There has been a lot of negative news on seed oils these days, and as usual, everyone jumps on the bandwagon and starts repeating the general assertion without any type of analysis or discernment. This only leads to bad decision making, as details are critical in choosing good food, and oils are no different.
So first of all, what are seed oils? Broadly speaking, they are oils extracted from the seeds of plants. These oils are often used in cooking, salad dressings, mayonnaise, and many packaged foods. But the question is, is it accurate to broadly state that you should avoid all seed oils at all costs?
As with anything, you have to separate the wheat from the chaff. So let’s start with the seed oils that you should really never consume, and why.
Canola, soy, corn, and cottonseed oil: These are the oils that are created from dirty, genetically modified crops that will have a negative effect on human physiology, most notably the liver, heart, and gallbladder. When discussing avoidance of seed oils, or vegetable oils as they are often called, these are the ones that most experts are referring to. Although it is not genetically modified, peanut oil is also one to avoid due to inherent aflatoxins that are present in the nut that can cause unwanted turmoil in individuals with underlying pathogenic micro-organisms in their tissues.
The other factor to consider with these oils is the refinement process. There are often many toxic solvents, heat, and machinery that will drastically denature these oils and turn them into even more harmful choices that can cause things like heart disease. Refined palm oil is a good example of a vegetable oil to avoid, and palm kernel oil is the seed oil which you should avoid as well.
A little bit more in the weeds in terms of whether you should use them or not, is sunflower and safflower oil. Neither of these seeds are genetically modified so there is no issue there. They are higher in Omega 6, but that’s not a problem in and of itself because oils high in omega 6 are not the real problem, but more accurately, the over use of toxic ones like canola, soy, corn, and cottonseed.
Also, without a proper balance between healthy omega 3 and omega 6 fats, you could initiate some health problems. The healthy ratio is often debated, but 1:1 is a safe bet of omega 6 to 3, meaning 1 parts omega 6 oil to 1 part omega 3 oil. The reason omega 6 has been so heavily chastised, and for good reason, is people often get them from the unhealthy genetically modified seed oils mentioned earlier, and the typical ratio has been an astronomical 50:1, instead of 1:1.
So, adjust your healthy omega 6 oils, and use in proper balance with healthy omega 3 oils, and you’ll be perfectly fine. One small caveat though…processed oils of any kind aren’t meant to be used in abundance. Up to 2 tbsp a day is plenty. Those with liver or gallbladder issues will want to use even less, and be very careful with cooking with them so as to not denature their structure.
So, now that we have covered the bad, what commonly used seed oils are actually healthy?
The less refined, organic, and non-GMO seeds are generally fine for most individuals. These seed oils are hemp, flax, sesame, and grape seed oils. Coconut, avocado, and olive oil, when processed minimally and without heat, are good oils to use that come from the fruit of the plant.
Now of course, how you use these oils is also important. Cooking at high temperatures with low smoke point oils will denature them and then all bets are off with that oil being good for you. Know your oils smoke points according to the heat you are using when cooking to avoid that issue.
In my experience, coconut oil is one of the most versatile and easy to assimilate oils, that is relatively unrefined and easier on the body than all the other oils. It supports healthy brain function, cardiovascular function, immune function, digestive function, healthy skin and hair, and healthy teeth and gums.
Coconut oil can be used in smoothies, for medium to low heat cooking, and replaces butter quite well if you are dairy free or want to avoid those animal products. I use it in my coconut brownies recipe and no one complains, trust me.
So I hope this helps clear up the seed oil issue, so you can make the best decisions for your health and your pantry.