Fat is one of the most misunderstood foods out there and vegetable oil specifically tops the list. Vegetable oils have long been touted as “heart-healthy” oils that are said to help “lower cholesterol” and support overall health, unfortunately, this is one of the biggest myths in the nutrition community. In fact, vegetable oils may actually be one of the most damaging and dangerous foods in our diets, so here is a complete overview of why you need to ditch vegetable oils immediately.
What is vegetable oil?
The term vegetable oil is used for oils that have been extracted from seeds including canola oil, corn oil, soy oil, grapeseed oil, and safflower oil. In fact, the term “vegetable oil” is often used as a blanket term for these oils, and therefore when you buy “vegetable oil” at the grocery store you are often buying a combination of these seed oils based on what they have available. The term vegetable oil is simply used to imply that the oils are not made of animal-based fats, however, the unfortunate part is that although the term vegetable is often associated with health, vegetable oils are anything but, it just happens to be good marketing.
How are vegetable oils made?
Vegetable oils were essentially non-existent until the early 1900s when new industrial processes allowed them to be extracted. Consider this; have you ever seen an oily vegetable? Clearly, the answer is no. Unlike natural fats like butter or olive oil, vegetable oils can’t be extracted by pressing or separating, these seed oils require extensive processing to extract their oils. The process of creating vegetable oils involves chemical extraction, degumming, refining, bleaching, deodorizing, and hydrogenation in the case of margarine and spreads. Plus, many vegetable oils actually contain additives and preservatives in order to help extend shelf life. In fact, this video shows exactly how highly processed canola oil actually is, despite the narrator desperately trying to spin it in a positive light.
Why Vegetable Oil is Unhealthy
The first and most obvious problem with vegetable oils is simply that these oils are not fit for human consumption. Before industrial processing, humans simply consumed naturally occurring fats in the form of items such as butter, ghee, tallow, lard, coconut oil, or olive oil. Although many people are still concerned about saturated fat, they need not be, as this is one of the biggest and most damaging nutrition myths out there, and the saturation of these fats is actually their most beneficial part. The fat content of the human body is predominantly saturated and monounsaturated fat, with very little polyunsaturated fat. Essentially, all of our cells are made of saturated fat, and although the body requires fat in the diet, it requires the right type and amounts of fat to support the rebuilding of cells and hormones.
One of the main concerns with vegetable oils is their high content of polyunsaturated fatty acids, also known as PUFAs. Polyunsaturated fats are highly unstable and oxidize very easily. Omega-6s are the PUFAs found in vegetable oils, and although they are essential to human health, in excess are dangerous and inflammatory. Over the past hundred years, the consumption of PUFAs has skyrocketed due in large part to the consumption of vegetable oils and products that contain them. The ideal ratio of consumption of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids is somewhere in the range of 1:1 to 4:1, however, that ratio has increased as high as 20:1 in some cases dramatically increasing inflammation and impairing gut health.
Additionally, vegetable oils are incredibly fragile and can easily be damaged by exposure to light, heat, and air, making them a poor choice for cooking oils. Unfortunately, that is exactly what most households and restaurants use them for; used in deep-fryers, sauté pans, and processed and packaged foods all over the world.
Plus, since vegetable oils are chemically produced it will likely not come as a surprise that they are full of chemicals. Vegetable oils, specifically vegetable oil products like margarine or spreads often contain added preservatives, emulsifiers, colors, flavors, and sodium. These food additives might help the oils from spoiling, but in the end, they will end up spoiling you.
List of Vegetable Oils
Although some items will simply be labeled “vegetable oil”, others might come in a more specific format, however, they should all be avoided as much as possible:
- Canola Oil
- Corn Oil
- Cottonseed Oil
- Grapeseed Oil
- Soybean Oil
- Safflower Oil
- “Vegetable” Oil
- Any fake butters or spreads
How to Avoid Vegetable Oil
In addition to bottles of canola, corn, soy, and safflower oil, vegetable oils can be found in almost every processed food product from salad dressing to granola bars. Therefore, not only is it imperative to avoid buying vegetable oils or vegetable spray for cooking, it is important to read the ingredients on everything you buy. Instead, opt for natural cooking fats like butter, ghee, tallow, lard, coconut oil, or olive oil for cooking and dressings. When buying liquid oils such as olive oil or avocado oil, look for versions sold in a dark glass bottle as light can turn oils rancid, and ensure they are stored in a cool, dry place away from heat sources.