The common advice, often taken as a universal truth, is that seed oils are a healthy alternative to animal fats. You might be surprised to learn that these oils, commonly found in our daily food supply, may not be as beneficial as they seem. In fact, they could contribute to numerous health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. In this blog post, we delve deep into the world of seed oils, explaining why they might be bad for you, and what you can use in their stead for a healthier, more holistic lifestyle.
Seed Oils to Avoid
Some of the common seed oils you may encounter in your daily food products include:
- Grapeseed Oil
- Rapeseed Oil (often marketed as Canola Oil)
- Rice Bran Oil
- Vegetable Oil
- Soybean Oil
- Peanut Oil
- Sunflower Oil
- Cottonseed Oil
- Corn Oil
- Palm Oil
Why are these oils potentially harmful to your health? It’s all in the process of their production and their impact on our body systems.
The Unsettling Process of Manufacturing Seed Oils
The process of extracting oil from seeds is far from natural. It often involves high temperatures, harsh chemicals, and multiple stages. Seeds are first heated to extremely high temperatures, which cause oxidation, creating free radicals. These are harmful substances that can damage cells and contribute to aging and diseases, such as cancer1. After heating, chemicals like hexane are used to extract the oil. This process also removes most of the nutrients from the oils, leaving them with virtually no health benefits.
Surprisingly, seed oils were originally manufactured for industrial purposes, serving as lubricants, paints, and varnishes. Their introduction into the human diet came much later, with changes in dietary guidelines and the growth of the food industry.
The Correlation with Disease
Interestingly, the rise of seed oils in the human diet correlates with an increase in diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Since the mid-20th century, when these oils became a common part of our diet, these conditions have reached epidemic proportions2.
The fact is, seed oils are rich in omega-6 fatty acids but low in omega-3s. While both are essential for our bodies, it’s the balance that counts. Excessive omega-6 fatty acids can lead to inflammation, a root cause of many chronic diseases3.
What Oils to Cook with Instead
Traditionally, and for thousands of years, humans consumed animal fats and certain plant oils with virtually no health issues. Some alternatives to seed oils that you can use in your cooking include:
- Avocado Oil
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
- Beef Tallow
These oils and fats are more stable at high temperatures and don’t oxidize easily. They also provide valuable nutrients, like essential fatty acids and vitamins A, D, E, and K4.
Cholesterol Myth Busting
The fear of cholesterol and saturated fat, which led to the demonization of these traditional fats, is largely based on outdated science. Recent evidence shows that there is no significant association between dietary saturated fat and increased risk of heart disease5. Instead, the real culprits might be the processed carbohydrates and the overconsumption of seed oils.
Sourcing Healthier Red Meat
One way to avoid seed oils and obtain healthier fats is by sourcing your meat from local farms. Pasture-raised animals are typically fed on grass, not on a diet of corn and soy, leading to meat that is leaner and richer in omega-3 fatty acids6. You can find such meat from local farmers markets, farms, or online providers like ButcherBox.
Regenerative farming, a method that seeks to renew the health and vitality of the soil, often provides the healthiest options for red meat consumption. These methods produce meat that is not only healthier but also more environmentally friendly.
How To Avoid Foods Commonly Containing Seed Oils
Unfortunately, seed oils have made their way into countless food products. They are cheap to produce and have a long shelf life, making them ideal for the food industry. Some common foods and food groups that often contain seed oils include:
- Granola Bars
- Nuts and Seeds
- Protein Bars
- Chips and other snack foods
- Coffee Creamers
- Fast Food and Takeaway Meals
- Processed Foods
- Pasta Sauces
- Breads and Baked Goods
- Condiments like Mayonnaise and Ketchup
- Salad Dressings
- Margarine and other Butter Substitutes
- Breakfast Cereals
- Non-Dairy Milk Alternatives
- Frozen Meals
- Store-Bought Desserts and Sweets
- Pre-Made Soups
- Most Packaged and Processed Foods
A general rule of thumb is to avoid heavily processed foods and cook at home as much as possible using whole ingredients.
What You Should Eat Instead
A balanced diet rich in whole foods should form the foundation of your food choices. This can include:
- Fruits and Vegetables: Aim for a variety of types and colors.
- Raw Dairy: This includes products like milk, cheese, and yogurt.
- Nuts and Seeds: Opt for raw versions without added oils.
- Grass-fed Meats and Wild-caught Fish: These are higher in omega-3 fatty acids compared to their grain-fed or farmed counterparts.
- Whole Grains: These include foods like brown rice, oatmeal, and whole grain bread.
The Omega-6 and Omega-3 Imbalance
Most Western diets today have an overabundance of omega-6 fatty acids and not enough omega-3s, thanks to a high intake of seed oils and processed foods. This imbalance is believed to drive inflammation and may contribute to various chronic diseases7.
Striving for a balance between omega-3 and omega-6 in your diet can help to rectify this. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in foods like fatty fish, flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts. Reducing your intake of foods rich in omega-6, like those containing seed oils, can also help to restore this balance.
Healthy Meal Ideas
A diet free of seed oils can still be diverse and delicious. Here are some meal ideas:
- Protein Pancakes: Make a batter with oats, cottage cheese, and eggs. Cook the pancakes in a non-stick pan with a little bit of butter, and serve with fresh fruits and a drizzle of raw honey.
- Frittata: Whisk together eggs, raw milk, and your favorite seasonings. Pour into a buttered oven-safe skillet, then add sautéed vegetables and cheese. Bake until set.
- Avocado and Salmon Toast: Toast a slice of whole-grain bread. Top with mashed avocado, a slice of wild-caught smoked salmon, and a sprinkle of chia seeds.
- Chia Pudding: Soak chia seeds in almond milk overnight. In the morning, top with fresh berries, nuts, and a dollop of Greek yogurt.
- Homemade Granola: Mix rolled oats, nuts, and seeds. Drizzle with a little honey and bake until golden. Serve with raw milk or Greek yogurt and fresh fruits.
- Chicken Salad: Toss together mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and grilled chicken. Dress with extra virgin olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice.
- Quinoa Bowl: Combine cooked quinoa with black beans, corn, avocado, and fresh cilantro. Dress with lime juice and a drizzle of avocado oil.
- Soup and Sandwich: Have a bowl of homemade vegetable soup with a side of whole-grain sandwich filled with raw cheese and pasture-raised turkey.
- Stuffed Bell Peppers: Stuff bell peppers with a mixture of grass-fed ground beef, cooked quinoa, and tomato sauce. Bake until the peppers are tender and the filling is heated through.
- Sushi Rolls: Roll up sushi rice, avocado, cucumber, and wild-caught fish in nori sheets. Serve with tamari sauce.
- Grilled Fish: Marinate a fillet of wild-caoked fish in olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and herbs. Grill until flaky and serve with a side of steamed vegetables.
- Beef Stir-fry: Stir-fry grass-fed beef strips with colorful vegetables in a pan with avocado oil. Season with tamari sauce and serve over brown rice.
- Spaghetti Squash with Meat Sauce: Roast a spaghetti squash until tender. Serve with a homemade meat sauce made from grass-fed beef and organic tomatoes.
- Baked Chicken Thighs: Marinate chicken thighs in olive oil, lemon juice, and your favorite herbs. Bake until golden and serve with a side of roasted root vegetables.
- Vegetable Curry: Sauté a mixture of colorful vegetables in coconut oil. Add coconut milk and curry spices. Simmer until vegetables are tender, and serve over a bed of cooked quinoa.
- Smoothie: Blend together frozen fruits, a handful of spinach, a scoop of grass-fed whey protein, and almond milk.
- Hummus and Veggies: Make hummus by blending cooked chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic. Serve with sliced raw vegetables.
- Greek Yogurt Parfait: Layer Greek yogurt, fresh fruits, and homemade granola in a glass.
- Apple with Almond Butter: Slice an apple and serve with a side of almond butter for dipping.
- Energy Balls: Process together dates, nuts, and seeds in a food processor. Roll into balls and chill before eating.
These meal ideas are not only free from seed oils but also packed with wholesome ingredients that nourish your body and support your holistic wellness journey. Remember, variety is key to a balanced diet, so feel free to experiment with different ingredients and flavors. Enjoy your meals!
In the journey towards holistic wellness, our dietary choices play a pivotal role. A conscious move away from seed oils, which have permeated nearly every aspect of our modern food supply, represents a significant step in this journey.
The truth is, seed oils are not the health panacea they are often touted to be. Despite the wide adoption of these oils in our diets, research is increasingly pointing to their potentially detrimental effects on our health. The correlation between the rise of seed oil consumption and the increasing rates of chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and obesity cannot be ignored. The modern diet’s omega-6 to omega-3 imbalance, largely due to an overconsumption of seed oils, has been linked to systemic inflammation and a host of related health problems.
Understanding the insidious process of seed oil production also casts a different light on these ubiquitous oils. Their manufacturing process, which involves high heat and harsh chemicals, contributes to the creation of free radicals – harmful substances that damage our cells and accelerate aging. It’s also worth noting that seed oils were originally not intended for human consumption but as industrial lubricants.
The argument against seed oils isn’t just about their potential harm; it’s equally about the benefits we forgo by choosing them over healthier alternatives. Traditional sources of fat like avocado oil, extra virgin olive oil, lard, and butter are not only more stable for cooking but also offer valuable nutrients that seed oils lack.
Sourcing higher-quality fats, particularly from grass-fed animals, is an effective way to avoid seed oils. Meat from animals raised on pasture has a healthier balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids. Additionally, supporting local farms and regenerative farming practices benefits not only our health but also the environment.
But the journey towards a seed-oil-free lifestyle isn’t just about choosing healthier oils and fats. It’s about embracing a diet that focuses on whole foods and shuns heavily processed ones. Countless food products, from the obvious (like chips and fast food) to the unexpected (like granola bars and non-dairy milk), contain seed oils. Becoming a discerning consumer, who reads food labels and opts for minimal ingredients, is integral to this transformation.
Substituting seed oils with healthier alternatives doesn’t have to be boring or restrictive. There are countless delicious and nutritious meal options that can cater to every taste and dietary preference. From protein pancakes and frittatas for breakfast to quinoa bowls and homemade sushi for lunch to grilled fish and beef stir-fry for dinner, the possibilities are endless. Snacks like smoothies, hummus with veggies, and energy balls ensure that even your between-meal nibbles are healthy and satisfying.
Avoiding seed oils is more than just a dietary change; it’s a lifestyle shift towards greater awareness and intention in our food choices. It’s about prioritizing our long-term health over convenience and adopting a diet that’s closer to what our ancestors consumed. It’s a holistic approach to wellness that respects and honors our body’s innate wisdom and needs. As we make this shift, we not only improve our health but also reconnect with the joy of eating – the joy of nourishing our bodies with foods that are as close to their natural state as possible. As we let go of the seed oils, we make space for a world of flavors and nutrients that truly serve our well-being.
- Grootveld, M., Silwood, C. J. L., Addis, P. B., Claxson, A., Serra, B. B., & Viana, M. (2001). Health effects of oxidized heated oils. Foodservice Research International, 13(1), 41-55.
- DiNicolantonio, J. J., OKeefe, J. H. (2018). The Role of Linoleic Acid in Chronic Disease: A Review. Open Heart, 5(2).
- Simopoulos, A. P. (2002). The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids. Biomedicine & pharmacotherapy, 56(8), 365-379.
- Deol, P., Evans, J. R., Dhahbi, J., Chellappa, K., Han, D. S., Spindler, S., & Sladek, F. M. (2015). Soybean oil is more obesogenic and diabetogenic than coconut oil and fructose in mouse: potential role for the liver. PloS one, 10(7), e0132672.
- Chowdhury, R., Warnakula, S., Kunutsor, S., Crowe, F., Ward, H. A., Johnson, L., … & Franco, O. H. (2014). Association of dietary, circulating, and supplement fatty acids with coronary risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Annals of internal medicine, 160(6), 398-406.
- Leheska, J. M., Thompson, L. D., Howe, J. C., Hentges, E., Boyce, J., Brooks, J. C., … & Miller, M. F. (2008). Effects of conventional and grass-feeding systems on the nutrient composition of beef. Journal of animal science, 86(12), 3575-3585.
- Simopoulos, A. P. (2016). An Increase in the Omega-6/Omega-3 Fatty Acid Ratio Increases the Risk for Obesity. Nutrients, 8(3), 128.