, and attractive displays - as
if it was just picked from the garden.
Yet, it can be weeks or months old.
Fruit, which looks like it was just
picked from the trees, can be one year
old, as, for example, cold-storage
apples frequently are. Much of the
produce, such as tomatoes, strawberries, avocados, bananas, peaches, is
picked green and unripe, since ripe
fruit would spoil quickly and would
be impossible to transport.
The Dangers Of Eating Non-Fresh Foods
Here are some important reasons for
eating only fresh foods:
The following true story illustrates
how natives, guided by their instincts
and taste, protect themselves from
harmful rancid foods.
- leafy vegetables lose up to 50% of
their Vitamin C in just one day after
- frozen strawberries lose approximately 50% of their vitamin C after
five months of storage, and 90%
after 10 months.
- Apples from cold-storage - and any
American apples sold out of season,
like November to August, are cold-storage apples - have lost up to 90%
of their vitamin C content. In
In addition to the loss of vitamin C,
blanched and frozen foods have also
lost most of their vitamin B1 and B2
- freshly ground wheat or wheat germ
are good sources of vitamin E if
eaten a short time after milling. But,
wheat germ and whole wheat flour
that is several months old not only
has lost all of its vitamin E content
through rancidity, but the toxic
products that develop during the
rancidity process - peroxides and aldehydes - can destroy vitamin E in
the body that had been derived from
other dietary sources, and, thus,
contribute to serious nutritional deficiencies.
- Most vegetable oils turn rancid in a
matter of weeks, acquiring an acrid
taste and rancid smell. To prevent
this, commercially produced vegetable
oils are denatured by refining, deodorizing, bleaching, and adding
Almost half a century ago. I visited
a small Eastern European town. At
six o'clock in the morning, I was
awakened by the organ-playing street
vendor who was slowly moving
through every street in his horse-drawn buggy, stopping at each corner.
Housewives, awakened by his music,
rushed to him with their small containers buying just a few ounces,
a day's supply, of flaxseed oil. A fresh
supply of flaxseed oil was pressed
each night and sold the next morning.
Experience had taught the housewives
that flaxseed oil more than a day old
is not suitable for eating. (By the way,
flaxseed oil is the commonly used
food all in Eastern Europe.)
Natural Food Is Perishable
Those of us who are convinced of the
dangers of eating processed and refined foods often forget that natural
unprocessed foods are extremely perishable. We regard food processors as
diabolic monsters who deliberately
remove important nutrients from the
natural foods and sell us de-vitalized,
inferior products. We forget, however,
that the original purpose of at least
some of the basic refining and processing methods was actually
an attempt to protect foods from rapid
deterioration and improve their storage property.
Whole wheat flour, because of the high content of unsaturated
fat in the wheat germ, spoils
very fast and becomes rancid and
bitter tasting within a few weeks. By
refining the flour - removing the fat-containing germ and bran - it becomes
safe to store for long periods of time.
It is unfortunate that while processing
prolongs shelf life and makes food
safer as far as danger of rancidity is
concerned, it also makes it less nutritious.
Why Rancid Foods Are Harmful
Rancidity is the chemical change in
the fat or oil produced by the combination of oxygen from the air with the
unsaturated fatty acids in the oil. Natural whole seeds, grains, and nuts are
well protected by shells, hulls, or
coverings against air reaching the oil.
Whole seeds can be stored for an extended period of time without any
signs of rancidity. But as soon as they
are broken, cracked, or milled. the
oxygen in the air comes in direct contact with the oil, and the oxidation
process begins, often referred to as
During oxidation, a variety of chemical substances is formed. Oxygen is
readily absorbed by the oil, where it
breaks the double bond and forms
peroxides. It is the oil's double bond
characteristic that gives certain fatty
acids the properties known as vitamin
F activity. The peroxides that are
formed break down, especially in the
presence of moisture, into chemical
substances known as aldehydes,
which are not only toxic, but also give
rancid foods or oils their characteristic odor and flavor.
Rancidity Factor Overlooked
When I first brought the danger of
rancidity into the open, my conclusions were challenged and questioned,
especially by vegetable oil and wheat
germ manufacturers. Unbelievable as
it may now appear, neither the manufacturers nor the public were aware
of the danger of eating stale or rancid
foods. Wheat germ enjoyed its pinnacle of popularity as one of the
miracle health foods, glamorized and
extolled for its superb nutritional
values by all nutrition authorities at
They all described in glowing terms
what a marvelous source of concentrated nutrition wheat germ is, with
all its huge amount of B-complex vitamins, high quality proteins, richest
natural source of Vitamin E, miraculous enzymes, trace elements, minerals, etc.
What they failed to tell - not
maliciously, I am sure, but because
they were unaware - was that wheat
germ is, a superior health food only
when it is absolutely fresh, eaten right
after, or within a few days after, it is
made (i.e., separated from the wheat
kernel). As soon as wheat germ is
made, the oxidation process sets in
and in a short time sufficient chemical
changes occur to make it not only
unhealthy, but also, actually very
harmful. As rancidity (oxidation) progresses, peroxides and aldehydes are
formed in increasing amounts. The
vitamin E (the main reason for wheat
germ's popularity) is destroyed by the
rancidity, and so also are other vitamins,
such as A, F, and carotene. Not
only is rancid wheat germ void of
these vitamins, but when it is consumed, it causes destruction of
vitamins E, A, and F stored in the body, or
supplied with other foods, thus causing nutritional deficiencies.
Danger Of Rancidity Is Scientifically Demonstrated
The danger of eating rancid foods has
been demonstrated in many animal
and human studies. A German scientist, Dr. H. Anemueller, was one of
the first investigators on the subject
of rancidity and perishability of natural foods.
He says, "During the oxidation process, harmful chemical substances are produced in foods. These
substances irritate the delicate linings
of the stomach and intestines. Prolonged use of rancid oils and foods
can, under some conditions, have a
carcinogenic effect - in other words,
they may cause cancer by the virtue of
being strong chemical irritants."
Drs. Rowntree and Barrett, of the
University of Pennsylvania, demonstrated the. carcinogenic effect
of cereal oils in their rancid state. In animal
studies conducted under their direction, every rat fed rancid wheat germ
oil, developed malignant tumors.
Dr. Raymond Shamberger, of the
famous Cleveland Clinic, one of the
leading nutritional scientists in the
world, reported recently that one of
the reasons why the excessive consumption of beef was linked to the
development of cancer of the colon in
several recent studies, was the malonaldehydes that were developing in
the unsaturated part of the meat fat
as a part of the oxidation process.
That oxidation process begins as soon
as the animal is killed.
And, Dr. Nicolas Petrakis, of the
University of California at San Francisco, found malonaldehydes and free
radicals (the products of rancidity)
in the breast fluids of women that
were diagnosed as candidates for
In addition to being carcinogenic,
rancid foods and oils can also:
- Irritate the linings of the stomach
and bowels and cause acute and
chronic digestive disorders.
- Cause allergic, toxic reactions, especially in the forms of dyspepsia and
- Cause nutritional deficiencies and
biochemical imbalances by causing
destruction of oil-soluble vitamins
in the body.
- By destroying vitamin E in the body
(vitamin E being a major protective
factor against peroxidation and the
free radical formation) rancid foods
can contribute to premature aging
by causing biochemical and physiological changes associated with the
aging effect of free radicals.
"What Should I Do Now?"
If I have whetted your interest on this
subject sufficiently that you are beginning to realize the danger of eating
stale and rancid foods and see the
importance of eating all foods as fresh
as possible, your head must now be
spinning with practical questions of
the "what-should-I-do-now?" type.
My decision to write this article was
prompted by the huge amount of questions I received from Let's LIVE
readers every week regarding issues
related to rancidity and food storage.
Here are the most commonly asked
questions and their answers:
Refrigeration And Freezing
Q. If I keep wheat germ and wheat
flour in the refrigerator, will they be
safe from rancidity?
A. No. Rancidity is caused by the contact of oxygen (air) with the oils in
wheat germ or flour. Since oxygen is
also present in the refrigerator and
freezer, the rancidity will continue
there. Heat and moisture speed up the
rancidity process, and a dry, cool storage place slows it down somewhat,
but does not prevent it completely.
Wheat Germ Oil
Q. Wheat germ oil contains lots of
Vitamin E, Vitamin E is known to be
a natural anti-oxidant. Wouldn't, then,
wheat germ all be safe from rancidity,
being protected by Vitamin E?
A. It is true that fresh wheat germ oil
is a rich source of vitamin E. But, it is
also true that it is hard to obtain fresh
wheat germ oil. Perhaps, the reason
for this is that wheat germ oil is extracted by the use of pressing methods
that often generate high temperatures,
or by the chemical solvent extraction, using hexane or benzine - both
methods having a damaging effect on
natural tocopherols, or vitamin E.
Q. Are shelled nuts and seeds safe to
eat, or would they turn rancid fast?
A. Most nuts keep fresh in shells for
as long as a year. Shelled nuts deteriorate gradually, some more rapidly
than others. Almonds are the most
durable of all nuts, and are safe even
when shelled. Walnuts and cashews
deteriorate faster. Never use shelled
nuts that are not whole, but sold in
pieces - the so-called diced or chopped
nuts. The safest way to eat nuts is to
buy them in shells and do your own
cracking. Always keep nuts in the
Q. I am a busy working housewife.
We love millet and buckwheat cereals
that you so highly recommend, but I
haven't the time to cook them every
day. Can I make enough cereal for
several days, keep it in the refrigerator, and warm it up when I need it?
A. As convenient as it may be, from
the nutritional standpoint, this practice is unacceptable. After cereals are
cooked, their nutritional value, especially in terms of vitamins, deteriorates by the hour. You must make
cereals every day.
Seed And Nut "Meals"
Q. I buy sunflower seed meal in the
store and use it to sprinkle on salads.
How long will it keep fresh?
A. This is not the best way to eat
seeds and nuts. Since most seeds and
nuts are extremely rich in unsaturated
fatty acids, they will turn rancid
rapidly soon after they are crushed
or milled. It is best to buy the whole
seeds and grind them in your own
seed grinder, only enough to be used
at one meal. Inexpensive electric seed
grinders (approximately $12.00) are
I sold in most health food stores.
Nut And Seed Butters
Q. What about peanut butter, almond
butter, or tahini?
A. Seed and nut butters are relatively
safe, especially almond and sesame
(tahini) butters. Sesame seeds contain
their own natural antioxidant, which
makes them safer than most other
Safe Vegetable Oils
Q. Which vegetable oils are safest to
eat and least likely to be rancid?
A. The oils that are most likely to be
cold-pressed (not heat or solvent extracted) and also most durable in
terms of rancidity are olive oil and
sesame seed oil. These are the two
oils I recommend to use as a part of
the daily diet, but always in natural,
cold form - as dressing on salads and
such. Never use vegetable oils for frying or, cooking as heating vegetable
oils to extremely high temperatures,
as/is the case in frying, makes them
carcinogenic. If fat is needed for frying,
butter is preferable to vegetable
oils. Butter, being mostly saturated
fat, is less vulnerable to damage by
Flour For Baking
Q. I like to bake my own whole wheat
bread, but I don't have a flour mill.
Can I use store-bought whole wheat
A. Go to a health or natural food store
that has a flour mill installed as a service to their customers. An increasing
number of stores now do this. Buy
whole wheat, grind it, bring it home,
and bake your bread the same day.
Those who do this, or have their own
mill, can testify to the tremendous
difference in the taste of the bread!
Not to mention the superior nutritional
value of such breads! By the way,
many health food stores also sell inexpensive electric flour mills.
How To Detect Rancidity
Q. How do I know if my oils, seeds,
and nuts are fresh?
A. Mostly by smell, taste, and appearance.
I am sure most people are familiar with the peculiar acrid, rancid
smell. Also, when rancid wheat germ,
seeds, or. oils are chewed slowly and
then swallowed, they leave a burning,
stinging sensation in the throat. Nuts
and seeds also turn yellow or brown
Dried, Frozen, Preserved, Or Fermented Foods.
Q. You speak so highly of eating
everything fresh. What about dried,
fruits, frozen corn or berries, homemade preserves, and such fermented
foods as sauerkraut, pickled vegetables, etc.?
A. From your list of foods, I would
like to separate the fermented foods
into a class by themselves, because,
as I have stressed many times in my
writings, of the tremendous health-promoting and therapeutic, value of
lactic acid fermented foods. The lactic acid that develops during the
natural fermentation process is extremely
beneficial. It has healing, therapeutic
and cleansing effects on the body. It
would be wise to use as many naturally fermented lactic acid foods and
juices as possible, as a part of the Optimum Diet. Health food stores carry
many good brands of naturally fermented foods and fermented juices,
such as Biotta. My books contain recipes for homemade sauerkraut, soured
milks, and pickled vegetables.
Dried fruits, frozen foods, and
homemade preserves can be used as
a possible addition to the diet, especially out of season when
fresh produce is not available, but never as a
substitute for fresh, raw foods. The
one acceptable situation I can see
which could justify freezing, preserving, or drying (dehydrating) foods,
would be when your own garden produces so much that it is impossible to
use it all in fresh form. After sharing
with all your friends, you can freeze,
dehydrate, or can the rest and use it
out of season. Always remember,
however, that the longer you store the
foods, the more nutritional value they
The issue of freshness of food has
been dangerously overlooked by most
nutritionists. They spell out in detail
what kind of foods we should eat,
failing to emphasize the importance
of eating all foods in as fresh a state
as possible. It is absolutely imperative
that all foods we eat are not only natural, unprocessed, organically
grown, and poison-free, but also 100%
Fruits and vegetables that are days
and weeks old, and oil-rich grains,
seeds, and nuts that become stale and
rancid have not only lost much of
their nutritional value, but can be extremely harmful, even carcinogenic.
As a nutrition consultant, I often see
patients who suffer from various conditions of poor health
and even terminal ailments, although they tell me
that they have been eating good food
for years. I often wonder if the years
of eating stale and rancid foods, without realizing their health-destroying
potential, is not responsible for many
tragic consequences of ill health.
Let me conclude by emphasizing a
few practical tips that will help even
those who are not fortunate enough to
live in the country and have their own
- The American sense of practicality was carried too far
when housewives developed the habit of food
shopping twice a month, buying
enough food for two weeks and storing it in the refrigerator.
As I mentioned before, the natives around the
world, who are known for their exceptional health, shop for produce
every morning. Go to your health
store as often as possible and buy
foods in small quantities - this applies to fresh fruits and vegetables as
well as all other foods.
- Buy oils in small containers. Keep oil in the refrigerator.
- Buy your own flour mill and
seed grinder - the best investment in
your health you can make - and grind
your own whole-grain seeds and nuts,
and make your own flour for baking.
- Never save leftovers from cooked foods.
- Fresh vegetable and fruit juices
lose their nutritional value through
oxidation even faster than whole
fruits and vegetables. They must be
used immediately after they are made.
Remember, the FRESHNESS of the
food is one of the most important -
although often overlooked - factors
in Optimum Health, prevention of disease, and long life!