I don't know about you, but when I grew up, we were told that margarine was better for us than butter and that we should use canola oil for good health. While canola oil may have some benefits, the amount we consume was not the intent.
Over the past few decades, there has been a significant increase in the consumption of foods high in omega-6 fatty acids, such as vegetable oils, processed foods, and grain-fed animal products. This increase can be partly attributed to government recommendations to reduce saturated fat intake, which led to the widespread use of vegetable oils as a healthier alternative.
In the United States, the consumption of soybean oil alone has increased by more than 1,000% since the early 1900s, with a sharp increase in consumption occurring in the 1970s as the use of partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (which contain high levels of trans fats) became more widespread. As introduced in the 1970s, Canola oil has also become popular due to its low saturated fat content and neutral flavor. However, recent research has suggested that Canola and other seed oils are inflammatory to the body, leading to concerns about their widespread use in the food industry.
However, as the consumption of omega-6 foods increased, omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish, nuts, and seeds, decreased. This shift in the diet's omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids balance can have profound health implications. Consuming less real food and more processed food has been the biggest contributor to our countries poor health.
What are inflammatory oils?
Most commonly seen are Canola, vegetable, and soybean oils, typically found on packaged foods' ingredient lists. They are often marketed as healthy due to their low saturated fat content.
Here are some inflammatory or highly processed oils to avoid both in store-bought oils and food products:
Canola Oil (rapeseed)
Safflower Oil (regular)
Sunflower Oil (regular)
Vegetable Oil (a blend of different vegetable and seed oils)
Partially Hydrogenated Oil (Trans Fats)
Oils to use sparingly are okay when you use them sparingly in your home but should be avoided in processed foods because they may have been heated several times and therefore become oxidized.
Sesame oil (ok when used at home in dressings or low heat cooking)
Flax (ok for dressing salads)
Peanut Oil (only in SOME at home cooking, this should be used minimally)
Rice Bran Oil
Consuming too many omega-6 fats can increase the likelihood of inflammatory diseases, as these fats promote the production of pro-inflammatory molecules in the body. Chronic inflammation has been linked to various health problems, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers. In addition to physical health problems, research has also related excessive omega-6 intake to mental health issues. Studies have shown that consuming too many omega-6 fats and not enough omega-3s can lead to increased inflammation in the brain, which is associated with a higher risk of depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders.
Why Are They So Toxic??
Most US canola, vegetable, and soybean crops are genetically modified to resist herbicides. While the safety of genetically modified crops is still debated, some research suggests that they may contribute to inflammation and other health problems. Another factor contributing to these oils' inflammatory properties is their processing methods. Canola, vegetable, and soybean oils are highly processed using chemicals and heat, which can damage the oils and create free radicals that promote inflammation when consumed. In addition, these oils may contain pesticide residues from the crops they are derived from. Canola, vegetable, and soybean crops are commonly sprayed with pesticides, and residues of these chemicals can end up in oils. Some pesticides have been linked to inflammation and other health problems.
What Do I Do??
To ensure that you are consuming a healthy balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, it is recommended to include sources of omega-3s such as fatty fish, nuts, and seeds in your diet and to limit your consumption of processed foods with vegetable oils. By making these simple changes, you can help to reduce your risk of inflammatory diseases and promote good mental health.
If you are looking to avoid the consumption of inflammatory oils, there are several steps you can take:
Read Labels: When shopping for packaged foods, read the ingredient list carefully. Look for foods free from Canola, vegetable, and soybean oils. Instead, opt for foods that are made with healthier oil alternatives, such as extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, or grass-fed butter or ghee.
Cook with Healthy Oils: When cooking at home, use healthier oil alternatives. These include extra-virgin olive, coconut, avocado, or grass-fed butter or ghee. When heated, these oils have a higher smoke point and are less likely to create harmful compounds.
Avoid Fried Foods: Fried foods are often cooked in unhealthy oils, which can contribute to inflammation. Try baking, roasting, or grilling your foods instead.
Choose Organic: When purchasing Canola, vegetable, or soybean oil, opt for organic options. These oils are less likely to contain pesticide residues and genetically modified ingredients.
Limit Processed Foods: Processed foods are often made with unhealthy oils, additives, and preservatives that can contribute to inflammation. Limit your processed food consumption and focus on whole, nutrient-dense foods instead.
high oleic. (sparingly, in my opinion)
They are lower in omega-6 fatty acids and may cause less inflammation. These oils are processed at lower heats, making them less oxidative. High oleic sunflower and safflower oils are okay to consume in moderation. Many "healthier" brands have switched to High Oleic but remember, consuming this this all day is not going to be good for inflammation, BUT it can be a better option when you do choose to make the informed choice. T As always, use this tool to make the most informed choice.
The Best Option
If you're looking for healthier alternatives, consider using extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, grass-fed butter, or ghee. These oils are less processed, contain beneficial nutrients, and are lower in omega-6 fatty acids. However, it's essential to remember that all fats are high in calories. Hence, it's best to use them in moderation as part of a balanced diet.
I hope you found this useful! Thanks for reading!
To learn more about inflammatory oils and other ingredients in your foods it's important to learn how to read food labels. I have created a workshop to get you started on reading food labels so that you can make more empowered choices toward your health. Use code BLOG to get 25% off the workshop today!
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