While many people default to olive oil for all of their cooking needs (thanks to its healthy fats, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory properties), others might live by the mantra that variety is the spice of life. Accordingly, you might be curious about the different types of cooking oils, their benefits, and where they fall short in the nutrition category.
One controversial category of cooking oil is known as seed oils, or refined vegetable oils. While refined seed oils have been found in grocery stores for over a hundred years, experts have started to question their purported health benefits. Here’s what to know about seed oils and your health — including whether seed oils are bad for you.
What are seed oils?
Seed oils are a type of refined vegetable oil in which the oil comes from the seed of a plant, rather than the fruit. The most common seed oils include canola oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, grapeseed oil, and safflower oil.
Seed oils are extremely neutral in taste and have a high smoke point. That’s why many home chefs reach for seed oils when they want an unobtrusive, mild-flavored oil to cook or bake with.
Are seed oils bad for you?
Until very recently, most experts viewed seed oils to be just as neutral as their taste in terms of health benefits: not great, not awful. While seed oils were higher in polyunsaturated fatty acids than other options, nutrition experts said the amount would be insignificant as long as you were following a healthy diet with a mix of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.
However, in 2020, Dr. Cate Shanahan dubbed eight specific seed oils “The Hateful Eight” and urged her audience to avoid them at all cost. According to Dr. Shanahan, the high levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids (or PUFAs, as she called them) in seed oils promote inflammation and the accumulation of toxins in body fat, as well as other chronic health conditions.
It’s true that seed oils are highly processed, which loads them up with omega-6 fatty acids and puts you at risk for inflammation. However, that risk of inflammation is most severe when you don’t have a balanced ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Ingesting seed oils worsens this imbalance and thus, leads to inflammation. According to some studies, an imbalance of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids can put you at risk for obesity and other long-term medical issues. However, other studies conclude the opposite: One study found that polyunsaturated fats don’t contribute to inflammation, while another review of studies concluded that higher amounts of linoleic acid (a fatty acid also commonly found in seed oils) was associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular events.
So, what’s the bottom line on seed oils?
It’s certainly possible to cut seed oils out of your life completely and focus on using olive oil. coconut oil, or avocado oil, all of which are less processed than seed oils.
Another option would be to eliminate processed foods from your diet, since that’s where you’re most likely to encounter large quantities of seed oil without even realizing it. Along with the usual culprits (like cookies, snack foods, and cereals), you can try making your own salad dressing to control the type and amount of oil you use.
Finally, work with your precision medicine doctor to test for insulin resistance. That way, you’ll better understand your metabolism and the effects of the foods you eat. Listen to this podcast episode to get the download on insulin resistance, and click here to learn more about how Wild Health detects and treats insulin resistance. Together, we can make a plan to eliminate seed oils and other inflammation triggers from your diet.