Cooking Oils to Avoid

There might be something shady going on when refined oil manufacturers have to make up names to obscure their products’ actual ingredients. From a marketing standpoint, however, it makes sense. After all, “Rapeseed oil” doesn’t sound nearly as appetizing as “canola oil,” nor does “soybean oil” sound as healthy “vegetable oil,” and there are good reasons that “rapeseed oil” and “soybean oil” dont’ sound so appetizing. For one, what the heck is a rapeseed? It has a strange name, and I’ve never eaten one. Have you? And how is it possible to get so much oil from soybeans? I’ve eaten soybeans, and they don’t taste very oily. For that matter, how is it possible to get so much oil from corn? Rapeseeds, corn, soybeans — none of these are foods that people have traditionally obtained oil from. The only way it’s possible to get oil from these industrial crops is with lots of petroleum, chemical fertilizers, pesticides and high-tech refineries. If I haven’t given you enough reasons to avoid these all too common refined oils by now, here are a few more:

Canola Oil (rapeseed oil) — 21% Omega-6 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFA): Canola oil contains a high amount of Omega-6 fatty acids, which can throw off the body’s Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio, leading to inflammation and metabolic syndrome. Canola oil also contains trace amounts of erucic acid, which can damage the heart, cardiovascular system, and liver when consumed in high enough quantities. Another concern is that a large percentage of the canola grown is genetically modified.

Corn Oil — 54% Omega-6 PUFA: Since corn is only 2.8% oil by weight, extraction of corn oil requires planting vast mono-crops and a high-input production process (made possible by government subsidies). Corn oil is primarily composed of omega-6 fatty acids. It’s also another largely genetically modified crop.
Vegetable Oil (soybean oil) — 50% Omega-6 PUFA: Soybeans are one of the largest and most genetically modified crops in the world. Huge swaths of rainforest are cut down every year to plant more soy. Soybean oil is also high in omega-6 fatty acids.

Safflower Oil — 31% Omega-6 PUFA: While safflower oil is somewhat healthier than other common cooking oils, as it contains a higher percentage of monounsaturated fats (like olive oil), it’s still high in omega-6 fatty acids.

Sunflower Seed Oil — 4% Omega-6 PUFA (high oleic variety) or 29% Omega-6 PUFA (standard variety) : High oleic sunflower oil is probably healthy to use in moderation, as it’s high in monounsaturated fats and vitamin E. Most sunflower seed oil, however, is high in omega-6 fatty acids.

Cottonseed Oil — 51% Omega-6 PUFA: Cottonseed oil is one of the most commonly used oils in the food industry. It’s used for everything from frying potato chips to canning seafood; yet, it’s probably the worst oil for human health. In addition to being high in omega-6 fatty acids, cottonseed oil may contain trace amounts of the toxin gossypol (though most of it is removed during the refining process). As with all mass produced oils, it also contains trace amounts of pesticides, though the pesticide levels are supposedly monitored by the USDA.

Grape Seed Oil — 70% Omega-6 PUFA: While the name make’s it sound healthy, grape seed oil doesn’t contain the benefits that you would think it would. In fact, it comes in a close second for being the worst cooking oil for human health, as it’s composed primarily of omega-6 fatty acids. Grape seed oil doesn’t have any of the benefits of grapes, red wine, or grape seed extract, just the unhealthy PUFAs.

The take away: Since most refined seeds oils are composed primarily of Omega-6 PUFAs, they are not a healthy choice for human consumption. They are best left to be used to oil the machines that manufacture them. The above seeds and grains aren’t intuitive sources of oil — harvesting their oil requires intensive chemical use and mechanical processing. Some of the seed oils mentioned above, such as high oleic sunflower oil, may be OK for use as a salad dressing if expeller pressed, but in general it’s best to avoid their use. In addition to throwing off the body’s omega-6 to omega-3 ratio, which can contribute to heart disease, inflammation, and diabetes, oils high in Omega-6 PUFAs easily go rancid when exposed to high temperatures and lack other health supporting nutrients. Stay tuned for a detailed article on the oils you can use for cooking, the world’s healthiest, creation-based oils!

References:
Nutrition DataDietary Linoleic Acid and Heart Disease

Originally posted 2013-02-23 20:52:00.

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