The consumption of processed seed and vegetable oils like soybean oil, sunflower oil, canola oil has increased dramatically in the past century. They were practically non-existent in our diets until the early 1900s. Unlike butter or coconut oil rich in Omega 3, these vegetable oils can’t be extracted just by pressing or separating naturally. Vegetable oils and margarine are over-recommended and referred to as ‘heart healthy oils’ and an alternative to butter, cheese and many other so-called “artery clogging s0aturated fats.”
Recent research has however shown that vegetable oils may not be all that good as recommended and may cause more harm than good to your body.
Why Are Vegetable Oils Harmful For You?
- Omega 6 found in vegetable oils can cause inflammation which has been found to be a key cause of various serious diseases including cardiovascular disease, arthritis, depression, and cancer. In arterial cells, these mutations cause inflammation that can clog arteries. When these fats are incorporated into skin cells, their mutation causes skin cancer.
- The health benefits of Omega-3 fats are over-rated. In fact, the ratio between Omega-3 and Omega-6 is what needs to be understood. The WHO recommended ratio for omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids is about 4:1, with a maximum of 10:1. However, the average ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in Americans is between 10:1 to 25:1
- Essential fatty acids Omega-6: Omega-3 ratio may have been around 4:1 to 1:2 before 1922. Today, our ratio is as high as 16:1 on average, with great variation between individuals. These fatty acids tend to sit in the cell membranes, increasing harmful oxidation chain reactions. Excessive consumption of vegetable oils leads to actual structural changes within our fat stores and our cell membranes.
- Vegetable oils are extremely damaging to the reproductive system and the developing bodies of unborn babies and children. The reproductive system in both men and women are constantly producing and dividing new cells, thus increasing the potential for mutation and problems when these cells are made of the wrong kind of fats and oxidized. Having more Omega-6 fats in mothers milk is associated with an altered immune function in young children.
- Excess consumption of vegetable oils also causes problems with hormone production, since hormones are dependent on certain fats for their manufacture. Vegetable oils that are hardened by hydrogenation to make shortening or margarine are especially damaging as vegetable oils are not naturally solid at these temperatures.
- Vegetable oils are chemically unstable and readily react with oxygen, turning into cholesterol and saturated fat in our bodies.
- Vegetable oils when heated, turn into trans fats which have been shown to cause brain atrophy as well as heart disease, cancer, obesity, and diabetes. Trans fats are also found in processed foods that say ‘hydrogenated’ or ‘partially hydrogenated’ on the label. Trans fat content in US vegetable oils varies between 0.56% and 4.2%. In 2012, they were banned in New York.
- Omega-6 toxicity begins at 4% intake. Currently, we consume an average of 9% of our calories from these oils. So you need to cut back your intake by 60-70% to be in the healthy range of 2-3%.
- Most vegetable oils and their products contain BHA and BHT (Butylated Hydroxyanisole and Butylated Hydroxytoluene) which are artificial antioxidants that help prevent food from oxidizing or spoiling too quickly. These chemicals have been shown to produce potential cancer-causing compounds in the body and linked to liver/kidney damage, immune problems, infertility/sterility, high cholesterol, and behavioral problems in children.
- Vegetable oils also contain residues of the pesticides and chemicals used in their growth and manufacture and most often come from genetically modified (GM) sources.
- Vegetable oils contain very high levels of polyunsaturated fats which easily go rancid at room temperature making it likely that a large part of vegetable oils on the market are already damaged before we even consume them.
- Because vegetable oils oxidize easily, they deplete the body of antioxidants since the body must use these to attempt to neutralize the oxidation. People with high consumption of vegetable oils and their products are at risk for Vitamin E deficiency and other deficiencies.
- In studies on rats, a high consumption of these oils can cause fatty liver and severe liver damage. Several other animal studies also show an increase in cancer when rats eat a diet high in Omega-6 fats.
Oils To Avoid
1. Grapeseed Oil
Constantly marketed as such a healthy cooking oil. The health of grape seed oil is based on misleading information and myths about cholesterol and heart health. Grapeseed oil has a very high omega-6 fatty acid, about 70%. Too much omega-6s PUFAs causes inflammation which is the true cause of heart disease and can lead to other health problems like cancer and autoimmune disorders.
It is also industrially processed with hexane and other toxic, carcinogenic solvents used to extract and clean the oil, traces of these chemicals still remain in the final product. Even expeller-pressed processed grapeseed oil is still rife with polyunsaturated fat, in concentrations which are highly toxic to humans.
Oils that are high in polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) like grapeseed oil are very fragile and therefore prone to oxidation. When an oil oxidizes it creates free radicals which can also lead to cancer, inflammation, hormonal imbalance and thyroid damage. Even cold pressed grape seed oil may not be harmed during processing, but once you cook with it, it will oxidize.
2. Canola Oil/Rapeseed Oil
One of the most popular vegetable oils and is widely believed to be healthy. Canola stands for “Canadian oil low acid” and comes from a genetically engineered form of rapeseed subsidized by the Canadian government. About 87% of canola oil is genetically modified.
Rapeseed oil contains high amounts of the toxic erucic acid, which is poisonous to the body. Canola oil is an altered version, also called Low Erucic Acid Rapeseed (LEAR) Canola (modified rapeseed oil) is produced by heating the rapeseed and processing with a petroleum solvent to extract the oil. Then another process of heat and addition of acid is used to remove solids (wax) that occur during the first processing.
At this point, the newly created canola oil must be treated with more chemicals to improve color and separate the different parts of the oil. Finally, since the chemical process has created a harsh smelling oil, it must be chemically deodorized to be palatable. The fact that it is processed under high heat causes it to go rancid, which then creates the need for industrial carcinogenic bleaches and deodorizers like hexane.
Even though canola oil contains omega-3s, these oils are fragile and subject to oxidation through heating. If you think about it, other oils that are high in omega-3s would never be used for cooking. Fish oil and flaxseed oil are high in Omega-3s but are never heated because they are sensitive to oxidation.
Cold-pressed oils that are not heat treated in a factory with chemicals are still fragile oils. They will oxidize and become rancid once you cook with them. Even canola oil, as it was used as rapeseed oil long ago in China, caused health problems mostly related to the heart. Other studies done on canola oil consumption in farm animals has shown a negative effect on coronary health unless mitigated by the intake of beneficial saturated fats.
3. Vegetable Oil
Sounds nice and natural because it seems like it’s made of vegetables, but about 99% of the time a bottle of vegetable oil is actually just soybean oil. You can even look at the ingredients in a bottle of vegetable oil next time you go to the grocery store, you’ll see just one ingredient “soybean oil.”
Soybean oil is 54% omega-6, which is too much omega-6 and can lead to inflammation and health issues. Soy is something that is best avoided or at least reduced in consumption unless it is fermented (like tempeh, natto or fermented soy sauce). Soy is high in phytic acid and trypsin inhibitors which means that it blocks the absorption of many vitamins, minerals, and proteins. It also contains phytoestrogens that can mimic estrogen in the body and disrupt normal hormone function which could possibly lead to increased cancer risk.
About 94% of soy is GMO unless it’s organic or labeled “non-GMO.” However, just because it’s non-GMO it doesn’t makes it good for you. It will still contain the phytic acid and phytoestrogens mentioned previously.
4. Vegan Butter Substitutes
Butter substitutes are mostly a mix of canola and soybean oils.
5. Corn Oil
There is a popular misconception that corn is a vegetable. It is actually a grain. Corn originated and was bred from a tall grass-like plant that somewhat resembled wheat. Corn oil has 58% omega-6 fatty acids which is too high and can lead to inflammation. Also, corn is one of the most genetically modified crops in the US. About 88% (probably more) is GMO.
There is no nutritional need for these oils and healthy fats can be found in higher amounts and better ratios in many other types of fats. While it is simple enough to avoid these oils themselves, the tougher challenge is avoiding all the foods they are in. Check out any processed food, and you will find at least one of these ingredients, often labeled as “partially hydrogenated corn/soybean/oil” or “may contain soybean or canola oil.”
In a world that seems overrun with these highly unnatural and toxic fats, it can seem overwhelming when looking for better solutions. It’s hard to avoid rancid vegetable oils completely if you are eating out, but you can replace them with healthier alternatives like coconut oil or olive oil.