Seed oils
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The oily truth: Are seed oils wreaking havoc on our health?

For decades, vegetable oils like canola, soybean, and sunflower have been hailed as the holy grail of healthy fats. But a growing body of research suggests a darker side to these ubiquitous ingredients – a potential health threat lurking in the aisles of our supermarkets and on our dinner plates, seed oils.

This hidden poison, as some experts call it, is the high omega-6 content found in most seed oils. While omega-6s are essential for our bodies, their over consumption can wreak havoc on our delicate internal balance.

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The culprit? Our modern diets, saturated with processed foods and restaurant meals, often contain a skewed ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s, the yin and yang of fatty acids. This imbalance is linked to a litany of chronic diseases, including cancer, heart disease, and even obesity.

But how did these seemingly harmless oils become the dietary darlings of the 20th century? The answer lies in a clever marketing campaign by Procter & Gamble, who, in the wake of heart disease concerns surrounding animal fats, positioned seed oils as the healthier alternative.

The science, however, tells a different story. Highly processed and chemically altered, seed oils are prone to oxidation within our bodies, leading to free radical damage and cellular dysfunction.

The food industry, with its vested interest in cheap and shelf-stable ingredients, has often downplayed the potential dangers of seed oils. Studies highlighting their negative health effects are often dismissed or undermined by research funded by the very companies churning out these oils.

This lack of transparency and independent research leaves consumers in the dark, struggling to navigate the labyrinthine world of healthy fats.

So, what can we do to protect ourselves from the potential dangers of seed oils? The first step is awareness. Scrutinise ingredient labels, opting for whole, unprocessed foods whenever possible.

Embrace cooking with animal fats like butter and lard, and prioritise omega-3-rich sources like fish and eggs. Embracing a low omega-6 diet, while challenging in today’s food landscape, is a proactive step towards optimising our health and reclaiming control over our culinary choices.

The “Hidden Poison in Our Food” is not just about a single ingredient; it’s about the bigger picture of food systems, corporate influence, and our right to informed choices. By delving deeper into the science and demanding transparency from the industry, we can begin to navigate the murky waters of food and reclaim our health, one conscious bite at a time.

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Foods containing seed oils

Highly processed foods: These are the biggest culprits when it comes to containing seed oils, often used for their affordability and long shelf life.

  • Crackers and chips: Potato chips, tortilla chips, crackers, and other savoury snacks almost always contain seed oils like soybean, canola, or corn oil for frying and flavouring.
  • Fried foods: French fries, onion rings, fried chicken, and other deep-fried dishes are typically cooked in seed oils due to their high smoke points.
  • Packaged baked goods: Cookies, cakes, muffins, and other pastries often contain seed oils in their batter or frosting for added moisture and texture.
  • Processed meats: Sausages, hot dogs, and deli meats may contain seed oils added for texture and preservation.
  • Condiments and sauces: Salad dressings, mayonnaise, ketchup, and barbecue sauce often have seed oils as a base ingredient.
  • Microwave popcorn: Pre-packaged microwave popcorn usually contains seed oils for coating and popping the kernels.
  • Candy and chocolate bars: Seed oils can be found in some candy bars and chocolate as a source of fat and texture.
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Other foods that may contain seed oils:

  • Non-dairy milk: Some plant-based milk alternatives, like soy milk and oat milk, may contain seed oils for added creaminess.
  • Nut butters: While some nut butters are naturally seed oil-free, some brands may add soybean or canola oil for stability and texture.
  • Frozen meals and pizzas: Frozen dinners and pizzas often contain seed oils in their ingredients for cooking and flavouring.
  • Processed cheeses: Sliced cheese and cheese spreads may contain seed oils for emulsifying and improving texture.


  • Reading food labels is crucial to identifying hidden seed oils in processed foods.
  • Some seed oils, like flaxseed oil and pumpkin seed oil, can be healthy in moderation when used as finishing oils or drizzled on salads.
  • Focussing on whole, unprocessed foods is the best way to limit your intake of seed oils and other unhealthy fats.
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How are seed oils made vs how animal oils are made?

Seed oils are extracted from the seeds of various plants and are widely used for cooking, as well as in various industrial applications. The extraction process may vary slightly depending on the type of seed oil and the method used, but here is a general step-by-step guide:

Let’s compare the processes of seed oil extraction (vegetable oils) and animal-based oil extraction. We’ll also touch on expeller pressing and its application in seed oil extraction.

Seed oil extraction (vegetable oils):

  1. Seed selection:

Vegetable oils: High-quality seeds are chosen based on the desired characteristics of the oil.

Animal-based oils: There is no seed selection since animal-based oils are obtained from animal fats.

  1. Cleaning:

Vegetable oils: Seeds are cleaned to remove impurities.

Animal-based oils: The source material (animal fat) may undergo filtering or initial processing to remove impurities.

  1. Drying:

Vegetable oils: Seeds are dried to reduce moisture content.

Animal-based oils: Animal fats are typically not dried in the same way seeds are.

  1. Crushing or grinding:

Vegetable oils: Seeds are crushed or ground to increase surface area.

Animal-based oils: Animal fats may undergo rendering, a process that involves heating to separate fat from other tissues.

  1. Cooking/steaming (optional):

Vegetable oils: Some seeds may be cooked or steamed to aid in oil extraction.

Animal-based oils: Heating during rendering serves a similar purpose.

  1. Oil extraction:

Vegetable oils:

Expeller pressing: Mechanical pressing with slightly higher heat and pressure.

Solvent extraction: Common for seeds with lower oil content.

Cold pressing: Mechanical pressing without heat.

Animal-based oils: Rendering is the primary method, and it involves heating the fat to separate it from other components.

  1. Separation:

Vegetable oils: Oil is separated from solid residues (seed cake or meal) through centrifugation or filtration.

Animal-based oils: Separation of fat from impurities through various processes.

  1. Refining (optional):

Vegetable oils: Refining processes may be applied to remove impurities and improve quality.

Animal-based oils: Depending on the source, refining may or may not be necessary.

  1. Packaging:

Vegetable oils: The final oil is packaged for distribution.

Animal-based oils: Similar packaging process as vegetable oils.






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It’s important to note that the specific details of the extraction process may vary based on the type of seed and the desired properties of the final oil. Additionally, some small-scale producers may use simpler methods, while large-scale commercial operations often employ more sophisticated equipment and technology.

The chemical extraction of seed oils, as opposed to the traditional rendering of animal fats, has raised concerns regarding potential negative health consequences.

While chemical extraction methods, such as solvent extraction, are efficient in obtaining higher yields of oil from seeds, they come with some drawbacks that may impact the nutritional quality and safety of the final product.

One significant concern is the potential presence of residual solvents in the extracted seed oils. Solvent extraction involves the use of chemicals, such as hexane, to dissolve and extract oil from the seeds.

Despite efforts to remove these solvents during the refining process, trace amounts may remain in the final product. Prolonged exposure or consumption of residual solvents has been associated with adverse health effects, including neurological and respiratory issues.

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Additionally, the chemical extraction process may result in alterations to the natural composition of the oil. High temperatures and chemical treatments can lead to the degradation of heat-sensitive compounds, such as antioxidants and essential fatty acids.

These components play crucial roles in supporting overall health and may contribute to the stability and nutritional value of the oil.

In contrast, the rendering of animal fats, a more traditional method, relies on heat to separate fat from tissues. While heat is applied in this process, it is generally less severe than the high temperatures used in some chemical extraction methods.

Moreover, the rendering process typically does not involve the use of external chemical solvents, reducing the risk of solvent residues in the final product.

Concerns also extend to the potential impact on the overall lipid profile of the extracted oils. Chemical extraction may lead to changes in the ratio of saturated to unsaturated fats or alter the fatty acid composition.

This could have implications for cardiovascular health, as an imbalance in these fatty acids may contribute to elevated cholesterol levels and other cardiovascular risk factors.

The choice between chemical extraction of seed oils and animal fat rendering should consider potential negative health consequences. While chemical extraction methods may offer higher efficiency in oil extraction, the risk of residual solvents and alterations to the nutritional profile raises questions about the long-term health impact.

Traditional rendering methods, though slower, may provide a more natural and minimally processed alternative, preserving the integrity of essential nutrients in the extracted fats. Consumers and producers alike must weigh these considerations to make informed choices that prioritise both efficiency and health.

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Soya bean oil

Soya bean oil, once hailed as a healthy alternative to animal fats, has come under scrutiny for its potential link to hormone imbalances and certain cancers. The concerns primarily stem from two key factors:

1. High omega-6 content: Soya bean oil is exceptionally rich in omega-6 fatty acids. While omega-6s are essential for various bodily functions, our modern diets tend to be heavily skewed towards omega-6s due to their abundance in processed foods and vegetable oils. This imbalance disrupts the delicate ratio between omega-6s and omega-3s, crucial for maintaining hormonal balance. Excess omega-6s can promote inflammation, a known risk factor for hormone-sensitive cancers like breast and prostate cancers.

2. Phytoestrogens and processing: Soya bean oil contains naturally occurring plant compounds called phytoestrogens, which mimic the effects of the human hormone estrogen. While these can offer some health benefits in specific situations, concerns arise with high intakes and potential interference with natural hormone signaling pathways. Additionally, the processing of soya bean oil, often involving high temperatures and chemicals, may further alter the phytoestrogen content and create unintended consequences for hormonal health.

Ultimately, while soya bean oil may have some uses in cooking, individuals concerned about hormone imbalances or cancer risk should consider limiting their intake and exploring alternative cooking oils rich in omega-3s, like olive oil or canola oil. Prioritising whole, unprocessed foods and opting for healthy fats sources like fish and nuts can further contribute to a balanced and well-rounded diet.

Seeds of destruction: Unmasking the environmental costs of seed oil production

Seed oils, once touted as the healthy alternative to animal fats, now cast a long shadow on the environment. Their cultivation, particularly of soybeans and palm oil, wreaks havoc on ecosystems, imperils wildlife, and traps farmers in a cycle of exploitation. Let’s delve into this troubling narrative:

Rainforest razed, Biodiversity razed:

  • Soybean savagery in Brazil: The world’s leading soybean producer, Brazil, paints a grim picture. Vast swathes of the Amazon rainforest are bulldozed to make way for sprawling soybean plantations, pushing indigenous communities to the brink and accelerating climate change.
  • Palm oil plunder in Asia: Southeast Asia follows a similar destructive path. Lush rainforests in Indonesia and Malaysia are decimated for palm oil plantations, wiping out orangutan habitats and endangering countless other species.

Endangered lives, endangered species:

  • Wildlife on the brink: The ecological carnage doesn’t stop at deforestation. Monoculture plantations offer little to no food or shelter for native wildlife, pushing species like Sumatran tigers and orangutans closer to extinction.
  • From primates to people: The human cost is equally staggering. Orangutans orphaned by deforestation often end up in captivity, while local communities lose their traditional lands and livelihoods.

The bitter bite of entrapment:

  • Debt trap for farmers: Farmers cultivating seed oil crops often fall into a vicious cycle of debt. Enticed by loans and promises of prosperity, they become trapped in a system where they’re forced to buy expensive seeds and fertilizers from the same companies controlling the market.
  • Labour under a cloud: Child labour and inhumane working conditions are also alarmingly common in seed oil production, particularly in palm oil plantations. Consumers, often unknowingly, become complicit in this exploitation.

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Slicing the seed oil habit: Taking control of your culinary choices

Cutting down on seed oils starts in the heart of your home – your kitchen. Cooking at home empowers you to control every ingredient, giving you the liberty to ditch store-bought sauces and processed foods saturated in seed oils.

Embrace vibrant vegetables, fresh herbs, and healthy fats like olive oil or avocado oil. Mastering a few simple dishes from scratch opens up a world of delicious, seed oil-free meals.

But let’s face it, life gets busy. When the siren song of takeout beckons, reading labels becomes your weapon. Scrutinise ingredient lists, seeking hidden culprits like “vegetable oil” or “canola oil”.

Opt for dishes cooked with healthier alternatives like butter, ghee, or even coconut oil. Don’t be afraid to ask restaurants about their cooking methods – sometimes a polite inquiry can spark a conversation about healthier options.

And for those nights when even reading labels feels like a chore, consider organic food ingredient delivery services like Green Chef. Green Chef specialises in pre-portioned, portion-controlled meal kits that take the guesswork out of cooking, allowing you to whip up fresh, seasonal dishes in under 30 minutes.

Their menus prioritise organic ingredients and often feature dishes cooked with healthy fats like olive oil or avocado oil. Plus, their commitment to sustainable packaging and responsible sourcing aligns with a seed oil-free philosophy.

By embracing home cooking, label vigilance, and services like Green Chef, you can take control of your seed oil intake and enjoy a healthier, more fulfilling relationship with food. Remember, small changes add up to big results. So, next time you head to the kitchen or browse a menu, remember – you have the power to choose, one delicious bite at a time.


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