What’s the Big Deal About Seed Oils?

There are many things that I’ve changed in my lifestyle that have zero to do with ketosis. Ketosis is getting your carbs down low enough to be in a state where fats are broken down and converted to ketones, a fuel source for the body.

Outside of that, all the changes I’ve made have had to do with overall health & longevity. One thing I’ve prioritized as much as staying low carb is ditching vegetable/seed oils. That includes these:

“But some of these are advertised as heart-healthy!” YES! And that’s the tragedy, as you’ll see by the end of this blog.

Where Do You Find Vegetable/Seed Oils?

Everywhere. Literally.

Next time you go to the grocery store or your pantry/fridge, randomly grab items off the shelf and read the label. There’s a good 95% chance it’ll have one of these oils in them, usually canola, soybean, or sunflower oil.

These are the most common offenders:

  • Dressings
  • Condiments
  • Sauces
  • Pre-packaged & processed foods
  • Baby foods
  • Supplements (ex. Vitamin D)
  • Baked goods
  • Fried food
  • Restaurant food

Even some “avocado oil” or “olive oil” versions still have a seed oil as the main ingredient. Many common brands of olive oils have even been found to be fraudulently mixed with seed oils.

Why Are These Fats So Bad?

You’ve probably eaten an avocado and olive. You’ve felt the yummy goodness that is a ribeye and bacon in your mouth. You don’t need to wonder how we can easily pull or render the fats from these sources to get avocado & olive oil, tallow, and lard.

But how do we get vegetable/seed oils?

Significant levels of industrial processing:

  1. Extremely high temperatures are used to heat the seeds.
  2. Oils are extracted from the seeds using a petroleum-based solvent.
  3. Oils are often deodorized, which produces artificial trans fats.
  4. Oils are bleached to improve their color.
  5. Oils are given synthetic antioxidants.

Then they’re packaged in clear packaging (more light), packed on a truck (more heat), and sit on a grocery shelf until you pick it up. When you take it home, you heat it up again. Sometimes, you save it and reuse it again…and again…and again. Worse yet: when restaurants use it for frying, they often re-use the same oil for days, weeks, months, and it has been claimed, sometimes years.

How oxidized they are is also heavily dependent on the chemical structure of the fat. Saturated fats are the most stable fats because they have no double bonds. Monounsaturated fats have 1 double bond.

Polyunsaturated fats, which make up a significant level of the fats in seed oils, have two+ double bonds. Once in the presence of oxygen, the fats start deteriorating quickly.

Why is this so bad? The industrial processing leads to these oils containing loads of toxic byproducts & chemical additives that damage your cells.

The synthetic antioxidants TBHQ, BHT, and BHA disrupt the endocrine system and immune system, and are carcinogenic. Food allergies may develop due to the increased immunoglobulin E from TBHQ.

The high heat and repeated heat reduce the naturally occurring antioxidant vitamin E and increase free radicals in the body. This oxidative stress results in damaged lipids, proteins, and DNA, all of which are associated with liver damage, intestinal damage, heart disease, and high blood pressure.

Why Is It Important To Keep Polyunsaturated Fats (PUFA) Down & in Equal Ratios?

The nasty nature of seed oil processing isn’t the only factor in their unhealthiness. Even if you took that aspect away, you’re left with a few problems.

  • Our bodies don’t need significant levels of PUFAs, only 3-6g per day.
  • Seed oils contain huge amounts of PUFAs.
  • Of those PUFAs, most of it is omega 6.

You probably know about omega 3. It’s protective, and it’s anti-inflammatory. It’s an essential polyunsaturated fat, which means we can’t create it ourselves, so we need to get it in our food.

Omega 6 is also an essential PUFA. It’s pro-inflammatory, which is excellent for immune and injury responses in the body. You don’t need to worry about omega 6 in whole food form, unless your consumption of omega 3 is low. Omega 3 effectiveness and healthfulness are dose-dependent.

But in diets with common levels of seed oils (Western diets), the ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 is between 10:1 and 20:1. It should be closer to 1:1, not more than 2:1. This is key. Omega 3s are rendered ineffective in a diet with such high levels of omega 6, even if supplementing. Take note: the incorrectly demonized saturated fats actually enhance the effectiveness of omega 3.

High omega 6 overwhelms the body’s antioxidant system, producing corrosive chemicals (MDA & 4-HNE, for example) that cause DNA damage. Lipid peroxides also damage proteins and cell membranes. This results in faster aging and chronic disease.

The pro-inflammatory nature of omega 6 causes chronic inflammation when it’s consumed at such high levels. Inflammation is at the root of many Western diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, dementia and Alzheimer’s, macular degeneration, osteoarthritis, IBS and IBD, diabetes and obesity, and more. The risk of mental illness such as depression and anxiety increases with high omega 6. Risk of skin cancer melanoma increases as well.

Concerned about your waistline? Soybean oil has been shown in mice to be especially obesogenic (fattening). While we should take animal studies with a grain of salt, it’s something to consider. The research suggests that the driving factor is the high level of linoleic acid (omega 6), which is a precursor to arachidonic acid. Arachidonic acid helps you put on the pounds by activating the endocannabinoid system.

Why Do We Eat These Anyway?

The reason we eat seed oils is two-fold.

  1. They’re cheap
  2. They’re low in saturated fats.

Their inexpensiveness doesn’t need explaining.

The fact that they’re replacing saturated fats on purpose needs a little more explanation. Humans didn’t consume these oils before the 20th century. I’ll send you to these excellent resources for more:

What Am I Supposed To Cook With Now?

You’re probably wondering what you’re supposed to cook with or eat now that these are off the table. I was there, too.

The following are healthy fats. They’re not processed, they’re not toxic, they’re not given any additives, and they’re more stable cooking fats.

  • Lamb, bison, or beef tallow (good for frying)
  • Pork lard (for moderate to low heat)
  • Duck fat
  • Butter (for low heat)
  • Ghee
  • Virgin avocado oil
  • Virgin coconut oil (for moderate to low heat)
  • Virgin olive oil

Are you wondering how those vegetable oils got on this list? It’s because they’re actually fruits! Olive, coconut, and avocado oils are fruit oils.

How Do You Get Rid of Seed Oils?

Getting rid of seed oils is a challenge, but it is doable. By doing so, you’re also able to get rid of most (if not all) processed food while you’re at it, which can mean even better health from lower consumption of sugar and refined grains.

Some tips:

  1. Always read labels.
  2. Don’t trust restaurant food (don’t go, go grilled, and/or ask).
  3. Cook at home as often as possible using whole foods.
  4. Find versions of foods that use healthy oils or make your own.

I found that eating at home promised the best results when it came to seed oils. Plus, it made me a much better cook, which made restaurant food not as tasty as it used to be anyway.

Note: None of this is medical advice.

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