The next time you visit the grocery store take a stroll down the aisle that contains the cooking oils. You will find several to choose from such as vegetable, corn, canola and safflower just for starters. Next pick up any processed food box and check the label. You will probably find one or two of these oils there as well. They are in mayonnaise, nearly all salad dressings and most processed food on the market today. Companies market these oils as healthy to and the uninformed consumer will believe it. Today, let’s learn more about seed oils so you can decide if they really are the healthier option for you.
Vegetable oil is a term used for any oil not derived from an animal but it’s doesn’t come from vegetables either. The consumption of these oils has skyrocketed over the last century because of a variety of reasons. In the early 1900’s, Americans were concerned about the sanitary practices of the meat processing facilities that made the lard that many used for cooking. Vegetable oil was promoted as the cleaner cooking oil. It also was a way for companies to turn the agricultural surplus from corn and soybean production into a “food” source rather than a waste product. By the1970’s, the government began it’s “war on fat” campaign where vegetable oil and margarine were promoted as “heart healthy” and replaced butter and lard in America’s cooking. So because of heart healthy marketing, the fact that they turn waste into a food product for consumption and they are inexpensive they permeated the market. They also made the American diet become inflammatory and contributed to America’s obesity problem.
Most industrial seed oils are polyunsaturated fats. Polyunsaturated fats are rich in Omega 6 fatty acids. We need both Omega 6 and Omega 3 fats in our diet since our body is unable to make these on our own. For optimal health, we need little Omega 6 in comparison to Omega 3. Can you see how the fatty acid composition of our diet was tipped to the Omega 6 side now? The extraction process of turning plants into oils involves subjecting seeds, beans or corn to high heat, using solvents like hexane in the extraction process then bleaching to deodorize the end product for our consumption. Most of the soybeans and corn produced in America are genetically modified as well making these oils less desirable. Omega 6 fats are unstable and can rapidly be broken down under the stress of heat, light and oxygen into oxidized fats. We need to limit oxidative stress and the promotion of free radicals for improved health. Lastly, the oils arrive at the store in light colored bottles and are placed on shelves under bright lights. This allows the oxidation process to continue further breaking down the oils.
A diet high in processed foods and using these types of oils for cooking will increase inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation has been linked to diabetes, obesity, cancer and cardiovascular disease. These oils are known by many different names but the most common are: canola, sunflower, safflower, soybean and corn oil. Yes even peanut oil too. Even if you don’t purchase the bottled oil or margarine products, be careful with any packaged, processed food and condiments. Examine labels for these inflammatory oils. Try to consume more anti-inflammatory Omega 3’s rich foods like Omega 3 rich eggs, salmon and flax oil while eliminating the other from your diet. Take a good fish oil daily for added benefit. For cooking, use cold pressed coconut oil which is very stable and extra virgin olive oil in dark colored bottles for homemade salad dressings. Use butter, preferably from grass fed cows, rather than manufactured margarine products in moderation. Be an informed consumer so you don’t fall victim to marketing schemes that can negatively impact your health.