Despite it's deceiving title (aren't all things "vegetable" supposed to be healthy?!), vegetable oils, especially hydrogenated oils, are one of the most inflammatory foods on the planet. These include canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, and cottonseed oil.
Inflammatory foods, such as vegetable oils (if eaten regularly) cause an immune response that is never “shut off”. This constant production of immune cells creates a state of chronic inflammation in the body which can do permanent damage, leading to cancer, heart disease, arthritis and Alzheimer’s, among other health concerns.
One of the issues with vegetable oils is that they are very unstable oils. When an oil is unstable, it creates oxidation in the body.
Think about it this way - oxidation in the body is exactly what "anti-oxidants" are trying to get rid of, or heal the body from. Anti-oxidants, good. Oxidation, bad.
Anti-oxidants eat up oxidation, and reverse and slow the aging process (alright, alright, alright!).
Foods that are oxidized do the reverse. They make you age faster and cause chronic inflammation in your entire body, including, and especially, your beloved, all powerful gut!
There are four reasons that vegetable oils are so inflammatory.
Number one - they're hydrogenated (aka trans fats).
Number two - they are made from GMO crops (meaning they have been sprayed to high heaven with gut busting, toxic chemicals).
Number three - they are processed with chemical solvents, steamers, neutralizers, de-waxers, bleach and deodorizers before they end up in the bottle and residues from these solvents, not surprisingly, end up in the oils.
And number four - they are very high in omega 6 fatty acids.
Now, you may find yourself thinking, "but I thought omega fats were good for me?"
And they are, but in a specific ratio.
To keep low levels of inflammation within the body, you need to have a balanced ratio of omega 3 fats to omega 6 fats. The ratio should be anywhere between 1:1 and 1:4. They should be very close to even.
But what's happening with today's standard diet is that people are getting way too many omega 6 fats and not nearly enough omega 3 fats, causing a severe imbalance.
If omega 6 fats get too high, chronic inflammation of the gut occurs which leads to leaky gut, auto-immune disease, joint pain, hormone imbalance and a number of other health issues.
Ok so, where do these deceitfully named "vegetable" oils hide?
Lots of places unfortunately.
Fast food is loaded with these oils, anything that was deep fried quite literally took a bath in vegetable oil before arriving on your plate. I'm also sad to say that most packaged and processed foods (even "health foods"!) are loaded with vegetable oils. Many brands of hummus use soybean and/or canola oil, nearly all store bought baked goods, crackers, chips and snack foods and even some cereals! And the worst of all - nearly all prepackaged snack foods for kids, are loaded with these inflammatory oils (this is where my anger nearly turns me into the Hulk).
You really have to start to become a food detective. Read the labels of the food you're buying and be on the lookout for these sneaky s.o.b.'s.
Which oils should you be using instead?
Coconut oil is my favourite due to it's long list of health benefits and stable make-up. It is antimicrobial (meaning it fights off the bad bacteria in your gut), it boosts energy and the medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) that make up coconut oil, have actually been shown to reduce cholesterol and obesity. Virgin coconut oil tolerates temperatures up to about 350 degrees, making it great for most baking and medium-high heat sautéing. Refined coconut oil can tolerate heat up to 400 degrees, so I use this a lot for high heat sautéing and when I want to roast vegetables at a higher heat. My favourite brand is Nutiva.
Extra Virgin Olive oil is also a favourite of mine as it too, has amazing health benefits. It's anti-inflammatory, exceptionally high in anti-oxidants, supports brain health (our brains LOVE healthy fats!), and is great for skin health. I use it mostly for salad dressings or low heat sautéing.
*Shop for olive oil that comes in a dark glass bottle that can protect light from entering and damaging the oil. A dark bottle that is green or black, protects the oil from oxidation and becoming rancid. Avoid oils that come in a plastic or clear bottle and always look for 'extra virgin' and ideally cold-pressed or expeller-pressed oil.
Hemp oil and Flaxseed oil are also great for dressings, dips or added to smoothies. They are delicate oils and should not be used for cooking but their health benefits when consumed raw are numerous. They contain essential fatty acids with the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the optimal ratio.
Avocado oil is another good one when you're cooking at high temperatures. It can tolerate temperatures up to a whopping 520 degrees!
* Remember when you heat oils at a temperature higher than they can tolerate, oxidation occurs (creating oxidation and inflammation in the body). So it's really important to pay attention to the smoke points of the oils you're using.
*A note on sunflower and safflower oil: these oils come from seeds, and so are not technically vegetable oils. However, they are still high in omega 6 fats and when you’re frying with them it is very easy for them to oxidize and become inflammatory. There can be healthy sunflower oil if you use it raw and cold pressed but typically, when they’re found in packaged foods they’re not going to be healthy.
I hope you found this post helpful!