What Seed Oils Are & Why They Are SO Bad For You | A Guide
Pick just about anything out of your pantry and you'll find some type of seed oil. Go to any restaurant and they most likely used seed oils to fry or cook with. Go to bake and the recipe 9.9 times out of 10 will call for seed oil.
You're probably thinking, "what's the big deal? They're natural, they've gotta be good for you!" And that's when I hit the buzzer from Taboo.
It's not your fault! We live in a world that is constantly marketing how great seed oils are for us. It was only about 2 years ago that I started to become aware of the dangers of these oils. It's SO hard to bypass them because they are in just about EVERYTHING nowadays.
But here's the good news - I already did the research and put together this guide to equip you with everything that you need to know to identify seed oils, understand why they are such a detriment to your health and replace them with healthy alternatives.
Let's get to it...
What Are Seed Oils?
A seed oil is a vegetable oil that is obtained from the seed (endosperm) of a plant instead of the fruit (pericarp). Fun Fact: Most vegetable oils are seed oils. Here is a list of the most commonly used seed oils to keep an eye out for:
Rice Bran Oil
How Are Seed Oils Made?
Now we know what constitutes a seed oil so let's take a look at the unbelievably unnatural way that they are made. We'll use canola oil as an example:
Find some canola seeds... have you ever heard of a canola plant? Me neither. Canola oil is actually made from a hybrid version of the rapeseed… most likely genetically modified and heavily treated with pesticides.
Heat the rapeseeds at unnaturally high temperatures so that they oxidize and are rancid before you ever buy them.
Process with a petroleum solvent to extract the oils.
Heat some more and add some acid to remove any nasty wax solids that formed during the first processing.
Treat the oil with more chemicals to improve the color.
Deodorize the oil to mask the horrific smell from the chemical processing.
Of course, if you want to take your vegetable oils one step further, just hydrogenated it until it becomes a solid. Now you have margarine and all its trans-fatty wonder. (Source)
The History Of Seed Oils
Seed oils are a generally new addition to our food history. Up until their introduction amidst the processed food revolution of the mid 1900s, we used traditional fats to cook - like butter, tallow, lard, and olive oil. With the invention of certain chemical processes and a need for "cheap" fat substitutions, the "world of fat" has never been the same.
"Consider that at the turn of the 20th century that amount of vegetable oils consumed was practically zero. Today, the average consumption is 70lbs a year per person! Of course that number jumped dramatically once the campaign against saturated fats and cholesterol took its public rampage. Even today, despite the fact that cardiovasculardisease and cancer continue to rise at an alarming rate while butter consumption is down (and vegetable oil consumption is at an all-time high), people are still believing the hype and buying this very non-traditional, non-healthy food-like product.
So perhaps the name would lead you to believe that these oils are good for you. But they are definitely far from it" (Source).
Why Seed Oils Are So Bad For You
Polyunsaturated Fats (PUFAs) - seed oils contain extremely high levels of PUFAs. At first, you might think that sounds great, right? I mean, especially after all of those messages that you've been hearing the past decade about how bad fat is for you. (*Initiate buzzer from Taboo*). Our bodies actually need about 97% saturated and monounsaturated fats. Why? Because our bodies use fat for rebuilding cells and for healthy hormone production. PUFAs are highly unstable and oxidize rapidly. The oxidized fats cause (not can cause - they DO cause) inflammation and mutations in cells. This oxidation is linked to issues such as cancer, heart disease, endometriosis, PCOS, and more.
Omega-6 - The ratio at which you consume Omega-3 to Omega-6 is more critical to maintaining good health than trying to eat as much as possible. While Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce inflammation and reduce the risks of cancer and other diseases, Omega-6 fatty acids (which are found in seed oils at high levels) have been found to oxidize quickly and when unbalanced with Omega-3's, these fatty acids have been linked to a multitude of cancers and other issues.
Chemicals - Besides the fats and Omega fatty acids, most seed oils contain a host of various additives, pesticides and chemicals involved in the process. Artificial Antioxidants that are included to keep the foods from spoiling, such as BHA and BHT (Butylated Hydroxyanisole and Butylated Hydroxytoluene), have been shown to produce potential cancer-causing compounds in the body. They have also been linked to immune system issues, infertility, behavioral problems, and liver and kidney damage.
Tips To Living Cleaner & Healthy Alternatives To Seed Oils
You're most likely not going to be able to go your entire life without consuming seed oils ever again (at least, not right away). There's always a balance to be struck, however, after learning the truth about the compelling information above, you'll most likely be on the search for any healthier ways to live cleaner and alternatives to use instead of seed oils in your daily life.
Try to cook at home/meal prep as much as possible - When you cook at home, you know what is going into your food. Even though you may go out to great restaurants, and see all the healthy choices, you still never know what oils they are using to cook with or season the food with. Every once in a while's not a big deal, but just being aware of how much you're eating out is a great first step in making a choice to live a cleaner life. Your body will thank you (and so will your wallet)!
Look at the ingredients anytime you buy something that's processed and/or packaged - It can be hard to eat 100% natural. I know I'm definitely not there yet, nor am I sure I ever will be. I have definitely started paying more attention to what I put in my body though. It has been so eye-opening to me to see just how much crap goes into our foods. If you aren't already doing so, just become aware of what you're buying and whenever possible, seek out healthier alternative (I will link some below)
Whenever possible, USE ALTERNATIVES to seed oils - Cooking at home, we never really used seed oils, with the exception of baking. We have completely switched over though and you won't find a trace of bottled seed oils at our house. Here are some of the best alternatives and how you can use them:
Extra Virgin Olive Oil - great for dressing a salad, cooking with on stovetop, etc.
Natural Butter (be wary of spreadable butter that contains seed oils) - great for cooking with, spreading on bread, baking, etc.
Avocado Oil - great for high heat cooking, panfrying meat and/or vegetables, baking alternative to vegetable oil, frying, etc.
Coconut Oil (unrefined = coconut flavor | refined = no coconut flavor) - great for high heat cooking, baking, etc.
Ghee - great for high heat cooking, cooking meat and/or vegetables, baking, etc.
Tallow (beef fat) /Lard (pig fat) - great for high heat cooking, cooking meat and/or vegetables, etc.
Potential Product Alternatives
Over the past 2 years, my dad and I have been on the hunt for healthier alternatives to the everyday products that we usually have in the house. Not gonna lie, I was a little bummed about the seed oil news because I didn't want to compromise flavor, but little did I know the tasteful world that awaited me on the other side! Here are a few that we've come to really like, hopefully they can help you get started:
Granola - Purely Elizabeth
Peanut Butter - Smucker's All Natural
"Emergen-C" - n* by Nutrilite Go Shield Effervescent Tablets
Ketchup - Simply Heinz
I hope this gives you a good introduction and guide to seed oils, why they're bad for you and some healthier choices that you can make moving forward to live a cleaner life! I also want to encourage you to continue to do your own research on this topic as there's so much more out there to learn and best equip yourself.
Be sure to share with your friends and loved ones and spread the word on living a happy, healthy and non-inflammatory life!
Sending love always,