Earlier this year we spent 3 weeks travelling around the south island of New Zealand and stayed in a few caravan parks during that time. Camp kitchens are a really good place to meet other travellers and hear their story, and for someone like me who is obsessed with food, it’s a great place to see what other people are eating. The main thing I noticed was that the majority of people were cooking with vegetable or canola oil, which really worried me. It highlighted the fact that most people aren’t aware of the dangers associated with vegetable oils so I thought it would be worthwhile writing about it in the hope of spreading the word.
I feel these oils are up there with the worst of the worst when it comes to the toxic foods we’re ingesting today. For years these oils have been portrayed as a healthier option because they are low in saturated fat and have a high smoke point, but there’s a lot that we haven’t been told. It’s worth noting that there are numerous studies showing that vegetable oils contribute to disease while saturated fats DO NOT.
I’ll start by telling you how they’re made and hopefully that’s enough to make you vow to never eat anything cooked in these oils again. Keep in mind that olive oil is made simply by pressing the olives to extract the oil.
Are you ready for this shocking truth…?
How vegetable oils are made
Firstly, oil is squeezed from the seeds at high pressure leaving behind the protein portion called ‘seed cakes’. Some of them can also be processed at unnaturally high heats which oxidises the oil meaning they go rancid even before you buy them.
The ‘seed cakes’ are then washed in a vat of chemical solvent (usually petroleum) to extract the remaining oil.
The oil is sent through a refining process where it’s washed with sodium hydroxide or lye which is an extremely harsh chemical used in soap making (which is another whole blog post in itself!). While bathing in the sodium hydroxide it’s spun in a vat so the centrifugal force separates the impurities and the by-products of it are sold to soap manufacturers.
As the oil contains natural waxes from the seeds it has a cloudy appearance so it receives further treatment. The wax is used to make margarine (another item you should AVOID!). To do this they use a process called hydrogenation, during which trans-fats are created.
The newly created oil is treated with more chemicals to improve the colour.
Finally, the oil is washed and filtered before it is bleached.
After all these processes it unfortunately has a harsh smell, so the final step is for it to be chemically deodorised.
As if this isn’t enough, the oil is then funnelled into plastic containers, many of which contain chemical additives to give the plastic more durability. Plastic is known to have negative effects on both the environment and human health such as disruption to the endocrine and immune systems.
Vegetable oils and the ones to avoid:
Rice bran oil
Margarine (and any vegetable spreads that are an imitation of butter)
Mass production of these oil means the price is driven right down. You will find them on the shelves of every supermarket for only a few dollars per litre. And this fact alone means that they end up in nearly all processed food… salad dressings, sauces, biscuits, chips, cakes, crackers, frozen foods, even some drinks contain them!
You don’t eat processed foods? Great! But, you’re still not in the clear. Most feta, sun-dried tomatoes, olives are all bottled in the same toxic oils. ‘Healthy’ marketing on food packets, gluten free rice crackers, expensive gourmet chips, dips and more can all contain these same toxic oils.
Don’t be fooled!
Awareness is the first step. Now next time you go shopping at the supermarket, turn the package over and check out the ingredient list. This is the only way to know what’s in the food you are eating. Learning to read the ingredients list is the only way to ensure you’re avoiding them.
You’ll notice that vegetable and canola oils have a 5 star health rating (higher than olive oil!). Hopefully this begins to highlight the fact that health star ratings are not to be regarded with any trust, along with all the marketing of food products.
Most restaurants will unfortunately cook in these oils too, especially when serving deep fried things as it is way too expensive to use healthy oils in those deep frying vats.
These oils are linked to inflammation and an increased risk of cancer, whereas olive oil is shown to increase heart health plus has many other benefits. With the massive rise in production of these oils over the last 20 or so years, it’s no wonder we are facing a health crisis with alarming rates of cancer, obesity and other chronic illnesses.
So what oil can you use…
The only oils we should be using are:
Alternative good fats include butter, ghee, animal fats such as lard, tallow and duck fat.
Hopefully this information has helped you to have a better understanding of the broad term of ‘vegetable oil’ and why it should be avoided at all costs. If you know anyone who still uses it, be a good friend and pass them this information in the hope that it will change their mind and improve the health of those you care about.
If you’d like to have a conversation with me about this, i’m all ears and would love to help guide you towards a healthier low tox life. Get in touch via email firstname.lastname@example.org or find us on Instagram.