- Hannah Aylward
Are Vegetable Oils Damaging Your Health?
Are Vegetable Oils Damaging Your Health?
By Hannah Aylward
The popularity in eating healthy fats is on the rise. There is no doubt any longer that healthy fats are a necessary part of a healthy diet. Fats actually facilitate the absorption of fat-soluble nutrients like vitamins A, E, D, and K, as well as carotenoids like beta-carotene. However, it is critical to know that not all fats are created equal. Today, we are going to break down polyunsaturated fats.
The most well-known polyunsaturated fats are the omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids. These are considered “essential” because we need them but can’t produce them on our own. We have to get them from our food.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids can be broken down into two main types: long-chain and short-chain omega-3 fatty acids.
Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids include EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). While these are both long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, they are very different, which is why we need both of them. DHA is the most important and abundant structural component of healthy brain cells. EPA is a strong anti-inflammatory agent.
*You can find these in wild salmon, mackerel, sardines, krill, certain algae, grass-fed beef and high-quality, pasture-raised eggs.
Short-chain omega-3 fatty acids are ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), which is known as the plant-based omega. ALA needs to be converted into DHA and EPA in order to be used by the body. However, the body’s ability to actually do this is quite limited and varies from person to person depending on different things like gender and native origin. Basically, these ALAs don’t contain as many benefits as DHA and EPA, because we simply don’t process them as well. You would have to eat a very large amount of these plant-based omega-3s to equal a much smaller amount of EPA or DHA from say, salmon.
*You can find these in chia seeds, flax seeds and walnuts.
Omega-6 Fatty Acids
Omega-6s are the other type of polyunsaturated fats. These are also essential to a healthy brain. However, most of us consume far too many of them in the form of linoleic acid; we’re talking about 25 times more of them than omega-3s.
Polyunsaturated fats are highly vulnerable to a process called oxidation. Oxidation is the process of oxygen reacting chemically with certain molecules to create a new, damaged molecule that has a super-reactive extra electron called a free radical. This extra electron can react with another nearby molecule, transforming it into a second free radical and so on. You may have heard of antioxidants, a super-trendy health term (for good reason). Put very simply, these fight off free radicals and help keep us young. When oxidative stress overwhelms the body’s natural antioxidant systems, brain fog, memory loss, DNA damage and inflammation take over.
When polyunsaturated fats are in their whole foods state, like in nuts, seeds, and soybeans, they are bundled with fat-guarding antioxidants. When they are extracted into oils, however, this is not the case. They have been exposed to heat and chemical processing and are highly susceptible to oxidation, basically making them go “bad." It is the same concept as not frying anything in olive oil, because it goes bad at high heat. These bad oils, as well as the common foods that you will find them in, contain dangerous compounds called aldehydes. Aldehydes are toxins to the energy-generating mitochondria of the brain and spinal cord and impair our cells’ ability to generate energy.
So what oils are we talking about?
• Canola oil
• Corn oil
• Soybean oil
• Vegetable oil
• Peanut oil
• Safflower oil
• Sunflower oil
• Grapeseed oil
Grapeseed oil - this has an omega-6-to-omega-3 ratio of seven hundred to one.
• Rice bran oil
*Quick note: Canola oil does contain a relatively high amount of omega-3s, but it is highly processed. Omega-3s are even more susceptible to oxidation than omega-6s, and the processing yields oxidative byproducts, like trans fats, which damage your blood vessels and your brain cells.
Look out for these oxidized, high omega-6 oils in:
• Salad dressings
• Granola bars
• Potato chips
• Ice cream
• Roasted nuts
• Roasted nut butters - peanut butter, almond butter, etc.
• Fast food
• French fries
• Chicken fingers
• “Healthy” butter substitutes, even if they say “vegan, non-gmo, or all-natural”
Why is this important?
Omega-3 fats, like DHA and EPA are power anti-inflammatories. Omega-3 fats have been shown to decrease inflammation in the body, improve heart health, fight depression and anxiety, reduce cancer risk and slow aging to name a few. However, omega-6s are the raw materials used in our bodies’ inflammation pathways. Today we are consuming these fats in roughly a
25:1 ratio, as opposed to the 1:1 ratio hundreds of years ago. To oversimplify it, we are consuming way too many of the bad fats (in the form of commonly used oils), overpowering any good from our omega-3 consumption, leaving us inflamed and sick. It’s not that omega-6s are bad -— they are vital. However, by the time they get to us, they are oxidized, and we already have too many of them. It’s important to balance omega-6 and omega-3 intake to keep the ratios in balance.
Protect your health and be mindful of your consumption of polyunsaturated oils. Try cooking with avocado and coconut oil instead. Increase your omega-3 consumption by eating more foods like wild fish, pasture-raised eggs, algae and/or taking a high-quality, unadulterated fish oil supplement (don’t skimp on quality here).
*We recommend that you do not rely solely on the information presented and that you always read labels, warnings, and directions before using or consuming a product. You should consult your health care professional before making any changes to your regular health care routine
Hannah Aylward is a Certified Health Coach, nutrition consultant, fitness instructor, healthy living expert, and founder of HAN. She helps both men and women around the world lose weight, heal skin disturbances, balance hormones, heal gut imbalances and feel at home in their bodies through healthy eating, movement, mindfulness and positive self-talk. Her goal is to help others “learn the tools that they need to live the lives they deserve”. Get to know her by visiting her website and following her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.