I love both of these oils and use them often. When I first started looking into oils, though, I have to admit-it was a little confusing. Which ones are good for you and which ones aren’t?
In case you’ve had similar questions, check it out-here are four oils that you want to stay away from as much as you can. I’ll tell you why.
1. Canola Oil
This oil actually is made from the seed of the rape plant, usually called “rapeseed.” (The word “rape” comes from the Latin word meaning “turnip.”) It may come from traditional plants (Brassica napus L. or Brassica rapa), or from crossbred lines of B. Juncea.
The original rapeseed produced an oil that had a disagreeable taste and high concentration of erucic acid (which is toxic in large doses). Canadian scientists used crossbreeding to create plants with a different nutritional profile, less erucic acid, and a milder taste. They named it Canola (for CANadian Oil, Low Acid).
Canola oil is low in saturated fat and contains some healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which make it appear to be a healthy choice. It’s processed in such a way, however, as to make it a less healthy option than other cooking oils you may choose
First of all, much of the canola oil we buy today comes from genetically engineered crops (created by Monsanto to resist Roundup). If you don’t feel good about GMO (as I don’t), canola oil isn’t for you.
The other big issue with canola oil is that it is often partially hydrogenated, which changes the fats to unhealthy trans-fats. Although this would be the case with any oil that is hydrogenated (or partially hydrogenated), canola is one of the most common ones we see.
Finally, like many processed oils, manufacturers process the oil in ways that can reduce any health benefits it may have.
- They use high temperatures, which destroy nutrients and antioxidants, and weaken the bonds in fatty acids, which can lead to the production of dangerous free radicals.
- They also may use a chemical solution to get the oil out of the seeds. It often includes hexane, a hydrocarbon chemical made from crude oil. Traces of these chemicals typically remain in the oil.
- Then they put it through an additional refining process that involves bleaching (usually with clays) and degumming, which can destroy antioxidants.
- They add preservatives like BHT to extend shelf-life, which is suspected to be a human carcinogen.
2. Cottonseed Oil
Check food labels and you’ll find this oil everywhere.
- Canned foods
- Processed and packaged foods
- Condiments like mayonnaise and salad dressing
- Pasta sauces
- Baked goods
The main problem with cottonseed oil is that it comes from plants that are heavily sprayed with pesticides. Cotton plants are grown for their fibers (to make clothes), as well as to make animal feed and oil. According to the Alliance of Women Scientists, cotton covers 2.5 percent of the cultivated land in the world, but uses 16 percent of the world’s pesticides. They add that “eight of the top 10 pesticides most commonly used on U.S. conventionally produced cotton were classified as moderately to highly hazardous by the World Health Organization.”
Cotton is also one of the top four GMO crops produced in the world (along with soy, canola, and corn).
Cottonseed oil is also high in saturated fat (bad for your heart). It’s also often partially hydrogenated, which creates unhealthy trans-fats.
3. Safflower Oil
Safflower oil is usually highly processed and refined, which can strip it of any of its healthy components. The main concern with safflower oil, though, is its fats. It has a lot of the omega-6 kind of fatty acids, which are considered “pro-inflammatory.” We already get way too many of these kinds of fats in our diets today, and they have been found to be linked with cardiovascular disease and other inflammatory diseases. Not healthy!
4. Soybean Oil
Soy foods are supposed to be healthy, aren’t they? Problem number-one with soybean oil is it typically comes from GMO crops. Second, it’s typically highly processed and refined, like canola and cottonseed.
Specific problems with soybean oil can be blamed on its components. Isoflavones in soy can interfere with thyroid function-a Japanese study found that adults eating about an ounce of soybeans for three months experienced raised levels of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH)-an indicator of impaired thyroid function. Other studies have shown conflicting results, but if you’re concerned about your thyroid, soybean oil isn’t for you.
Soy also contains ingredients that have estrogenic (hormone-altering) properties. Some studies have found that it may increase the risk of some cancers, like breast and prostate. Though soy has also been found to have some health benefits, soybean oil has been processed too heavily to take the risk.
Tips for Choosing Healthy Oils
There are some basic steps you can take to choose healthy oils:
- Look for those in glass containers, typically dark or amber colored, as they provide better protection for the fragile fatty acids.
- Look for organic options to avoid GMOs and pesticides.
- Choose “cold-pressed,” “unrefined,” or “extra-virgin” types-these are minimally processed or processed in such a way as to preserve nutrients and eliminate chemicals.
- Instead of canola, choose coconut, olive, or red palm oil.
- Remember that more natural, unrefined oils go bad more quickly-watch expiration dates.
What do you think about these oils? Do you still cook with them?
Ishizuki Y, et al., “The effects on the thyroid gland of soybeans administered experimentally in healthy subjects,” Nihon Naibunpi Gakkai Zasshi, May 20, 1991; 67(5):622-9, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1868922.
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