There’s something ubiquitous in our foods, a sinister ingredient prevalent in almost all processed foods and included in many foods labelled as heart healthy, vegan and gluten free. This guest blog by the wonderful Sara Aguilar explains in detail what this ingredient is!
The DNA Disruptor
It’s an ingredient that, on consumption, plays havoc with your DNA, releasing free-radicals and disrupting enzymes while oxidising your insides. What is it? It is not sugar, nor is it gluten, nor is it the ever-demonised saturated fat…it is the degraded structure of seed oils, also known as vegetable oils.
What could be so bad about them? It is in fact the chemical and heat processing techniques used in factories to industrially extract the oils from the seed which degrades the unstable molecular structure of the fat.
Chemically processing seeds increases the oil yield—thus profits—compared with cold pressing a seed. So, it is profitable for companies to use harsh, industrialised techniques to extract the oils with no regard for the consumer’s health.
The Health Risks Associated with Vegetable Seed Oil
The consumption of industrial seed oils represents an evolutionary mismatch as they have only been recently introduced into our diet. They are not ancestral foods as seeds and grains had no place in our diet 100,000 years ago.
Vegetable Oils are highly inflammatory. Eating industrial seed oils raises our omega-6-to-omega-3 fatty acid ratios, with significant consequences for our health. They are high in Linoleic Acid—a polyunsaturated omega 6 fatty acid—which is highly inflammatory when consumed in excess.
Industrial seed oils are unstable and oxidize easily, thus causing oxidation in our bodies.
Seed oils often contain harmful additives and processed with hexane chemicals.
They are often derived from genetically modified crops.
When industrial seed oils are repeatedly heated, even more toxic by-products are created and they become trans and hydrogenated fats, releasing oxidising free radicals into our system.
Unstable verse Stable Fatty Acids
Smoothing over the science, you have two main types of fats: unstable unsaturated fatty acids and stable saturated fatty acids. Unstable fatty acids include polyunsaturated and mono-unsaturated fats; i.e. the molecular structure is unstable under heat and thus the fat transforms and becomes reactive. Stable fats include saturated fats which are stable under heat—to their smoking point—this means that their chemical structure does not change under heat.
Dr Catherine Shanahan explains how the heat processing of seed oils can impact your cells:
‘Processing distorts the fatty acids in vegetable oils so they can no longer assume the typical five or six sided geometry. Like Chinese finger traps, our enzymes pick up these distorted fatty acids and then can’t let them go., which hampers cellular function so profoundly it can kill your cells. And if you eat enough trans fats, cellular dysfunction will impair so many cells in so many tissues that the cumulative effects will disrupt basic functions (like blood circulation or your body’s ability to fight infection) and eventually kill you.’ – Deep Nutrition p.131
If Seed oils really are that bad, why are they in most of our pre-packaged foods?
You might be thinking: what’s wrong with unstable fats and surely if they were that ‘bad’ for you, they would not be used in processed foods. Well, the science that demonstrates the dangers of seed oils is relatively new and—more importantly—processed seed oils are a cheaper ingredient than using a cold-pressed seed oil or a saturated fat such as butter or coconut oil. There are plenty of companies that do not want us to know how dangerous degraded fats are for our bodies.
Processed fats became prevalent in the food industry in the 1960s—and many chronic illnesses have been on a sharp increase since their introduction.
Trans and hydrogenated fats are industrially and chemically processed seed oils—the most insidious of all as the chemical structure has been completely distorted to the point where they release free radicals into your system.
What is a Free Radical?
The one thing you do not want in your system are free radicals.
‘Free radicals are high energy-electrons that are involved in every known disease. They cause disease by restructuring nearly every molecule they come into contact with, converting biologically functioning molecules into dysfunctional or even toxic molecules.’ —Deep Nutrition, Catherine Shanahan P. 140
Can you undo the damage?
The best thing you can do for your own health and the health of your family is to get rid of all vegetable oils and margarines from your home. Simply throw them out. Replace them with saturated fats for cooking and extra virgin olive and avocado oil for dressing.
Have a look at the healthy fats guide below.
Safeguard your cells by swapping Unhealthy, Processed Fats for Healthy, Unprocessed Fats
- Safflower Oil
- Sunflower Oil
- Rapeseed Oil
- Vegetable Oil
- Coconut Oil
- Avocado Oil
Dress Salads and Garnish with:
- Avocado Oil
- Cold Pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- MCT Oil—for the ketone energy boost!
How do you make Healthier Choices?
- Check the label!
- Go for ‘cold pressed Extra Virgin’
- Use Hunter and Gather mayonnaise and avocado oils that are processed seed oil free!
- Make your own food from scratch—that way you know exactly what you are consuming.
- Following Dr Chris Knobbe’s advice: At a restaurant, ask for your food to be cooked in butter, coconut oil, avocado oil or ghee and say that you are allergic to vegetable oils at a restaurant!