What are ‘Seed Oils’? How to avoid and healthy alternatives
It may seem like the information on how toxic seed oils are for human consumption has only started to come to light over the last year or so. However, the manufacture of seed oils (also known as ‘vegetable oils’ due to a re-brand to make them sound more appealing) dates back to the late 1800s and was introduced as a ‘food’ product in the ’40s by Procter and Gamble when they decided to make use (and generate profit) of what was referred to as a ‘toxic waste’ product.
Cottonseed oil, which was one of the first founded seed oils in the 1870s by P&G, was initially used for lighting as a fuel source. P&G realised they could use this unwanted waste product and chemically alter it to become solid and marketed as a “cooking fat” (this was the beginning of the introduction of “Crisco,” which is mostly sold in the US). After they discovered they could chemically alter this particular seed oil, it then paved the way for the production of many other vegetable/seed oils, including soybean, canola, rapeseed and sunflower, to name just a few. The heavy marketing to follow led them to become a huge part of the processed food industry that we see today.
The issue with vegetable oils is the process in which they go through to become oil. It is a highly industrialised process involving seeds being heated to extreme temperatures, which causes oxidisation and, in turn, causes harmful byproducts which are toxic to humans and animals. They are then processed with petroleum-based solvents such as Hexane to maximise oil production. Then to top this off, more chemicals are added to deodorise and remove foul smells and give them a more appealing colour to entice us to want to eat them.
Another reason that seed oils are particularly toxic for humans is due to their very high volumes of polyunsaturated fats (PUFA’s), which can inhibit thyroid function, cause oxidative damage, block mitochondrial function and cause many neurological problems in the body. Even oils that are ‘cold pressed’ cause the above issues due to the PUFA’s oxidising immediately after consumption.
A list of commonly used seed oils:
- Has long been used as an engine lubricant and lubrication for other machine parts
- Contains high levels of Erucic acid, which is toxic to humans and animals
- Highly inflammatory
- Contains high amounts of aldehydes that may increase the risk of cancer, especially when heated to high temperatures
- Highly inflammatory and can lead to heart disease.
- Contains high amounts of linoleic acid, which, when consumed, increases inflammation in your blood and increases the risk of heart disease
Other seed oils to look out for:
- Safflower Oil
- Rice Bran Oil
- Corn Oil
- Black Seed Oil
- Flax Seed Oil
- Chia Seed Oil
- Grapeseed Oil
- Pumpkin Seed Oil
- Sesame Seed Oil
These industrialised engine lubricants that have been re-branded as seed oils should really not be consumed in any way, shape or form but are, unfortunately, in EVERYTHING! If you go to a restaurant, the chances are they are using Rapeseed oil for cooking your food. They are present in pretty much every vegan ‘milk’ you can buy on the shelf in most supermarkets and, of course, most other packaged and processed foods.
Here are some healthy alternatives to use in place of seed/vegetable oils:
Organic Grass Fed Beef Tallow
- Rendered fat of cattle
- Rich in fat-soluble, bioavailable Vitamins A, D, E and K2.
This is my personal choice to cook with not only for the health benefits but because it is stable enough to use at high heat. Animal fats were historically used for cooking before the introduction of seed oils.
Organic Grass Fed Raw Butter (Ideally A2)
- High in Butyric Acid, which can help cells take up Thyroid Hormone (T3)
- Shown to have anti-cancer properties.
Another personal favourite of mine just because I LOVE butter. However, butter tends to burn when heated to high temperatures, which can mean you need to use a lot to cook with! Use in place of tallow only if heating to medium temperatures. I always use raw butter when making scrambled eggs to get extra creaminess!
Organic Grass Fed Ghee
- Clarified butter with milk solids removed
- Great for those who have a sensitivity to milk due to gut issues
- Can be used at high heat due to high smoke point
I will be writing a separate blog on the health benefits of animal fats and raw dairy in our diet for those who would like to know more about my journey with this!
High-Quality Organic Cold Pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Rich in antioxidants and flavonoids that protect against heart disease and cancer
- Olive oil needs to be sourced carefully to ensure it hasn’t been mixed with other rancid vegetable oils.
There is a lot of conflicting evidence to show that it can or can’t be heated to high temperatures. I would suggest using completely unheated and drizzled if you are going to use it or at a low to medium temperature to avoid PUFA’s.
High-Quality Organic Cold Pressed Coconut Oil
- Supports the conversion of Cholesterol to protective hormones such as pregnenolone
- Increases Metabolic rate and supports fat loss
- Has antioxidant, antimicrobial and antihistamine properties
- Can be used at high temperatures
I personally use coconut oil for oil pulling (mouth cleaning before brushing my teeth to reduce bacteria) but also straight off of the spoon for all its incredible health benefits. Definitely one to include in your everyday diet. I avoid using in cooking unless I think the coconut-y taste is going to work well!