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Industrial Seed Oils and Why to Avoid Them

Updated: Feb 26, 2023

Removing excessive added sugar and artificial sweeteners is one of the most significant changes you can make in your diet ~ congratulations! Eliminating processed foods that contain unnecessary sugar resulted in a drastic reduction of fake food in your diet. And breaking the sugar cycle allows you to reclaim control over your food choices.

On your journey to healthy living, a logical step to metabolic health may be avoiding (or using sparingly) industrial seed oils: canola (rapeseed) oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil, grapeseed oil, rice bran oil, soybean oil, safflower oil, and sunflower oil. These oils are present in 95% of processed foods. Dr. Cate Shanahan coined these The Hateful Eight because they contain many calories but no nutrients, and opponents believe they are a root cause for inflammation and lifestyle illnesses. Industrial seed oils are highly processed, unstable, and inflammatory, and are often derived from genetically modified crops. They create a toxic environment in your body and cause your cells to crave sugar by damaging the cell's mitochondria, the energy source. When your cells are craving sugar, so are you!

There is no dispute that Industrial seed oils contain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), which oxidize easily when exposed to heat, light, and other chemicals. And that oxidation causes toxic byproducts. Usually, the degradation occurs before the oils enter the body - this is why these oils have a short shelf life and must be stored in cool, dark places - away from the oven and stove. But, even if you keep them well and do not heat them to a high temperature, there is no guarantee of how they were handled before you purchased them. Ingesting toxic oil is very different from eating sugar. Your body is designed to convert sugar into energy in moderate amounts. Although you must be cautious with sugar because it is easy to over consume and can be addicting, the body's process of releasing insulin to unlock the cells to absorb glucose is a natural activity that works well until repeatedly overloaded (as in the Standard American Diet). Therefore, there is little harm in an occasional homemade cookie or bowl of high-quality ice cream. But industrial seed oils can contain toxins that are poisonous to the body. When you eat a healthy, nutrient-dense meal with lean protein and leafy green vegetables but have a side of fries that have been fried in an industrial seed oil, you are likely ingesting poison. And there is no such thing as a "little bit" of poison!

Many of us grew up with canola oil and were taught that it was heart-healthy because it was a good source of Omega-6 fatty acids. However, doctors and nutritionists are reconsidering this earlier view. Perhaps they had not anticipated such a high consumption of the oils or how they would be altered in the cooking process. Today, industrial seed oils are overflowing in processed food products and are leading to chronic health conditions. Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids are both essential fats for the human body, necessary for cardiovascular health. Unfortunately, the body can't produce these fats; therefore, they must be consumed through food or supplementation. However, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing! Consumption of Omega-6s has increased while Omega-3s has decreased. Thus the ratio of the two fats has gotten out of whack, due to the convenience of the Standard American diet. In pre-industrial times, hunter-gatherers ate a balance of about 3:1 for Omega-6s to Omega-3s, while fish-based communities (Inuits) ate proportions of 1:4. Today, the Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio in the American diet is roughly 16:1. This represents a minimum of a four fold increase of Omega-6s vs Omega-3s in the diet and many nutritionists and integrative doctors believe this ratio contributes to a state of chronic inflammation. When you suffer from systemic inflammation, lifestyle diseases such as dementia, anxiety, depression, IBS, asthma, and autoimmune disorders may become prevalent. Additionally, inflammation in the body leads to mood swings, brain fog, and low energy. Let's break down why industrial seed oils are so controversial.

  1. Processing - Some opponents of industrial seed oils call the entire process RBD - Refine, Bleach, Deodorize. After the seeds are gathered, they are heated to oxidize the fatty acid - changing the chemical structure from a double hydrogen bond to a single bond. The resulting oils are then processed with a petroleum-based solvent, like hexane, to maximize the amount of oil extracted. They are subsequently treated to mask their color and off-putting smell.

  2. Overuse - Industrial Seed Oils are cheap and abundant. Present in most processed food and used by most restaurants, they are easily over consumed.

  3. Cooking with PUFAs - PUFAS are commonly used when frying foods and many restaurants reuse the oils repeatedly. Heating breaks down the fats, and each reheating creates increased toxins. While eating french fries from the first batch of clean oil may be ok, consuming those made from the same oil days later is likened to the harm of smoking a pack of cigarettes.

When there is an argument in the scientific community, and research is funded by stakeholders, it is often a wise path to choose an alternative that is known to be healthy while the world sorts it out. Consumer Reports recently published an article saying these oils are fine and quoting Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian. However safe, this doctor has flipped his opinion, first for in 2010, against in 2014, now for again in 2018. No wonder people are confused! And, the Omega-6 issue is not as big a problem in Europe where olive oil and grass-fed butter are the fats of choice both in restaurants and by consumers. Therefore our position right now is to avoid or use industrial seed oils only sparingly. Buy the highest quality you can find (cold-pressed), store in cool, dry places and don’t deep fry or reuse!

Try to eat Omega-3s and Omega-6s in your diet. Keep in mind that Omega-3s and Omega-6s are found in proper ratios in the same food. As long as you eat a wide variety of nutrient-dense food, there is no need to worry too much about your ratios and exact daily intake. Focus instead on high quality ingredients, crowding out low-nutrient choices! There is no hard and fast rule to how much should be consumed, but most adults would benefit from 8oz of fatty fish per week. Ideally we recommend the following omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce inflammation and protect our brain and heart.

  • Extra-virgin, cold-pressed, organic olive oil, avocado oil, and coconut oil

  • Avocados

  • Grass-fed meats

  • Grass-fed butter

  • Nuts (not peanuts)

    • Walnuts

    • Cashews

    • Almonds

    • Pecans,

    • Macadamia

  • Flax seed

  • Chia seeds

  • Fatty fish

    • Sardines

    • Mackerel

    • Herring

    • Trout

    • Wild-caught salmon

    • Farm-raised salmon

    • Canned light tuna

    • Halibut

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