Sorting Out the Vegetable Oil Debacle
If you run in circles like mine, you have probably heard by now seed oils, aka: white vegetable oils are not that great for you. For a long time I just avoided them because I heard they were bad and I read a very lengthy explanation as to why they are bad but I really couldn’t retain any of the science behind it. I just remember being convinced.
There are a lot of health articles out there explain, in depth, the reason you should stay away from vegetable oils. By far, the best and most complete evidence for this belongs to Dr. Cate Shanahan in her book DEEP NUTRITION. It's a great read. She dedicates two whole chapters to making an argument vegetable oil is linked to things like cellulite, Alzheimers and the rise of autism.
It actually makes sense. Beyond sugar, vaccines and WiFi waves, the one thing that has been on the rise and has many known effects on the human body is vegetable oil. They put it in everything these days. So much so, all I have to say to my nutrition clients is “avoid sugar and avoid vegetable oil” and this cuts out like 98% of all the food I don’t want them to consume.
A great way to be disappointed is to start checking the ingredients of all your favorite foods. They contain either some kind of vegetable oil, sugar, soy lecithin or, most likely, all three. It sucks.
The origin of vegetable oil is an interesting one. Basically, it’s trash. Yup, trash. They couldn’t figure out what to do with all the extra cotton seeds so they started making oil from it can marketed it as a food product called Crisco, short form of ‘crystallized cotton.’ This was so successful but also so terrible that Italy ended up completely banning American olive oil from the country in 1883. Check out the story as it is pretty interesting.
So instead of going over all the terrible things vegetable oils do, I’ll go over them briefly and put links in here for you to get your info from much more qualified sources and studies. I will focus on talking about what cooking oils are good for you and how to use the oil.
Heart disease The dangerous oils are canola, corn, cottonseed, palm, soy, sunflower, safflower, rice bran, and grapeseed oils. This is used to fry and cook food in most restaurants. This is the real culprit of plaque build up in the arteries. Picture fried chicken. This is what the arterial walls look like in a person that consumed lots of vegetable oils - usually in the form of fried food. Instead of being soft, flexible and playable like connective tissue moisturized from animal fats, it thins them and makes them hard and crispy. Our bodies can’t really process a lot of the vegetable oils because they are so unnatural. They end up hardening and filling with bring plaque. In addition, it is highly inflammatory so that can’t help out heart out much either.
Inflammation We have all heard of Omega 3 oils and how helpful they are at reducing inflammation. But they have a brother, Omega 6, that increases inflammation. Now inflammation isn’t a bad thing until it gets too much. After all, inflammation is what helps injuries heal in the body. But our eating ratios should be about 1:1 or even 1:3. Unfortunately vegetable oils have a 20:1 ratio of O6 to O3. This means LOTS of inflammation is going on. And when you cook with it, it kills the Omega 3’s.
Impairs brain function This chronic state of attack from the Omega 6 acids does a number on the body. It can wear out the immune response and cause constant flares. There are many ailments related to inflammation: weight gain, drowsiness, skin problems, digestive issues, and a host of diseases, including diabetes, cancer, and depression. One of the things we are linking brain inflammation to is brain function, memory, Alzheimers and dementia. If you want good skin and to be thinking clearly, try to eat the right ratio of 6s and 3s.
Mental Health In more awesomely bad news, the consumption can decline the state of your mental health. Because of the inflammation and gut biome disrupting chemicals, vegetable oils can seriously impact your mental health. Depression and anxiety come to mind.
Consuming Chemical Solvents Not only do the oils have nearly no nutritional value and perhaps can harm us, they come with traces of industrial chemical solvents. Hexane or heptane, bleach and deodorizers strip the seed of all vitamins and minerals. Check this out for the full jist on how they make seed oils. No really, click it because you should know what is going into your food.
Promotes Obesity and Liver Damage It turns out the soy oil calories are more fattening than coconut oil calories. Yup. “What we see is that compared to mice getting their fat mostly from coconut oil, mice that got their fat mostly from soy oil gained about 25% more fat by the end of the study even though both groups ate the same number of calories. In other words, soy oil is more fattening that coconut oil” writes Dr. Cate. Turns out, those same mice also had insulin resistance and fatty liver.
What is a good oil to cook with?
The many layered questions! Really is we just look back to the oils they used 150 years ago: olive, butter, animal fats are great places to start. If you are a bacon person, keep the bacon fat! It is a great way to saute vegetables and have everyone love them. I know you have probably heard that olive oil at high heat has carcinogens but the risk pales in comparison to using vegetable oils.
Best oils to use for high heat is avocado oil, coconut oil and ghee (clarified butter). You can also safely use animal fats (lard, tallow and drippings) and olive oil. I suggest you use the cheaper olive oils for cooking as you can’t taste it as much. Good olive oil belongs on salads, dips and maybe some light sauteing. The extra virgin and virgin olive oil is best at low temps and cold, where as the regular olive oil can be used under heat.
Fish oil should never be used in heat as all of the nutrient properties will burn quite easily and it will SMELL. The polyunsaturated fats make peanut and nut oils a bad choice for cooking. Again, those burn and warp, making them unhealthy for us. You can bake with these but stay away from frying or sauteing.
The oils I am on the fence about are flax, chia and palm oil. If something I really like has this in it, I’ll treat myself. I won't buy it to cook with. I hear mixed things about palm oil. I’m not totally against it nutritionally but I just don't use it regularly. Palm oil is not bad for you per say, in fact we can put it up there with coconut oil and butter. Palm oil has been linked to the deforestation of many country. As in whole forest in Indonesia have been burn to make it. This has a big impact on the environment because of the fires but also because it is taking home away form many animals including some on the endangered species list.
Your best bet for baking is butter and coconut oil. Palm oil is an often used oil and may also be a great option for many.
Check out this handy infographic for more information and an easy to visualize chart.