The Seedy Truth About “Healthy” Vegetable Oils

image

Our intake of polyunsaturated vegetable oils has tripled in the last 50 years, about the same time Americans started getting fatter and sicker. It turns out that vegetable oils like canola, safflower, soy, and sunflower are not the health foods we’ve been led to believe.

What’s Wrong with “Vegetable” Oils

These vegetable oils (which are really seed oils) are unstable and, when heated, turn into trans fats. Trans fats have been shown to cause brain atrophy as well as heart disease, cancer, obesity, and diabetes. Trans fats are also found in processed foods that say “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” on the label.

They are so detrimental to overall health that they have been banned in some areas and even some countries (Iceland, Sweden, Austria). Last year, they were banned in New York City and in November the FDA announced that they are considering banning trans fats in the form of hydrogenated oils.

They are a main source of unhealthy omega-6 fatty acids which contribute to chronic inflammation. If you have allergies or anything that ends in “itis” (i.e., arthritis, dermatitis, colitis), you have inflammation. Chronic inflammation is a contributor to seven of the top ten causes of death: heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and nephritis.

Currently we consume an average of 9% of our calories from these oils. Omega-6 toxicity begins at 4% intake. So most of us need to cut back their intake by at least 60% to be in the healthy range of 2-3%.

The Truth About Canola Oil

Many consumers believe canola oil is healthy because it is monounsaturated like olive oil, but few people realize exactly what they are consuming. There is no “canola plant”.  Canola stands for “Canadian oil low acid” and comes from a genetically engineered form of rapeseed subsidized by the Canadian government. The name change was a PR move due to the bad connotation of the word rapeseed.

A major way canola differs from olive oil is that it’s not cold-pressed. It’s typically extracted with high heat, pressure, and chemical solvents which lead to the formation of trans fats. This ubiquitous oil is one you should definitely avoid.

Still not convinced? Here’s a quick look at how canola oil is manufactured. You’ll see the process is anything but “natural”.

Avoiding unhealthy vegetable oils is harder than it sounds. Look at the labels on processed or prepared foods, condiments, baked goods, and snack items. You’ll find these fats lurk in almost everything, even many foods from the health food store.

While avoiding unhealthy oils will be tough, I think you’ll like what I’m going to tell you next. There are three healthy fats you should stock in your kitchen – extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and, of all things, butter!

Olive Oil – Buyer Beware

Olive oil has been used medicinally for over 5,000 years. Its health benefits are legendary. Olive oil is a major component of the Mediterranean diet and is believed to be a factor why people in that part of the world are some of the healthiest and long-lived.

Olive oil has been found to boost the immune system, increase bone density, prevent cancer, strokes, and heart disease, lower blood pressure, and reduce your risk of diabetes. There’s evidence that olive oil can improve memory and increase overall cognitive function.

There is a caveat about using olive oil, however. Much of the store-bought extra virgin olive oil is fake! Cheap and unhealthy soy or canola oils are colored with industrial chlorophyll and flavored with artificial flavorings.

Fake olive oil is a huge business around the world – in the Europe, Australia, the US, and even China.

Olive oil is great to use “as is” but should not be heated. It burns at a very low temperature producing trans fats.

Coconut – the Healthy Oil with a Bad Reputation

Coconut oil is a very healthy fat that has an undeserved bad reputation. While it does contain saturated fat, that’s actually not a bad thing. This makes it extremely stable for cooking.

Coconut oil contains 50% lauric acid. This fatty acid is antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal. It lowers risk of heart disease by increasing good cholesterol and boosts the immune system. Lauric acid naturally occurs in human breast milk, but coconut is the only way to get it in your diet.

Coconut oil contains medium chain fats which can supply energy directly to the brain with no insulin spike. It’s this property that makes it a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s and other neurological disorders.

Butter is Better

Butter, like coconut oil, has gotten a bad rap but is actually a healthy fat. So trade in your faux butter spread for the real thing.

Butter contains all of the fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins D, E and K), and is a particularly good source of vitamin A. It’s rich in trace minerals and, if you buy grass-fed butter, is a good source of healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

But the real key to butter’s health benefits lies in its high butyrate content. Butyrate is a fatty acid that offers several health benefits. It’s very healing to the digestive tract. It reduces chronic inflammation. It counters neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Butter can actually help you lose weight by improving insulin sensitivity and stabilizing blood sugar levels. Eating butter with carbohydrates (on bread or potatoes, for example) lowers the glycemic index preventing blood sugar spikes and keeping you full longer.

When butter comes from cows that graze on grass, it contains high levels of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a compound that protects against cancer, reduces inflammation, and makes it easier to burn fat and retain muscle mass.

It should be no surprise that the healthiest butter comes from the healthiest cows. Don’t expect ordinary grocery store butter to provide the same benefits as butter from grass-fed cows.

Your “New & Improved” Shopping List

Now that you know better, don’t be one of those people who gets 9% of calories from unhealthy vegetable oils! Here are four steps to take to transition from unhealthy to healthy oils.

  • Put extra virgin olive oil and organic coconut oil on your shopping list today! Do your homework and make sure your olive oil is the “real deal”. Then switch from whatever cooking oils you are using to these healthy oils.
  • Avoid any processed foods that say “hydrogenated” on the label.
  • Get rid of any fake fats like margarine and replace with butter. Be sure to get grass-fed butter to get the full health benefits.
  • Start reading labels on things like frozen potatoes, waffles, snacks, baked goods, prepared foods, and condiments. You’ll be dismayed by how many so-called “healthy” foods contain canola, soy, safflower, and sunflower oils. While you probably won’t be able to completely eliminate them from your diet, awareness if the first step towards minimizing them from your diet.

SOURCES:
FDA Takes Step to Further Reduce Trans Fats in Processed Foods at FDA.com
Adulteration Risk as Olive Oil Gains Ground in China at OliveOilTimes.com

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Eating the wrong fats is just one of the many ways the modern lifestyle takes a toll on your brain. 

What will you do when you notice the first signs of mental decline — memory lapses, brain fog, poor focus, fuzzy thinking?

Will you ignore it and hope for the best? Or will you treat it like you would any other health problem? Read our story here.

Deane Alban is the co-founder of BeBrainFit.com, along with her husband Dr. Patrick Alban. Together they’ll show how to keep your brain young, healthy, and fully-functioning for life.

Deane Alban
Deane Alban is co-founder of BeBrainFit.com and author of "Brain Gold: Brain Fitness Guide for Boomers" and "21 Days to a Brighter Brain."

Deane holds a bachelor's degree in biology from University of South Florida, where she also studied journalism. She has taught and written on a wide variety of natural health topics for over 20 years, including teaching healthy cooking classes.

As a baby boomer, Deane has turned her passion for healthy living to focus on a major problem people everywhere are facing – issues with mental decline right now and worries about Alzheimer's disease and dementia in the future. Deane brings the science down to earth in an entertaining and engaging way, giving her readers practical, easy-to-follow advice to keep their minds sharp for life.

Deane lives near Tucson, Arizona with her husband and business partner, Patrick, a retired chiropractor. She loves living in the desert where plenty of sunshine and outdoor activities help keep her mind young!
  • kts

    wouldn't say butter is a healthy fat! like most or all animal products, not very good for you studies suggest…
    (maybe not so suprising really as the milk is designed for baby cows rather than interspecies use of animal humans)
    potentially better than margarine, but just because it may be better than margarine, still doesn't mean its good for you…
    of course, don't need either butter or margarine…can miss that out totally, or use other oils noted here…
    and awareness and doing what is easy for us is great…

    the rest of the article agree with though. and like you say, reducing the less healthy oils can be very beneficial (i found)…

    • Walfredo

      May I suggest to check the Weston A Price website to learn more about butter. This people believe in butter and recommend consuming it. It seems to be a healthy food.

  • Rae

    I'm confused. The article says that there is no such thibg as a canola plant rather rapeseed, but the video says otherwise.

  • Cristina

    Curious as to how to determine if the olive oil is real and if grapeseed oil is a good or not so good oil to use. Thanks!

  • elizabeth

    They forgot about the amazing health benefits of cold pressed sesame oil… so four oils.

  • linda

    Interesting

  • James

    I'm assuming that Canola oil is processed in the same ways as Safflower and Sunflower, etc.? …That could be explained a little more clearly.

  • Jen

    The article also fails to mention cottonseed oil which is genetically modified…and most processed nuts are roasted in it. Check all nuts and especially the Planters brand labels before you buy them.

  • Branimira

    What's wrong with sunflower oil?

  • Cali555

    Humans should not be eating oils at all, humans should be eating whole foods and not foods that go through processes like this. Why do you think the only doctors in the world who can not only stop heart disease but reverse it (without medication) tell people to avoid oils. Mother nature did not design our bodies to intake things like this and we wonder why we are riddled with diseases.

    • Cody

      I agree mostly, however, virgin organic coconut oil is truly an amazing product. A healthy diet should include this oil. All the others though, including olive, are not necessary and should be avoided.

    • gigi

      From what i have recently read about oils regarding heart disease I totally agree that we should not eat any oils including extra virgin organic olive oil. It might be ok if you do not have heart disease, but toxic if you do. A plant and fruit based diet is the very best for everyone, but after decades of eating otherwise it will be slow to get people to adjust, even me. I have only recently started and it is tough reading labels etc. Thank you for pointing out the problems with processed foods.

  • You have large serene of conceiving blogs. Your this blog dispatched remarks is very appealing because of its minutia and figures. So contain share some more informative posted letters like this.

    • Hey, there "improve memory", You'd get a lot more mileage out of your comment if it actually made sense. 🙂

  • Stevie Wonder

    The only oil I use for cooking, that is subjected to high heat is produced by The Hain Celestial Ground under the name
    of Spectrum. The label reads "High Heat Canola Oil…Refined for High Heat". About the only way I use it, currently, is
    for preparing popcorn. I see many varieties of seed, nut and other derived oils on the shelves at health food stores and in the health foods departments at grocery stores that read refined for high heat. Does this process truely prevent the creation of saturated fats during high heat applications? Should I be skeptical of the implied safety of using these oils
    for cooking?

  • ell

    there is no toxicity level of omega 6 oils–the problems are, one that you state is the chemical processing of it, and the most important, the amount of omega 3 oils in diet in relationship to the omega 6's–and you fail to even mention omega 3's–both omega 3 and omega 6 oils are essential oils, meaning that they cannot be made in the body, so need to be obtained by diet.
    many other errors in this article—look elsewhere for info on fats.

    • Hi ell, Yes we need omega-3s and 6s but the modern diet is WAY out of balance. It’s recommended we take in two to four times more omega-3 EFAs than omega-6s. Unfortunately, the average American eats upwards of 20 times more of the 6s than of the 3s.

  • sandy

    With so many vegetable oil and nut oil flavors to choose from, you’ll never run out of healthy cooking options.
    Top 10 Good Cooking Oils: How to Choose the Right One http://seekingfit.com/blog/top-10-good-cooking-oi

    • Joan

      I pass on your site you listed. They dont seem to know about GMO's in corn oil, for one of many things I found wrong with that site.

    • joanofark06

      Didn't care for your site either….coconut oil is at the very bottom!

  • Shirley Jabi

    I think that canola was first developed from rapeseed not by genetic engineering but by altering the DNA using radiation to induce mutation so that its natural toxicity could be reduced. Genetic engineering came later so that canola could be herbicide tolerant