VEGETABLE OIL: WHY YOU SHOULD CUT IT OUT
I love a good scare-mongering book that makes you feel like imminent death is just around the corner. That’s if you continue eating hot chips of course! David Gillespie’s book Toxic Oil does just that, and I think he has a fair point. Side note, Gillespie is credited with starting the “I Quit Sugar” movement with his book Sweet Poison. You see sadly vegetable oil is ingrained in our everyday Western diet without most of us even realising it. I know what you might be thinking, but I don’t eat hot chips? (Who are you trying to kid here?!) But its not just hot chips which are deep-fried in vegetable oil that are posing a problem here. It’s the way vegetable oil has found itself into seemingly ‘healthy’ foods that you might eat everyday
Do any of these products ring any bells?
Up & Go is truly one of the most worrying products on supermarket shelves especially as it has a 4.5 star health rating. I can remember drinking these on my way to breakfast radio shifts thinking it was good for me!? Check out the weird ingredient list: Filtered water, skim milk powder, cane sugar, wheat maltodextrin, soy protein, vegetable oils (sunflower, canola), inulin, hi-maize™ starch, corn syrup solids, flavours, fructose, oat flour, mineral (calcium), food acid (332), vegetable gums (460, 466, 407), stabiliser (452), salt, vitamins (C, niacin, A, B12, B6, B2, B1, folate).
All infant formula from the supermarket contains vegetable oil, which scares the hell out of me as I gave my daughter Bellamy’s organic infant formula that contained GM free soy bean oil for a few months of her life. I wish I had read this book sooner and done more research into soy bean oil. I feel this topic deserves it’s own blog post so I won’t get into it too much here!
OK so you might be thinking, what’s the deal? How is vegetable oil even bad for you, it’s made from plants right so it must be good? Well, that’s where the food marketer’s and health authorities spin can end up confusing us.
Firstly, there is no such thing as oil from a vegetable. There are fruit oils (coconut, palm, avocado or olive oil), nut oils (peanut, macadamia, pecan) or seed oils (canola, sunflower, soybean, grapeseed or rice bran). It’s the last category of seed oils that make up the majority of what is claimed to be ‘vegetable’ oil in our food and it’s these seed oils you have to be particularly wary of, in fact Gillespie describes them as being “extraordinarily dangerous”.
This book really made a massive impact on me as it completely shakes up what we have been told by health authorities basically since the invention of seed oils, which is to avoid saturated fat (from animals) as much as possible as the consumption of these fats can lead to high cholesterol which can lead to heart disease and instead we should replace saturated fats from animals with ‘healthy’ polyunsaturated fats from vegetable oils.
What’s scary about this message is that in Toxic Oil Gillespie presents a ton of evidence to show that there is no evidence to conclusively support the aforementioned theory but the consumption of too much vegetable oil could actually be increasing our cholesterol and making heart disease worse. It doesn’t seem that unrealistic when the statistics show heart disease is Australia’s number one killer. What distresses me is that nutritional experts and health authorities are still pushing the theory that seed oil is good for us and prevents heart disease, just check out the Australian Heart Foundation page on ‘healthy fats‘.
I feel a ‘Cowspiracy’ moment coming on with the vegetable oil industry – no one in power is talking about it because seed oil (canola, soy, sunflower) makes Australia, and the world, so much money.
Here are some fast facts taken from Toxic Oil about vegetable oil that might make you think twice about this seemingly harmless ingredient…
- Humans did not consume this type of oil until about 100 years ago. Our bodies are not designed to process this type of oil in the large quantities that we are consuming today.
- There is a complete lack of evidence to suggest that saturated fat increases cholesterol and therefore heart disease
- Vegetable oils (polyunsaturated fats) contain very large amounts of omega-6. Omega 6 is needed in the body and should be balanced with Omega 3 in the ratio, 4:1, but with all the vegetable oil in our food it’s now 16:1. This throws everything off balance and can change the composition of our body’s cells, causing inflammation and has been linked to things like macular degeneration, life-threatening allergies like anaphylaxis, cancer and you guessed it heart disease. You can read more about balancing your omega 6 and omega 3 ratio here
- Heart disease is the biggest killer in the world and has steadily increased in the past 100 years. Of course there are multiple factors at play here but the high consumption of polyunsaturated fat and sugar coupled with a more sedentary lifestyle are major factors
- Vegetable oils claiming to lower cholesterol may actually increase it
- It is not a legal requirement on food labelling laws in Australia to show consumers how much polyunsaturated fat is in a product. But it is a legal requirement to show much saturated fat is in the product.
- Polyunsaturated fat is also high in things that I love, like peanut butter, sesame oil, tahini and walnuts. This doesn’t mean you can’t eat these things but you should keep the portion size in check.
- According to Gillespie we should be consuming between 3 – 6g polyunsaturated fat per day. To put it into perspective, 100g of Vita- Weat Grains Snacks original have 5g* of polyunsaturated fat a Crispy Chicken Burger from Macca’s has 10g* of polyunsaturated fat, 1 tablespoon (25g) of Flora Pro-Active Original Margarine has 6.9g of polyunsaturated fat
If alarm bells are ringing for you, like they did for me, there are a few things you can do to help reduce the amount of vegetable oil in your diet.
- If you are after a plant-based oil use olive or coconut oil in your cooking. When a recipe calls for vegetable or other seed based oil, swap it for a light olive oil (light in flavour not in fat). You can also use lard, butter or ghee to cook with, like low heart disease countries like France (and they put butter in everything!)
- Don’t be scared of animal fat and products (ie: use butter not margarine, and not ‘spreadable butter’ either as they all contain margarine except for Mainland). Think about it, humans have survived on animal or fruit based oils for as long as we can remember and that is what we should be consuming in small quantities, not oil that is conveniently cheaper to produce for the masses.
- Look at labels! Check the ingredient list for vegetable oil, which may also appear as ‘canola, soy, cottonseed, or generically termed ‘vegetable oil’. I also have a ethical stance against palm or palmolein oil as it has completely destroyed the natural habitat for orang-utans in Indonesia, it is an oil that’s in everything (especially packet chips) and even if it states it’s ‘sustainably sourced’ I don’t trust it.
- Check the nutrition label for polyunsaturated fat. More than likely it won’t have it listed, but use half the total fat as a guide. So if the label says it has 10g of fat per 100g, assume 5g is polyunsaturated. If the amount is higher than 2g per 100g, you probably should learn to live without this product or find a better alternative.
- Eat as much unrefined, unprocessed whole food as you can. This is easy to say but it’s hard at times and we all love a sneaky hot chip. I guess it’s best to limit these types of foods and treat ‘treats as treats’. Or better yet make your own hot chips and use olive oil, lard or ghee to fry them in.
- Eat plenty of omega 3 rich foods like flax seed, fish oil and chia seeds.
- Grab a copy of Toxic Oil (I borrowed it from my local library for free!) as he provides far more in-depth research as well as food swap suggestions and how to cut down on your seed oil consumption. You can also check out David’s blog for more info!
As always I’d like to remind you that I am not a qualified health professional, I am just an curious and health conscious cook who is sick of being lied to by the health and food industry for the sake of profits. You might even share my frustrations, if so, I’d love you to share my blog post with your friends.