Vegetable oils are bad for you. That’s the straight up truth. And eliminating these oils from your diet is a significant step you can take toward improving your health. Unfortunately, that means cutting out anything that is fried in them as well — yes, that means french fries, potato chips, donuts, and even vegetable chips. Now, I don’t want to tell you how to live your life, but your heart, liver, and the rest of your body will thank you for cutting these out of your diet, and once you do, you will soon realize how little you needed them in the first place.
Why Exactly Are Vegetable Oils Harmful to You?
- The high levels of omega-6 found in vegetable oils can cause inflammation, which has been found to be a key culprit behind many illnesses and diseases, like cardiovascular disease, arthritis, cancer, and even depression.
- Vegetable oils damage the reproductive system and hinder the development of both babies in utero and growing children. Having excess levels of omega-6 fats in mother’s milk has been associated with altered immune function in young children.
- Eating too many vegetable oils can also disrupt hormone production. Oils that have been hardened by hydrogenation to make shortening or margarine are especially damaging.
- Vegetable oils are chemically unstable and readily react with oxygen, turning into cholesterol and saturated fats in our bodies.
- The majority of vegetable oils contain Butylated Hydroxyanisole and Butylated Hydroxytoluene, BHA and BHT, which are artificial antioxidants added to prevent food from spoiling too quickly. These chemicals have been shown to produce cancer causing compounds in the body and have been linked to liver and kidney damage, immune system issues, infertility, high cholesterol, and behavioural problems in children.
- Vegetable oils are often laden with pesticide residue and other chemicals used in their growth and manufacturing process. In most cases, they also come from genetically modified sources.
Oils to Avoid
1. Grapeseed Oil
Grapeseed oil is constantly marketed as a healthy cooking oil and is often recommended over other vegetable oils. Grapeseed oil has very high levels of omega-6 fatty acids — about 70%, which is far too much. Grapeseed oil is also industrially processed using hexane and other carcinogenic solvents that are used to extract and clean the oil. Traces of these chemicals are found in the finished product.
Expeller-pressed grapeseed oil is still laden with polyunsaturated fat in concentrations that may be dangerous for human consumption.
2. Rapeseed (aka Canola) Oil
This is one of the most popular vegetable oils around and for some reason, it is widely believed to be healthy. Canola, which stands for “Canadian Oil Low Acid,” comes from a genetically engineered form of rapeseed that was subsidized by the Canadian government. About 87% of all canola oil is genetically modified, which means that it is also laden with chemical pesticides.
Rapeseed oil contains high amounts of the toxic eruric acid. Canola oil is an altered version, also called Low Erucic Acid Rapeseed (LEAR) canola oil. It is produced by heating the rapeseed and processing it with a petroleum solvent to extract the oil. It is then processed again with heat and acid to remove other soilds such as wax that form during the first processing step.
3. Vegetable Oil
While vegetable certainly sounds like it would be a healthy oil, being made from vegetables and all, it’s actually not. Ninety nine percent of the time, what is cleverly marketed as vegetable oil is actually just soybean oil, which — you guessed it — is almost always made from genetically modified soybeans that have been specifically designed to withstand the toxic pesticides.
Soybean oil is also about 54% omega-6, which again, is too much and can lead to inflammation of various organs, and other health issues. And soy is already known to cause hormone disruption and increase cancer risk if eaten in excess.
4. Corn Oil
There is a very common misconception that corn is a vegetable, but corn is actually a grain. Corn is also high in omega-6 fatty acids, and is one of the most genetically modified crops in the U.S., with about 88% of the corn that is grown being genetically modified. Again, this means that it has much higher levels of pesticides and residues than a non-GMO or organic version.
5. Vegan Butter Substitutes and Margarine
This may come as a shock and disappointment for vegans, but those delicious vegan spread alternatives are not much better for you than typical non-hydrogenated margarine. While the organic ones are certainly a better choice, as they have considerably less pesticide residue, they are still generally a mix of canola and/or “vegetable”/soybean oils.
Margarine is probably one of the unhealthiest items made for consumption that you could eat, and is closer to plastic than real food. Stay away at all costs! You would be far better off with real (organic) butter, but if you are a vegan you could try using coconut oil or nut butters instead, which have some naturally occurring oils.
To begin with, you could start by cutting back on your use of oils in general. But even then, you’ll want to avoid the oils listed above. There are also certain types of cookware you can buy that require no oil, and often you can just use water to sauté vegetables. But there will still be times when you need to use oil, and in those instances, try some of these healthier alternatives.
Coconut oil is great to cook with. It has a high smoke point and does not turn rancid while cooking like many other popular cooking oils. If you fear that all of your food will taste like coconut, you can always get expeller-pressed coconut oil, which has no taste or smell. Coconut oil is solid at room temperature so can be a great spread for toast, muffins, or other savoury items as well.
Olive oil is sort of controversial when it comes to cooking. Many people claim it should only be eaten raw in cold-pressed form, but there are even more people, particularly from the Mediterranean, who have been cooking with it for centuries. Evidence has shown that it has a very low smoke point, which means the oil does go rancid when heated past a certain point. And if you aren’t careful to check the labels in store, you could end up with a bottle of canola oil that has a splash of olive oil in it. To be safe, consume this oil as salad dressing and as a drizzle after your food has cooked.
Butter or ghee are another fantastic option. If you do include some animal products in your diet, real grass fed butter or ghee are excellent to cook with and will add some amazing flavour.