Plant Oils Heart Healthy or Heart Toxic
(Vege or Grain Oils… no matter what you prefer to call it)
Plant oils, are they a healthy alternative or a fast track down the metabolic disease rabbit hole….(Spoiler it’s the rabbit hole)…
We are constantly being told that plant oils are liquid gold when it comes to our health. The more expensive and fancier the name the better the health properties, right? Rice Bran, Sesame, sunflower, corn, Grape Seed, canola, cotton seed oil, margarine, and oh, let’s not forget the substance known as I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, quite frankly I totally can believe it’s not butter!
But are they really the safe alternative to saturated fat that they claim to be?
It was the belief that if we removed saturated fat like butter, lard, tallow, and coconut oil and replaced these with our unsaturated plant oils then our total cholesterol will improve and our risk of heart disease will decrease and we would all be so much healthier.
Sounded plausible right? Sadly, it’s not that simple folks.
In fact it’s the exact opposite. First off cholesterol, well its complicated. Let’s just say it’s more than meets the eye and we will look at why this is in more depth another day…
You see ever since we have been swapping out our butter, lard and tallow for our “heart-healthy” touted plant oils, our rates of heart disease has skyrocketed…which is a bit ironic considering these oils are sold to us as “heart-healthy”.
How can this be? It’s made from plants!!
I hear ya, that old mantra of veges are good, equals they must be good in liquid gold form also… sadly no.
The Birth Of Seed Oil
Originally cotton seed oil was created in the late 1800’s, Industrial Revolution, as an alternative to whale oil for use in machinery as an industrial lubricant and for making soap. Procter and Gamble were using this oil in their soap making, they had an awesome idea, you see once the cotton seed oil is processed from a greyish sludge like substance and hydrogenized into a white hardened substance, it looked remarkably like lard. Nice and white.
So, they thought hey let’s sell this as an alternative to lard. Voila, late 1900’s Crisco was born. Soon after they added a bit of yellow colour to solid vege oil, then boom margarine was created, a substitute for butter. Pff who needs natural substances your grandma use to cook with when you could go new age and use scientifically created fat! Anywho, other plant oils started being created… corn oil, canola oil etc and by the 1950’s plant oils were the thing to use.
With an increase in plant oils there has also been an increase of health issues and an increase in waist line.
Woah, Hold Up Here Lee. Did I Read That Right? ‘Grey Sludge’?
Yep, grey sludge. Making plant oils, (or seed oils, grain oils, vege oils…yet again whatever you deem to call them), is not as simple as just squeezing oils out of the seeds then bottling it.
Plant oils need to go through a few processes before we add it to our food. I won’t go into great detail as it is impressive how much needs to be done to it.
However, in a nutshell they need to:
- Seeds are gathered and heated to extremely high temperatures
- Mechanical extraction, using an oil mill or chemical extraction using a hexane solvent to extract as much rancid grey fluid as possible
- The extracted oil/ grey sludge needs to be steamed and chemically deodorized due to its bad smell
- Bleached to remove the ‘grey’, then enhanced by artificial colours. Gotta make it look more appealing.
- Lastly it needs synthetic vitamins in order to make the oil stable in order to prevent oxidation and become rancid
If you’re interested more on how it’s done, I recommended you listen to Nina Teicholz: Vegetable Oils The Untold Story and The US Dietary Guidlines
Fascinating dive into how plant oils came about.
The Main question to think on though is, can we really believe something that isn’t easily made, or even naturally made really be so healthy for us?
What Are Plant Oils Made Up Of That Can Be So Damaging To Us?
PUFA’s, (No not one of those cute Pomeranian dogs… PUFA, short for polyunsaturated fats), in the form of omega 6 with the major component being linoleic acid.
So now you’re probably thinking well why is this a big deal Lee? Omega 6 is suppose to be good for us though, right?
Well yes and no. Omega 6 is an essential pro inflammatory fatty acid that is necessary for us in low doses, and I mean low doses, this isn’t a fat you can undereat as there is usually around 2% of omega 6 in all whole foods. So undereating Omega 6 is damn near impossible unless you’re a lab rat being stuffed with the stuff.
Now in high doses Omega 6 is bad, like really bad. As I said above its pro inflammatory. PUFA’s when heated oxidizes, (combines with oxygen), and becomes unstable, rancid and well, down right toxic. This oxidation leads to free radicals, which cause chaos and lots of damage, so much so that it’s enough to trigger high levels of inflammation, which along with all sorts of destructive fun, is a known risk factor for making any plaques built up in the arteries unstable. These plaques break off, causing blood clots which can lead to a heart attack.
But that’s not all it does. Consuming high levels of omega 6 can also lead to and cause the following issues, such as:
- Weight gain,
- Cognitive decline,
- Autoimmune disease
- Accelerated aging
- Mental health, depression, anxiety
- Cardiovascular disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- Metabolic syndrome
- Irritable bowel syndrome & inflammatory bowel disease
- Macular degeneration
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Mental health disorders
Man that is an impressive list and I dare say that’s not everything, but you get the idea.
Problem is in this day and age its almost hard not to overconsume omega 6. And I mean really hard. I keep buying meat from the supermarket and you would be surprised the amount of times it has on the ingredients, ‘canola oil’ or ‘soya bean oil’ added. Sausages are shocking for that. What used to be my favourite pork rind chips…cotton oil added…
Omega 3 And It’s Role In This
Omega 3, alpha-linolenic acid, is described as the anti-inflammatory fat responsible for stuff such as improving heart health, supporting mental health, reducing waist size, decreasing liver fat, preventing dementia, promoting bone health, and preventing asthma…phew, basically a range of stuff. We get it from things like salmon, mackerel, sardines, cod liver, anchovies….bit of a theme going on here…
Back in the day we use to eat the same amount if not more omega 3 than omega 6. Usually we consumed the omega 3 from wild meat and grass feed beef.
So why is this important, I thought we were just talking about omega 6?
Omega 6 and omega 3 are kinda competitive towards each other, think sibling rivalry. You see if there is too much omega 6 then omega 3 can’t get its foot in the door. And if omega 3 can’t get a foot hold in then you’re not going to be functioning properly. Omega 6 however will be having a blast quite literally.
There needs to be a balance of both omega 6 and omega 3 in order for your system to work peacefully. In an ideal world our omega 6 to omega 3 ratio would be 1:1. Unfortunately thanks to the introduction of plant oils, the ratio is more like 20:1. We have gone from consuming around 9.5 grams of omega-6 per day back in 1900’s to around 40 grams of omega-6 per day. Pretty impressive jump isn’t it.
On average you can expect to consume between 5-10 TBSP of plant oils a day without even realizing it.
How is this possible? It’s in heaps of stuff: cereals, breads, processed foods, including salad dressings, margarine, mayonnaise, chips and cookies. That’s just a few items off the top of my head!!
Basically think of anything that’s refined, processed and packaged and you can almost guarantee it’s been made with some form of plant oil.
Just in case you weren’t traumatized enough, animals that are feed corn and soy will have high levels of PUFA in their tissues.
Most restaurant’s and take out joints use plant oils for cooking.
Oh and of course obviously plant oils themselves; canola, soyabean, sesame, rice bran, sunflower.
What Can I do to start cutting these out?
Start small. Swap out your plant oils for more natural saturated fat to use and cook with:
- Butter or ghee
- Olive oil
- Beef tallow
- Coconut oil
Check out the ingredients on packages. Watch out for added oils, such as cotton seed, soyabean and canola oil.
Focus on natural foods: Such as Veges, Fruits, Meats, Nuts, Seeds, Butter, Cream etc
- Plant oils are not the ‘Heart Healthy’ alternative we are lead to believe they are.
- Plant oils are industrially made
- Majority of plant oils are made up of PUFA’s, polyunsaturated fats as Omega 6 which is pro inflammatory and can cause chaos in large doses.
- Unfortunately, instead of a ration of 1:1 omega 6 to omega 3, we are now getting on average a ratio of 20:1
- The more omega 3 you eat, the less omega 6 there is to cause chaos and inflammation.