The are several foods we all know we should cut back on when it comes to our health. Fast food is a definite no-go, potato chips are never good, and sugary snacks should be limited as much as possible. Overall, we know that whenever possible, cooking a healthy meal at home and avoiding processed foods is always the best way to go. However, there’s one sneaky ingredient you could be adding to those homecooked meals that may be negating your weight loss efforts: vegetable seed oils like canola oil, sunflower oil, grapeseed oil, corn oil, safflower oil, and more. As it turns out, consuming these oils could lead to serious health consequences over time—in fact, you may want to consider cutting them out altogether, especially if you’re trying to slim down.
To learn more about the health risks of seed oils and why you should limit your intake of them as much as possible, we spoke to health experts Jenny Smith, certified functional medicine health coach, and Kelsey Mauro, functional medicine gut health consultant. They told us all about how this ingredient can slow your metabolism and put you at risk for inflammation and disease.
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Seed oils lead to inflammation and weight gain
According to Mauro and Smith, consuming seed oils can lead to a whole range of health issues. However, two of the largest risks are inflammation and weight gain. Mauro explains that this is largely due to the fact that these oils are “processed with multiple chemicals and are super rich in omega-6 fatty acids.” As she explains, “these acids are a key contributor to inflammation” and “can lead to chronic inflammatory diseases and an increased risk of obesity.” Yikes!
Smith concurs: “Seed oils disrupt our metabolism and cause inflammation in our bodies. These oils, once processed, are primarily composed of polyunsaturated fatty acids, or PUFA’s.” She notes that while seed oils are typically fine on their own, the real issue arises when they’re processed at high heat, at which point they are “prone to oxidative damage.” From there, “when we ingest them, our bodies attack them as a foreign substance, leading to inflammation and almost all diseases.” She goes on to say that these oils can block our arteries and disrupt blood flow, cause cognitive decline, and even lead to premature wrinkling. Plus, the calorie content alone is reason enough to cut them out of your diet if you want to lose weight. In fact, according to Smith, “The average American gets about 80% of their calories from seed oils.” We had no idea!
For this reason, cutting seed oils out of your diet, or at least limiting your intake of them as much as possible, is a great option for your overall health. “When we cut them out of our diet our inflammation reduces and our risk for obesity, diabetes and heart disease decreases dramatically,” Mauro confirms.
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Healthier alternatives to seed oils
So, what are a few healthier alternatives to seed oils that you can cook with instead? There are so many options! Smith lists olive oil, peanut oil, macadamia nut oil, coconut oil, palm oil, animal fats like lard and tallow, and butter. “These natural fats can handle the heat and do not cause an oxidative stress storm in our bodies,” she says, adding that “cooking at home ensures you are only ingesting the good stuff.”
Unfortunately, cutting out seed oils can be difficult for those of us who like to eat out or buy prepackaged meals, as these oils are found in so many foods and frequently used at restaurants. Smith does offer a bit of advice for anyone who wants to go out to eat, though: “When eating out, ask your server if the chef can only cook with olive oil or butter. One of the ‘safer’ meals I order when eating out is salads, and I ask them to bring out the olive oil and balsamic vinegar on the side,” she says.
Luckily, a little bit of seed oil every now and then won’t kill you, so don’t stress about it too much if it’s out of your control. Just be sure to make healthy choices whenever possible, and remember that cooking at home will always give you the option to go with better alternatives. You may be surprised to realize how great you feel when you make the switch!