Vegetable oil, sounds healthy right? WRONG.
It is without a doubt one of the biggest health concerns associated with the modern diet and what I believe to be a key driver of ill health and diseases.
Another name for vegetable oils is industrial seed oils which is far more accurate given they are mostly derived from seeds. Common forms are sunflower oil, safflower oil, rapeseed aka one of the most popular cooking oils, canola oil. When I see this in the pantry when doing pantry clean outs with clients, it’s the first thing to go in the bin.
For years we were told that these oils are a ‘heart healthy alternative’ to the ‘artery clogging saturated fats' which cause heart disease. Sadly we have been misinformed thanks to Ancel Keys and his falsified research published in 1958. Yep, all those years ago and still part of our dietary guidelines.
Keys collected data on deaths from coronary heart disease and fat consumption from 22 countries. Despite the fact that 22 countries provided statistics, Keys cherry-picked the data from the 7 countries which supported his theory that animal fat was the main cause of coronary heart disease in order to publicise his opinions.
So what’s the issue?
These oils are highly highly processed and of course cheap, therefore added to pretty much every commercially produced food product on the market (bread, crackers, 'healthy' snacks, tinned tuna and cereals), used in fast food outlets and restaurants.
I'm not suggesting that you should live under a rock and never eat out but being well informed, reading the ingrdients list of your pantry products and avoiding them where you can is a great way to reduce their harm.
Unlike oils made from fruit such as olives and avocado and animal fats such as butter and ghee, vegetable/industrial seed oils are a concentrated source of omega-6 polyunsaturated fats. Omega-6 fats are highly unstable, therefore when they come into contact with oxygen, heat and light, toxic chemicals called free radicals are created.
In order to extract these oils from their seeds, they require harsh processing. This process involves high heat extraction, chemical solvents such as hexane, bleaching and deodorising. As a result, free radicals are formed and therefore when you consume these oils, these toxic compounds are transferred into the body. In the body free radicals attack our cells causing damage and oxidative stress.
Here are some conditions associated with oxidative stress:
- Heart diseases
- Gastric ulcers
- Alzheimer's disease
- Parkinson's disease
- Muscular dystrophy
- Tumour growth
- Premature ageing
Another issue with omega-6 fats is that when they are consumed in excess to omega-3 fats, this also triggers inflammation and oxidative stress in the body. The problem is there are far fewer sources of omega-3 fats (found in oily fish like salmon and sardines and to a lesser extent in flaxseeds and chia) making it easy to eat your omega-6’s in excess, especially when consuming them in a concentrated form like vegetable oil and/or a processed diet. Thats why eating fish 3+ times a week is highly recommended as part of an anti-inflammatroy diet.
The Vegetable/Industrial Seed Oils you want to avoid include:
X Canola Oil
X Corn Oil
X Rice Bran Oil
X Rapeseed Oil
X Soybean Oil
X Safflower Oil
X Peanut Oil
X Sesame Oil (small amounts in a cold pressed form is ok)
X Cottonseed Oil
Which ones are the healthy oils?
The following oils are a great source omega-3 fatty acids. Being a type of polyunsaturated fat, they are similar to omega-6 fats in that they are unstable and therefore should never be heated. However, when consumed raw or in their cold pressed form, they are anti-inflammatory and great when used on salads, veggies or added to smoothies.
- Flaxseed Oil
- Hemp Seed Oil (balanced ratio of omega-3:omega-6 fats)
- Walnut Oil
The following fats are forms of monounsaturated fats which are linked with reduced risk of heart disease and cancer and a key characteristic of the health prompting Mediterranean Diet. These types of fats are packed with antioxidants with anti-inflammatory properties. Use these when cooking at low-medium heat or raw on salads and veggies.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil / Olive Oil
- Avocado Oil
Saturated fats are stable at high heats making them great for cooking. Examples include:
- Grass Fed Butter or Ghee
- Coconut Oil
- Grass Fed Beef Tallow
What else can you do to reduce oxidative stress in the body?
Eat a diet full of ANTI-oxidants which scavenge these free radicals and offset their damaging effects. Unfortunately, the body cannot manufacture these healthy compounds, so they must be supplied through the diet. Load up on:
- Colourful fruits such as berries, cherries, citrus, prunes, and olives.
- Vegetables particularly garlic, sweet potato, carrots, spinach, tomatoes, onion, broccoli and kale
- Herbs and spices particular ginger, garlic, turmeric and cinnamon
- Beans & Legumes such as chickpeas, lentils and all beans which are rick in fibre
- Raw cacao
- Green & back tea