**This post was originally written in 2016 and updated**
The use of vegetable oils and refined oils has risen dramatically over the past seventy-five years. Vegetable oils are high inflammatory oils that are high in inflammatory Omega-6 fatty acids. Inflammation is known to be the root cause of chronic disease. Canola oil, soybean oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil and peanut oil are all refined oils. “Vegetable oil” is typically a blend of any of these oils. Vegetable oils are most commonly used in processed food products and in restaurants. Additionally, vegetable oils inhibit the processes of Vitamin K2, which moves calcium out of the arteries and into bones and teeth. By inhibiting K2, consumption of vegetable oils leads to an increased onset of cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, cognitive function problems and bone fractures (1). The ideal ratio of Omega 6:Omega 3 fatty acids is 1:1, and most Americans are consuming such high amounts of Omega 6 fatty acids that the typical American consumes them in a ratio of 12:1 or even 25:1! Below we will take a look at the health risks of vegetable oils and how to avoid exposure to them.
WHAT DOES REFINED MEAN?
Refined refers to the mechanical and chemical process that occurs to extract the oil from the seeds. As a result of this process, the nutrients are also extracted in the seeds due to this process. The final product is oxidized easily. Oxidation is when an electron is given up, creating free radicals. Free radicals in our body cause damage and inflammation creating a greater risk for health problems, including cancer. Thus, refined oils should be avoided.
WHERE ARE REFINED OILS FOUND?
If you take a look at the ingredients in most processed foods, even organic health targeted ones, they most likely contain one of these oils. Sunflower oil sneaks into organic healthy foods sounding healthy coming from a seed – but being refined, it is not. As you can see below in these two products, marketed often times towards children, they contain vegetable oils.
BEST INGREDIENTS: Tapioca Syrup*, Cane Sugar*, Tapioca Syrup Solids*, Pear Juice Concentrate*, Water, Pectin, Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Sunflower Oil*, Color* (Black Carrot*, Blackcurrant* Extracts), Natural Flavor, Carnauba Wax*.* Organic
ARE THESE REALLY THE “BEST INGREDIENTS?”
Back to Nature Non-GMO Chocolate Chip cookies
Ingredients: Unbleached Wheat Flour, Semisweet Chocolate (Sugar, Unsweetened Chocolate, Cocoa Butter, Dextrose, Soy Lecithin, Vanilla Extract), Dried Cane Syrup, Safflower Oil, Brown Rice Syrup, Baking Soda, Sea Salt.
You will also see expeller pressed oils. These oils are extracted with a big screw that is tightened until it crushes the nuts/seeds until the oil runs. This method being is more expensive and less effective, and yields of only 65-70% of the oil. Some companies will have to combine this with a traditional method to release more oils. Other companies will cold press the oils after expeller pressing them which produces the best oils. Check with the company to verify the process they use. There is a lack of regulations in the US in regards to the process used and what is printed on the label.
You can bet that restaurants are not using extra virgin olive oil, ghee, or grass fed butter. Most are using the cheapest ingredients out there to benefit their wallets. They do not have our health in mind when purchasing ingredients that are the least costly and will be shelf stable. From salad dressings to anything cooked or fried, vegetable oils are highly used in the restaurant world.
OILS TO AVOID
Most of these oils are used in restaurants when you eat out, most especially in fried foods. In addition, trans fats should be avoided. Margarine and Crisco are hydrogenated oils that become trans fats. Trans fat are contained in many processed foods. Accordingly to the FDA, 95% of prepared cookies, 100% of crackers and 80% of frozen breakfast foods are reported to contain trans fats. In 2015, the FDA released the determination that trans fats were no longer regarded as GRAS – “generally regarded as safe” and after June 18, 2018, manufacturers are no longer allowed to add partially hydrogenated oils to foods (2). Hydrogenated oils, including Crisco and margarine have been banned in several countries for years.
OILS TO EAT
One of the best sources of fatty acids is extra virgin olive oil. Specifically, olive oil is a great source of the anti-inflammatory compound oleocanthal (3). Olive oil not only reduces LDL “bad” cholesterol, but has also been shown to reduce oxidative damage, blood pressure, and the risk of cardiovascular disease, among other health benefits (4). Look for a dark glass bottle that is unrefined, cold-pressed and unfiltered, and read the label to be sure it is only olive oil. Olive oil is best used to saute’ at low temperatures, or to use in salad dressings or already cooked vegetables.
Coconut oil is a great source of healthy monounsaturated fats. While it contains saturated fat, saturated fat is not the major player in heart disease. Look for organic unrefined coconut oil. Coconut oil has a smoke point of 350 degrees F.
Avocado oil has a high smoke point of 520 degrees F. This makes it a great cooking oil. When temperatures are heated above the smoke point, the fat begins to break down, changing its chemical composition. As a result, free radicals are released as well as carcinogens. When cooking at high temperatures, look to use avocado oil.
Ghee is another one with a high smoke point of 485. Ghee is made by simmering unsalted butter over a low temperature until the water evaporates and milk solids separate from the oil. These milk solids can cause issues for many who are dairy sensitive or lactose intolerant so ghee can be more tolerated for some. Just like butter, ghee is high in the short chain fatty acid butyrate that plays a large role in gut health and inflammation, and the fatty acid conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which is great for burning fat and overall health. Ghee also is rich in vitamin K2 which helps with heart health and dental health. Look for organic grass fed ghee (and butter) to get the most nutritional benefits.
GRASS FED BUTTER
Grass fed butter, like ghee, is a rich source of Vitamin K2, as well as butyrate that decreases inflammation and improves gut health. The smoke point of butter is 350 degrees F.
THE CASE FOR COOKING AT HOME
Cooking at home is one of the best changes that you can make for your health if you eat out often. Eating at home is the best way to control ingredients to benefit your health. Check out more of the benefits of eating at home versus eating out here. Even if you decrease the amount of times that you eat out in one week, you will be making strides in improving your health. In addition, reducing your intake of processed foods will reduce your consumption of inflammatory oils.
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