Vegetable oils are just that – oils extracted from seeds of various vegetables. Most commonly: Rapeseed (Canola Oil), Soybean, Corn, Sunflower, Safflower, Peanut, etc. Unlike coconut and olive oils (which are extracted simply by pressing the plant material), vegetable oils must be extracted using chemical processes. Vegetable oils are a “new” type of oil. They were essentially nonexistent until the early 1900s. The invention of chemical processing allowed for vegetable oils to virtually replace natural oils as a “cheaper” and “healthier” alternative.
At the turn of the 20th century, vegetable oil use in the US was essentially 0%. Today the average American consumes up to 70 lbs of vegetable oil per person, per year. If you graph and compare the incidence of US chronic diseases and introduction of vegetable oil to the American diet, there is almost an exact correlation.
Heart disease and cancer continue to rise at alarming rates while butter and lard consumption is down. I wonder if you still believe the hype that vegetable oils are a safe, healthy alternative to “artery-clogging, disease causing” fats?
Before we talk more about vegetable oils, lets dig a bit into my favorite oil/fat: BUTTER.
Butter is made through a simple process of separating the fats from milk. (Yes, butter is a dairy source – so we want to ensure the butter we use comes from grass-fed cows, preferably raw if possible). Milk fat separation is a natural process that simply requires the use of time.
Once the milk fats have separated (floats to the top), all you need to do is skim the fat and shake/churn it until it becomes butter. It really is that easy, and I have made my own butter many times in as little as 10 minutes!
Now let’s look at how the #1 vegetable oil is made: CANOLA
CANOLA – an abbreviation for Canadian Oil, Low Acid
According to the Canola Council of Canada, the process involves a multi-step chemical solvent extraction.
Step 1: Find some “canola seeds.” Oh wait, they don’t exist. Canola oil is actually made from a hybrid version of the rapeseed flower… most likely genetically modified and heavily treated with pesticides.
Step 2: Heat the rapeseeds at unnaturally high temperatures so that the oils come to the surface of the seeds, often resulting in oxidation and a rancidity before you ever buy them.
Step 3: Wash the now oily seeds with a petroleum or hexane solvent.
Step 4: Heat the chemical/oil mixture further and add some various acid to remove any nasty wax solids that formed during the first processing.
Step 5: Treat the now crude canola oil with additional hexane and petroleum chemicals to improve the color.
Step 6: Deodorize, bleach and colorize the oil to mask the horrific smell from the chemical processing.
Step 7: Pour into bottles and distribute to wholesalers & grocers.
Of course, if you want to take vegetable oils one step further, just hydrogenate it until it becomes a semi-solid. Now you have margarine and all its trans-fatty glory.
So why are vegetable oils bad?
Hopefully at this point, you can see how vegetable oils are man made, chemical monstrosities. Today what makes them even worse is that almost all seed sources have been genetically modified to withstand heavy amounts of pesticide spraying, and even to increase the concentration of various fats to increase end-product yields.
It makes you wonder how can they be marketed as “heart healthy”? Along with the continued myth about saturated fats and cholesterol, these oils are promoted as healthy because they contain some monounsaturated fats (MUFA) and Omega-3 fatty acids. And that’s what advertisers focus on to draw you into the erroneous health claims.
Vegetable oils contain very high levels of polyunsaturated fats (PUFA), MORE than the MUFAs and Omega-3s. Did you know that the fat content of the human body is about 97% saturated and monounsaturated fat? Our body needs fat for rebuilding cells and hormone production. And it can only use what its made of.
Polyunsaturated fats are highly unstable. They oxidize easily which causes inflammation and even DNA mutation in cells. That oxidation is linked to development of cancer, heart disease, endrometriosis, PCOS, thyroid disorders, etc. Vegetable oils also contain a very high concentration of Omega 6 fatty acids, which also oxidize easily. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce inflammation and protect against cancer. Unbalanced levels of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fats have been linked to many types of cancers and a host of other problems. And, as you’ve probably guessed, most Americans are high in Omega-6 fatty acids and low in Omega-3s.
Beyond the unnatural levels of polyunsaturated fats and Omega-6 fatty acids, there are all the additives, pesticides, and chemicals involved in processing. Many vegetable oils contain BHA and BHT (Butylated Hydroxyanisole and Butylated Hydroxytoluene).
These artificial antioxidants keep the food from spoiling too quickly, but they have also been shown to produce potential cancer compounds in the body. And they have been linked to things like immune system issues, infertility, behavioral problems, and liver and kidney damage.
The Good News
There are several alternatives to vegetable oil.
You can cook with the following fats/oils as they remain stable at high temperatures:
- Grass Fed Butter
- Coconut Oil
- Avocado Oil
- Palm Oil
You can consume, but don’t cook with these fats/oils as they break down and become toxic at high temperatures:
- Nut oils (almond, walnut, etc.)
- Flax oil
- Olive oil