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The slippery slope of vegetable oils. The Good, The Bad & The Ugly Oils.

by Andrew Schachter December 04, 2019 5 min read 0 Comments

The slippery slope of vegetable oils. The Good, The Bad & The Ugly Oils.

Vegetable oils have been in use for thousands of years. History shows us that virtually all known early cultures relied on both animal & plant-based oils for cooking, heating, food and lubrication. Archaeological evidence shows use of olive oil as early as 8000 years ago. [1]

"Olive Oil & Truth Come To The Surface"
Basque Proverb

A Brief History On Vegetable Oils

Vegetable oils include those extracted from seeds, nuts, fruits and other plants. Though a staple for thousands of years, the vegetable oils predominantly in use today have drastically changed in recent years. The most common vegetable oils used today by your average consumer pose great health risks that our ancestors were lucky to have avoided.

Some oils in use have a list of health benefits, but the benefits vs. drawbacks vary based on a variety of factors including source, quality of the source, ratios of fatty acids, and the way it is processed. Let’s take a closer look at the good, bad and ugly of oils and why.

Omega 3 & Omega 6 Fatty Acids

“The ideal ratio is 4-1, for every Omega-3 fatty acid you consume, you would want 4 Omega-6’s”

Essential fatty acids include those that your body needs but doesn’t have the ability to produce. Those include Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids, which are important to consume in a specific ratio. The ideal ratio is 4-1, for every Omega-3 fatty acid you consume, you would want 4 Omega-6’s. Some oils however are extraordinarily high in Omega 6’s and pose great health risks. [2]

A diet high in omega-6 can lead to increased inflammation in the body. Increased inflammation has been linked with a greater frequency of certain diseases such as heart attacks, strokes, autoimmune diseases and other chronic & inflammatory diseases. [3]

“Unhealthy vegetable oils high in Omega-6’s include some of the most common ones in use”

Unhealthy vegetable oils high in Omega-6’s include some of the most common ones in use. Sunflower, corn, soybean, safflower, grapeseed and cottonseed oils. These vegetable oils are frequently hidden in common products like candy, processed & packaged foods, baked snacks, even health care products & cosmetics.

The Good

The body needs dietary fats and in good amounts as part of a healthy balanced diet. There are different types of fats though and the type of fats consumed makes all the difference in maintaining health.

Saturated fats are those that generally remain solid at room temperatures. Common sources for saturated fats are red meat, some pork and foul, dairy products like butter, lard & cheese.

A diet too high in these saturated fats can raise your LDL cholesterol levels increasing your risks of heart disease as well as type-2 diabetes. Conventional sources of these fats compound matters, most modern farming processes don’t cater an animals diet to its natural biome, resulting in an imbalance of omega-6 vs. omega-3 fats. These fats don’t necessarily need to be avoided, however with meats and fats it’s wise to consider only organic, non-gmo, grass-fed sources.[4]

Unsaturated fats tend to be liquid at room temperature. Most, but not all unsaturated fat comes from plants and include olive oils, oils from nuts & seeds and some fish as well. 

Unsaturated fats come in 2 primary types, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

“Monounsaturated fats help to control blood sugar levels as well as helping to regulate other crucial blood related hormones”

Monounsaturated fats help to control blood sugar levels as well as helping to regulate other crucial blood related hormones. These fats also help improve cholesterol levels reducing risk factors related to cardiovascular disease.[5]

Polyunsaturated fats are essential fats which means your body needs them but is unable to make them. Polyunsaturated fats are important for healthy muscle functions, blood clotting and other vital body processes like creating cell walls. Polyunsaturated fats include the omega 3 and 6 fats discussed earlier.

Foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids include fatty fish, flax, non-hydrogenated soy, safflower, sunflower, canola, walnut and some sees like hemp and chia. Omega-6 oils are also healthy in moderation and within the ratios previously outlined.

The Bad

“A warning on GMO oils and refined oils”

A warning on GMO oils and refined oils. Refined oils are ultra processed using bleaching techniques, solvents and harmful chemicals. GMO oils are manufactured from plants that have undergone extensive genetic modification and both of these types of oils pose health risks. On top of the list to avoid include canola, soybean, cottonseed and olive oils that are not extra-virgin.

The Ugly

Another fat to cover is trans fats which is a form of unsaturated fat. Trans-unsaturated fatty acids or trans-fats for short occurs naturally and in small amounts in some meats like cattle, sheep & goats as well as in milk fats. The moderate amounts found naturally are not of concern for meat eaters as they include beneficial fats like CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid). Artificial trans-fats though are those that are laboratory created. These are hydrogenated vegetable oils and greatly increase risk factors associated with heart disease and other inflammatory conditions.

“The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ruled in 2015 that artificial trans fats were unsafe to eat and gave food-makers three years to eliminate them from the food supply”

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ruled in 2015 [6] that artificial trans fats were unsafe to eat and gave food-makers three years to eliminate them from the food supply, with a deadline of June 18, 2018. Regardless of the deadline, artificial trans-fats can still be found in certain types of shortenings, Certain margarine and vegetable Oils, fried fast foods, some microwave popcorn varieties, bakery products, non-dairy creamers, certain frozen pizza, crackers, canned cake frostings, preserved meat products like meat pies & sausage rolls, potato & corn chips and sweet pies. Manufacturers are sneaky, so it's crucial to check ingredient lists for hydrogenated oils even when the dietary facts list zero trans-fats.

In a tail-spin yet? An easy way to navigate this whole topic is becoming savvy in reading and deciphering nutritional labels. For the fundamentals in reading lables, check out this article "Cracking the Code: Deciphering The Deceitful Marketing Language of Nutrition Labels".

Avoiding artificial, packaged, processed, laboratory created, fast food, sugary snacks, baked goods and other unhealthy options is recommended

Recommendations

To sum things up, a whole food based diet high in organic, non-gmo foods, with a balance of macro nutrients offers the best results for overall health and wellness.  Avoiding artificial, packaged, processed, laboratory created, fast food, sugary snacks, baked goods and other unhealthy options is recommended.

The healthiest oils we recommend include non-GMO & organic coconut, extra-virgin olive, avocado and walnut oils. 

By no means should fats be avoided, they are essential for daily health and integral to overall wellness. The key is to concentrate on incorporation only healthy fats into your lifestyle.

 

References:

  1. Ruth Schuster (December 17, 2014). "8,000-year old olive oil found in Galilee, earliest known in world", Haaretz. Retrieved December 2, 2019. https://www.haaretz.com/archaeology/.premium-8-000-year-old-olive-oil-found-in-galilee-1.5347955
  2. Patterson E, Wall R, Fitzgerald GF, Ross RP, Stanton C. Health implications of high dietary omega-6 polyunsaturated Fatty acids. J Nutr Metab. 2012;2012:539426. doi:10.1155/2012/539426. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3335257/
  3. Jessie Szalay - Live Science Contributor October 19, 2018 Livescience.com. https://www.livescience.com/52344-inflammation.html
  4. Daley CA, Abbott A, Doyle PS, Nader GA, Larson S. A review of fatty acid profiles and antioxidant content in grass-fed and grain-fed beef. Nutr J. 2010;9:10. Published 2010 Mar 10. doi:10.1186/1475-2891-9-10 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2846864/
  5. American Heart Association, heart.org. Last Reviewed: Jun 1, 2015 https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/fats/monounsaturated-fats
  6. Harvard University, T.H. Chan School of Public Health “Artificial trans fats banned in U.S.” https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/hsph-in-the-news/us-bans-artificial-trans-fats/
Andrew Schachter
Andrew Schachter



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