Vegetables oils have been heralded as a healthy alternative to using normal fat when cooking. However, it turns out that vegetable oils are not all they're cracked up to be when it comes down to it. We've all been told, even by government and medical associations, to use more vegetable seed and bean oils, such as soybean, corn, safflower and canola.
We're told that vegetable oils are safe to use as a heart-healthy alternative to cooking with traditional saturated fats. The argument has been that traditional fats such as butter, lard and coconut oil cause high cholesterol and clogged arteries, eventually leading to heart disease. So-called "experts" advised us to avoid saturated fats in favor of polyunsaturated fatty acids – in particular, omega-6 fats.
Turns out vegetable oils aren't actually that healthy
These vegetable oils that many of us have grown up on are found at most grocery stores and are clear, tasteless, highly refined and processed oils – most commonly sunflower, soybean, canola, safflower and corn oils.
These oils are highly unstable and highly inflammatory but have been given a huge push over the past couple of decades by advisory groups that we all trust on a daily basis, including the American Heart Association, the National Cholesterol Education Program and the National Institutes of Health.
Many well-respected scientists and doctors insisted we cut down on saturated fats and make the switch to polyunsaturated. But it turns out that they were completely wrong.
A review at Tufts University found that there was no benefit whatsoever to reducing saturated fats or increasing polyunsaturated fats, except for omega-3 fats. The very idea that vegetable oils are better than saturated fats comes from the belief that they lower cholesterol, presumably reducing our overall risk of heart disease.
Yet swapping out these saturated fats means swapping them for polyunsaturated fats which are inflammatory. Looking back over human history shows that we always consumed much more omega-3 fats (and much less omega-6 fats) than we currently do, because wild foods are very rich in omega-3s.
The main source of omega-3 in diets today comes from fish, yet wild game and wild plants are also high in omega-3 – and used to play a bigger part in our diets. Wild meat and grass-fed beef contain about seven times as much omega-3 fats as industrially raised animals, which have almost none at all.
The introduction of refined oils into our diet and move away from grass-fed and wild animals increased our omega-6 fat intake, while omega-3 fats have dramatically declined in our diets. Omega-6 fats contained in vegetable oils fuel your body's inflammatory pathways and also reduce the availability of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats in our tissues, which results in further inflammation.
In other words, omega-6 fats undo the benefits of eating omega-3 fats. Consuming too much vegetable oil increases the likelihood of inflammatory diseases and even the risk of mental illness, suicide and homicide. In fact, studies have found that there is a connection between mental health conditions and inflammation in the brain.
So what fats should we eat?
There's no wonder everyone is so confused about what they should and shouldn't be putting in their bodies. Even the experts can't agree and change their perspective every few years. The latest advice is that we eat more traditional fats, such as extra-virgin organic coconut oil, extra-virgin olive oil, avocados, grass-fed meats, grass-fed butter, nuts and fatty fish – which will increase the amount of omega-3 fats in your diet.