Back when nutrition science was unfairly demonising fat, manufacturers went hunting for an easy and cost-efficient alternative to introduce to the market...
… Meanwhile, canola farmers – whose crops were originally used in steam powered machines – were looking for other uses of canola oil after the sharp decrease in demand following World War II.
And so, with a bit of a push from good ol’ Big Food, the vegetable oil was born. With a low saturated fat content and high levels of monounsaturated fats (the stuff in a good quality EVOO), these oils were positioned as a “heart healthy” alternative. And they soon became pantry staples across the globe.
But just because it has the word “vegetable” in it, does not make vegetable oils good for you. In fact, they’re far from it!
First off, you can’t get oil from vegetables.
“Vegetable” oils like canola, sunflower, soybean, corn and rice bran are actually made from seeds, not veg.
In their raw form, they resemble a sort of dark green sludge. So, they need to undergo some pretty unnatural processes to look like the clear yellow stuff you get in a plastic bottle.
Most are heated, refined using industrial solvents then deodorised and bleached with chemicals you wouldn’t usually touch with a barge pole. Margarine, butter’s evil cousin, undergoes a similar refining process.
Should anything we consider “food” need to undergo such an ordeal to be fit for consumption? We don’t think so!
Vegetable oils are really high in Omega-6.
One of the key issues with vegetable oils is the huge impact they’ve had on how we consume omega-3 and omega-6.
Research suggests we should be eating these essential fatty acids at about a 1:1 ratio. But since the push to consume vegetable oils (which contain twice as much omega-6 as they do omega-3), the average Western diet now .
What’s the issue here? Well, too much omega-6 is linked to inflammation. Which means if we’re eating 16 times as much of it as we should, it could increase our risk of , including cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, autoimmune diseases, asthma and cancer.
Vegetable oils can also contain nasty trans fats.
Another concern with vegetable oils is the presence of artificial trans fats, which can turn up when other fats are damaged in the heating and refining processes (and are often ).
Trans fats are also found in , where hydrogen is added to vegetable oil to make it more solid at room temperature. These are often added to processed foods, commercial baked goods and, you guessed it, margarine.
One thing scientists can agree on is that these types of fats are an abomination. They’ve been linked to a , including cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Artificial trans fats are such a concern that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned them last year. Manufacturers have also modified their refining processes in recent decades, so there are less of these dangerous fats present in vegetable oils. But frankly, we’ll still stick to our EVOO and butter!
What do you think about vegetable oils?