Today Americans wishing to eat a balanced diet are faced with many obstacles when it comes to choosing what is healthy and not healthy to consume. Now more than ever we are experiencing an onslaught of overly processed, chemical-filled choices that are laden with toxic ingredients such as seed oils.
These widely used oils are creating a lot of recent buzz in the health and wellness world, but many people aren’t even aware of what a seed oil is and just how negative the effects of consuming them are on the body. Let’s have a look at what we are doing to our health by consuming them.
What Exactly is Seed Oil?
Oils in and of themselves are not always a bad thing. Our bodies need healthy oils such as olive oil, ghee, and coconut oil to help the cellular process of creating new cells. These healthy oils are also great for our nervous system and brain functioning. However, in the world of oils, it’s all about where they come from and how they are processed.
In the world of oils what matters is the “where” and the “how”- meaning what part of the plant the oil comes from and how was it extracted. When we look at olive oil, for example, we see that the oil comes from the fleshy part of the olive and not the seed within. Our bodies love this healthy oil and use the beneficial fats to carry out essential functions.
Seed oils are commonly defined as any oil that is obtained from the seed of a plant rather than its fleshy fruit part. To be consumed, these oils are highly processed which makes them different from the health oils listed above.
Seed oils include:
- Canola Oil
- Sunflower Oil
- Cottonseed Oil
- Safflower Oil
- Grapeseed Oil
- Ricebran Oil
- Soy Oil
- Corn Oil
Where Do Seed Oils Come From
Seed oils go through a multiple step process, which is highly industrialized, to be processed into the oil that people consume. All the oils which you see listed above are refined, bleached, and deodorized to make them “ready for consumption”. Many seed oils are also extracted using a chemical solvent- yes you read that right! A chemical solvent!
As these toxic oils hit shelves scientists began singing their praises and touting them as safe, healthier alternatives to animal-based fats. As we know now, nothing could be further than the truth. Unfortunately, remnants of this thought process can still be found within the minds of the general public, leading to a toxic over consumption of seed oils.
When we look at the manufacturing process of these oils, we can see the ins and outs of why they are so horrible to be put in our bodies. The process of creating seed oils goes something like this:
- The seeds are gathered and heated to an extremely high temperature which releases unsaturated fatty acids
- When this oxidation happens, many unhealthy byproducts are created
- The seeds are then processed using a petroleum-based solvent, called hexane, in order to gain as much oil from each seed as possible.
- Seed oils smell bad as they are being processed so they are next bathed in chemicals to deodorize them. This step also produces trans fats which are known to contribute to conditions such as heart disease and obesity.
- As if all this wasn’t enough, when the process is over the oils are dyed to make their color more appealing visually. As we can see, seed oils are a toxic chemical soup that shouldn’t be anywhere near our bodies. Just looking at this process we can see why it wouldn’t be a good idea to consume seed oils, but this isn’t where the bad news about these common oils stops.
Why Are Seed Oils Bad for Us?
Seed oils are cheap to manufacture and can be found in foods just about everywhere. This means that they are easily hidden in places that we can be unaware of such as French fries in restaurants and main ingredients in salad dressings. This leads the amount of seed oils that are consumed to be extremely high- contributing to the rising rates of disease we see in AmericaInflammation as we well know is a huge contributing factor to the development of disease in the body, and seed oils are fast becoming a main causing culprit. This is because to keep the body operating at its optimal state of health, we need a balance of omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids. Seed oils are very high in omega-6 causing an imbalance which leads to inflammation. If you are suffering from any type of auto-immune disease, check your food labels carefully for hidden seed oils as they could be a covert contributor to keeping your health in a stuck place.
Because of the industrial origins of seed oils, which we talked about above, we know that seed oils also worsen the risks for conditions such as heart disease and obesity because of the inflammation the cause. Quite simply put, the organic chemistry of our bodies and the synthetic chemistry of seed oils are not compatible.
Because of their manufactured origins seed oils are chemically unstable, oxidizing when they are exposed to the heat of the cooking process. When this happens trans-fats, lipid peroxides, and a wash of chemicals from the manufacturing process are infused into whatever is being cooked. Just to give you an idea of how bad this is- lipid peroxides are linked to everything from heart disease to Alzheimer’s Disease to DNA damage.
What Can We Do About It?
While we can see how bad seed oils are for us, we can focus on checking food labels and asking restaurants what oils they use. If they use seed oils, we can ask for our meal to be prepared with a healthier alternative. We can also switch out seed oils for healthier alternatives such as avocado oil, coconut oil, ghee (or clarified butter), and olive oil. Awareness is always a powerful tool. Now, armed with the knowledge of just how toxic seed oils are we can each begin to become aware of products that contain them and begin to phase them out of our lives, replacing them with healthier options.