Everybody has a vice. Some people need their can of sugary cola, others could demolish an entire plate of chocolate chip cookies in one sitting. Me? I love me some fried food. Regardless of whether it’s French fries, battered shrimp, deep fried pickles, or even a deep fried Mars bar, I could eat it all. Luckily I have self-control on my side and limit these sorts of things to treats, otherwise I’d probably weight 400 lbs.
I used to think that fried foods had to be at least slightly healthier than cakes and cookies, but the older I get the more I see that I was oh so very wrong. After about 100 years of being told my nutritionists to toss out the butter and other saturated fats because they’re ‘so bad for us’, we’re beginning to realize that that’s what we should be using to cook with after all. But here’s the thing – Some oils are marketed to be healthier than others and although not all of them come brimming with health benefits, some of them still do. Unless you happen to know the difference and/or exactly what you’re looking for, what should have been a simple trip to the grocery store can end up being a huge headache (literally).
So I’ve saved you a ton of time and research – Next time you’re at the grocery store, you’ll be able to make an educated decision when you’re buying oil.
5 Oils To Steer Clear Of The Next Time You’re At The Grocery Store
They’re the same thing, just named differently. You see, rapeseed oil wasn’t selling very well when it first came out (Gee, I wonder why?), so the name was changed to something slightly more appealing. To make canola oil, the rape seeds are heat extracted, and then everything is refined, bleached, and deodorized so that it doesn’t smell half as awful as it does in the before all the processing (which makes sense: I can’t imagine that something that’s used to power engines tastes or smells any kind of good without the extra processing anyway).
Here’s a study that was done on farm animals that shows an effect on coronary health unless mitigated by the intake of beneficial saturated fats. If you’re not convinced with that one and/or you’d prefer to read about a study that was done on humans instead, click here or check out this article.
I’ve never actually purchased corn oil myself, but I’ve certainly seen it adorning kitchen shelves at places I’ve visited. Here’s something you might not know (it seems to be brand new news to anyone I proclaim it to): Corn isn’t a vegetable. It’s a grain, which would make corn oil a far cry from a vegetable oil (which isn’t made up of vegetables either, but we’ll get to that in just a little bit).
Not only is corn oil made up of 58% Omega-6 fatty acids (we’ll talk more about why that’s way too much soon), but corn is well known to be one of the most genetically modified crops on the planet. It’s estimated that about 88% of the world’s corn crops are GMO – Ultimately it’s up to you to choose whether or not you’re comfortable ingesting GMOs, just know that they might hinder your body’s ability to actually absorb the good stuff.
It might be a little shocking to you to see this one included in the list since Grapeseed oil is generally marketed as a healthy oil, but the fact of the matter is it isn’t near as healthy as it’s made out to be – It’s about 70% Omega 6 fatty acids and is industrially processed with hexane and other toxic, carcinogenic solvents (because how else do we expect them to clean it).
Now, some people might make the argument that their grapeseed oil was expeller-pressed, so it must be better, right? Wrong, because that oil still has an extremely high polyunsaturated fat content, so high that it’s somewhat toxic to humans. Any oil that’s high in polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) are actually prone to oxidation, so even if you got a cold-pressed grapeseed oil (which is the cleanest) it would oxidize as soon as you cooked with it. Oil oxidation creates free radicals which could possibly end up leading to cancer, inflammation, thyroid damage, hormonal imbalances, and other things that you just don’t want to deal with (of course this isn’t a guarantee, but why take a gamble on something as important as your health?).
Contrary to what you might think, vegetable oils usually aren’t derived from vegetables. In fact, almost all vegetable oil is actually soybean oil (just take a look at the label the next time you’re browsing the aisles in your local grocery store). Soybeans aren’t the worst thing in the world obviously, but they’re a far cry from the best thing you can ingest as well – About 94% of it is derived from GMO crops and the oils is about 54% Omega 6.
Unless it’s fermented and organic (if that’s your thing), soy consumption in general should be avoided (or at the very least limited). You see, soy is relatively high in phytic acid and trypsin inhibitors, meaning that it actually blocks the absorption of many vitamins, minerals, and proteins that your body needs to flourish. Soy also contains phytoestrogens that can disrupt your normal hormone function by mimicking estrogen in your body (this can possibly lead to increased cancer risk).
Soy is in just about everything in one form or another, so it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to cut it out altogether unless you’re someone that’s super careful with labels. That said, it wouldn’t hurt to be a little more conscious about the amount you’re consuming and aim to limit it.
(If you’re a vegetarian, know that I’m not hating on your choices, but also know that there are better places that you can be getting your protein).
Vegan Butter Substitutes
Most vegan butter substitutes (think Earth Balance) are basically just a mix of canola and soybean oils. We’ve already covered why these aren’t the greatest for you, but just in case you skipped ahead to this part here’s a quick recap – Canola oil is incredibly processed (like, to a disgusting degree), and soybean oil has too much Omega 6 fatty acids in it.
Some of them also have corn oil in them, so add even more Omega 6s to the count if that’s the case with yours.
Why They’re Bad For You
You probably knew that at least some of these oils weren’t great for you, but do you actually know why? After all, all kinds of different health and diet ‘experts’ all over the world are still trying to convince us that saturated fats are basically the devil and should be avoided at all costs (The American Heart Health Association included, but they’re sponsored by canola oil so I guess we shouldn’t be too surprised).
The Fatty Acid Ratios Are Way Off
Remember how I kept bringing up the high Omega 6 content in the oils I listed above? You probably thought that your body needed Omega 6s, and you’d be absolutely right. But here’s the thing – We also need Omega 3s, and they need to be in a certain ratio (the going rate is about 4:1 Omega 6 to 3). The average person that eats a western diet is much higher than that (10:1 to 25:1 seems to be the going rate). The way all of this works is another article for another day all on its own, but if you’d like to learn a little more about the way PUFAs work and why we need them, click here.
Basically what it comes down to is that we’re getting way too many Omega 6s when we consume these types of oils, and the balance of PUFAs being so off can cause a whole lot of health issues. There are far better, healthier options out there.
The Excessive Linoleic Acid Can Cause Structural Damage To Your Body’s Tissues (And Maybe Your Baby’s)
Linoleic acid (omega 6) is the main fatty acid in vegetable oils. Not only does it accumulate in the fat cells of your body for storage, it also likes to hang out in your cell membranes. Here’s a pretty incredible breakdown of how drastically the linoleic acid in our bodies has increased in the last few decades. It looks like something made up (the constantly climbing line), but it’s based on real studies. And it’s quite scary.
Linoleic acid content is also ever increasing in breast milk. Whether or not the long term effects have been studied yet (from what I can tell, they haven’t) doesn’t make me feel any better. Remember that your baby is getting everything you consume when you’re breastfeeding, regardless of how good or bad it is.
Free Radicals Are Nothing To Shrug Off
There’s a good chance that if you’re using any one of the above oils it’s for cooking, and that’s when these monsters decide to come and rear their ugly heads. I already linked to a study earlier in the post, so click that if you want to know more about what exactly they can lead to. Inflammation and hormone imbalances are just the tip of the iceberg, and heart disease isn’t even remotely out of the question.
They Lower Your HDL (Good Cholesterol) Counts
One of the main reasons that these oils get promoted as ‘good for you’ is because they lower your LDL (bad cholesterol) count. Thing is, they also lower your good cholesterol count. Why is this a bad thing? Because having a high LDL count has been shown to actually lower your risk of heart disease.
And Increase Your Oxidized LDL Lipoproteins
LDL isn’t really cholesterol at all – The abbreviation actually stands for low density lipoprotein, the protein that’s responsible for carrying cholesterol into your bloodstream. When LDL becomes oxidized, they become what are called oxidized LDL particles. PUFAs tend to find their way into LDL lipoproteins, and since your blood has oxygen in it they’re very likely to then become oxidized LDL particles.
They’re Awful For Cooking
As I mentioned before, PUFAs react with oxygen. Not only does this happen in your bloodstream, it also happens when you hear them up. Some of the harmful compounds that are released from the oil during the hating process can even vaporize and might contribute to lung cancer just from inhalation. And don’t think that just because you’re not the one cooking you’re safe – Just being present in a kitchen where vegetable oils are being used might increase your chances of getting lung cancer.
They Can Screw With Your Brain
Polyunsaturated fats like to gather in the brain, which makes sense when you think about it because the brain is about 80% fat, and Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids make up about 15-30% of the brain’s dry weight. And while there’s nothing concrete to prove it, studies suggest that there are very strong correlations between vegetable oil consumption and violent behaviour.
And They’re Seriously Lacking In The Nutrition Department
Most vegetable oils are so highly processed and refined (with deodorizing, bleaching, etc.) that any nutritional value they might have given you is long gone before it ever reaches the grocery store shelf. The old rule of thumb definitely applies when it comes to cooking oils – Whole and unrefined is good, refined and super overly processed isn’t.
What To Use Instead
There are tons of different cooking oils that are great for you. Butter is my personal favorite, but olive oil comes in at a close second depending on what I’m doing. If you’re a vegetarian or vegan and olive oil just isn’t your thing, you’d be amazed by how versatile cold pressed coconut oil is – You can bake with it, fry with it, and it tastes pretty spectacular on toast with blueberries.
For a list of other healthy oils that you can use to cook with, click here.
Hopefully the next time you’re in the grocery store looking for oil, you’ll bypass the ones on this list and reach for something a little more on the healthy side instead. Have you given up on the oils listen above for something better yet? What are you using and do you find it works just as well? Not as well? Better? We’d love to hear about your personal switching experiences, so let us know what they are in the comments section below!
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