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Reducing the Hateful Eight: Are Seed Oils Healthy?

Over the past few years, health professionals have begun to state that seed oils aren’t good for you.  Seed oils have become such pariahs, that they are referred to as the hateful eight.  Those oils are: 

  • Canola 
  • Corn 
  • Cottonseed 
  • Soy 
  • Sunflower
  • Safflower 
  • Grapeseed 
  • Rice Bran 

These oils are blamed for many sicknesses and symptoms such as headaches and heart disease.  However, sometimes seed oils are also listed as wonderful additions to meals thanks to their connection to weight loss and an increase in energy. 

So, which is it? Are these seed oils actually bad for you or are they good for you? Keep reading to find out! 

What's so bad about Seed Oil Graphic

Why Seed Oils Are Bad for You 

Many seed oils fall under the category of industrialized oil.  These are highly processed and highly refined oils with harsh chemicals and heat to produce a consistent product.  

What does this mean when it comes to The Hateful Eight?  

Inflammation  

When oils are heated and cooled on a regular basis, they begin to oxidize and form trans fats.  Trans fats are inherently related to inflammation and so are oxidized fats and saturated fats.  Fats can become rancid or oxidized over time.  Seed oils skip the timeline and start on the shelf with oxidized, inflammation inducing fats. Read more on Getting Started with an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Repeated Heating 

The other issue with seed oils is their use in restaurants, frying, and many snacks and preserved foods.  Seed oils are used regularly to fry and cook different foods over and over again throughout the day.  Not only are seed oils already heat processed, but the additional heating and cooling allows a dangerous build up of free-radicals and lipid peroxides. 

Trans Fats 

When seed oils are heated, one of the byproducts is trans fats. According to the American Heart Association, trans fats are related to higher blood cholesterol, an increase in inflammation as well as an increase in the number of heart attacks a person can have. 

Imbalanced Omegas 

Oils always contain a combination of polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, and saturated fats.  Different oils are going to have different concentrations which changes some of the health benefits of different oils. 

When it comes to seed oils, they have high concentrations of a polyunsaturated fat called omega-6.  Omega-6 is important for human health, but an imbalance between omega-6 and omega-3 relate to an increase in health issues.  The general ratio of six to three that humans need is a 1:1 ratio.  

What is the actual estimated ration? Somewhere between 10:1 and 20:1!  This is why it is important to reduce or eliminate seed oils from your diet.  Without the proper ratio, the increase in omega-6 relates directly to an increase in inflammation. (source: consumerreports.org) 

Toxic Byproducts and Additives 

One of the main solvents that are used to ensure that the oil is clean is hexane.  Hexane is an organic chemical that is known for it’s carcinogenic properties and intensely funky smell.  When hexane is used, companies have to reduce the smell and taste of the hexane processed oil by adding deodorants to the oil.   

It isn’t clear if consumed hexane causes issues: when it is inhaled it can cause lung damage and additional health problems.  Not only do seed oils have these potential hexane molecules, they also have trans fats and lipid peroxidases (essentially cell destroyers) that build up during the refining process. 

Some oils have added synthetic antioxidants added to the oil in order to try and rebalance the oil.  These antioxidants are BHA, BHT, and TBHQ which have been connected to carcinogenic and immune disrupting symptoms. 

Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids 

While the abbreviation, PUFA, is fun to say, PUFAs are not exactly the best fat to eat.  Seed oils, whether or not they are refined, are going to have PUFAs.  Something to keep in mind is that polyunsaturated fats are prone to oxidation and will increase inflammation in the body.  If you are consistently eating seed oils, then you are going to have a high concentration of PUFAs in your body. 

Genetic Modification and Evolutionary Mismatch 

It should come as no surprise that seed oils, especially industrial seed oils, come from genetically modified plants.  There is little to no research on how these genetic changes can affect the human body: sounds like another reason to avoid industrial seed oils.   

Evolutionary mismatch is an interesting concept that highlights that human genes are matched to a modern environment.  What this means is that there is an abundance of carbohydrates that the body isn’t meant to consistently process.  When the biology and dietary needs of people aren’t taken into consideration, then snacks and other foods result in an increase in disease and weight gain. (Source: chriskresser.com)

 

Downsides of unhealthy seed oil graphic with avocado icon

Why Seed Oils Are Good for You 

Like I stated earlier, there’s a lot of information out there about seed oils.  The most interesting part about the demonization of seed oils is that it isn’t fully backed by research!  Much of the data doesn’t support the arguments of internet “experts” even if the oil contains potentially dangerous chemicals.  

The Human Body Needs Omega 6 

Omega-6 is an extremely important fat.  When it is found in whole foods, then the fat works well into any diet.  Other research has shown that an increase in omega 6 relates to lower cholesterol, lower blood sugar, and reduced heart disease risk. 

Phytochemicals Are Still There 

Even though oils are generally healthier than other fats, they can still have a downside.  At some point, it has been stated that seed oils lose most of their plant compounds (or phytochemicals) during the refinement process.  That loss supposedly leads to additional health issues.   

Ready for a surprise? Research doesn’t back the idea that phytochemicals are lost in the refinement process. (source: Goop.com)

Heart Health 

Among many health concerns, one is the heart.  Poly and monosaturated fats can lower blood cholesterol and there has been research from the 1900’s that relates to a decrease in LDLs with an increase in canola oil consumption.  Additionally, there has been research that shows an increase in PUFA intake reduces the risk of coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease 

Not Inflammatory 

At this point in time, there aren’t controlled human studies on the relationship between seed fats and an increase in inflammation.  There have also been several studies on how an increase in omega-6 fats actually decreases the amount of inflammation in the human body.  

Cold Pressed 

Something to keep in mind is that if you can find cold pressed vegetable oil, the benefits are even greater.  Regular oils are also okay, but cold pressed does remove additional issues of broken down fats. 

The Bottom Line on Seed Oils 

Seed Oils have been an increasingly used oil since the 1900’s. Since then, seed oils have a bad representation because, whether we like it or not, they are highly processed and refined.  In this blog the commentary on pros and cons of seed oil have been covered.  In our experience, seed oils can lead to dangerous inflammation in those with auto-immune diseases.   

For most Americans, it is important to remember that the entire American diet needs to be changed.  Seed oils in combination with the American diet lead to additional complications.   

We don’t use seed oils because they can be related to health issues, and we stand by our statement: better ingredients lead to better snacks. Does this make seed oils inherently bad? No.  Seed oils are under such fire right now that it is wise to decrease or eliminate seed oils from your diet.   

Happy snacking!