Are Seed Oils Really Bad for You?

June 10, 2024 by Jesse Zucker
Are Seed Oils Really Bad for You?

WASHINGTON — When you pay attention to the conversation around health and wellness, you’ll notice different food products occasionally getting labeled as detrimental to your health. In the past few years, seed oils have become an offender. What are they, exactly? Are they really bad for you?

Here, we’ll explain what seed oils are, what the research says about their safety and let you know which types of oils may offer the most health benefits.

What Are Seed Oils? 

Seed oils, as the name implies, are oils made from the seeds of plants, including vegetables, so vegetable oil is also a seed oil. They became popular as a cooking alternative to butter and saturated fats because they contain unsaturated fats. Specifically, they contain two types of polyunsaturated fats: omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids.

Recently, social media trends have declared these eight types of seed oils to be bad for you:

  • Canola Oil.
  • Corn Oil.
  • Cottonseed Oil.
  • Grapeseed Oil.
  • Soybean Oil.
  • Sunflower Oil.
  • Safflower Oil.
  • Rice Bran Oil.

Some may look familiar. You may use these oils in cooking or baking recipes or see them as ingredients in food products. They are easy to cook with, have a neutral flavor, may be affordable and they make products last longer. So, what’s so bad about them?

Are Seed Oils Bad For You?

There’s never quite a black-and-white answer to these types of questions. One popular claim is that seed oils cause inflammation, which can lead to heart disease. 

In 2022, the Harvard School of Public Health stated that scientists debunked the claim that seed oils are inherently dangerous. 

However, the claim didn’t come from nowhere. Here are three things to consider about why they could be an “unhealthy” part of your diet.

Common Ingredients in Processed Foods

Seed oils are commonly found in highly processed foods like baked goods, chips and other packaged salty snacks, frozen meals, salad dressings, breads and granola bars. Restaurants also use them in deep-fried foods. 

A diet high in these types of foods may increase your chances of chronic inflammation and heart disease. But it wouldn’t be solely because of the seed oils. These foods lack other vital nutrients and may contain other additives.

Eating processed foods and restaurant meals (even with seed oils) in moderation, while most of your diet consists of nutrient-dense whole foods, can be a healthy approach.

Omega-6 to Omega-3 Ratio

Seed oils contain polyunsaturated fats known as omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids. While both can be considered “healthy” fats, omega-3s (alpha-linolenic acid) seem to be more beneficial to heart health and helping to prevent metabolic syndrome than omega-6s (gamma-linolenic acid). 

The theory is that early on, humans consumed an equal amount of omega-6s and omega-3s in a 1:1 ratio. With the rise of processed foods, many Western diets now have a 20:1 ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s. 

Seed oils contain a higher ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s. Part of the reason they are deemed unhealthy is that people may already be consuming more omega-6s than they need and not getting enough omega-3s. Natural sources of omega-3s include nutrient-dense foods like salmon and other fatty fish, walnuts, chia seeds and flax seeds.

Do Omega-6s Cause Heart Disease?

Taking a look at the scientific evidence doesn’t clear things up since several studies answer this question in many ways. 

  • Some research finds that omega-6s in vegetable oils can lead to heart disease. 
  • Other research suggests that omega-6 consumption can prevent cardiovascular diseases. 
  • Another report states there is not enough information to declare either position. 

The WHO published a meta-analysis stating that while a diet with a higher ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 may be more beneficial, omega-6s in seed oils are unlikely to be dangerous.

Healthy Oil Choices

It may not be necessary to cut out all seed oils from your diet. In fact, some research even states that vegetable oils do have health benefits when consumed in moderation.

Still, if you’d like to steer clear of them, here are some potentially healthier oils to try.

Adding more omega-3s to your diet can help you achieve a healthier ratio. The following “seed oils” have more omega-3s than omega-6s, though they’re typically not used for cooking.

A Seedy Topic

As long as you’re not drinking a glass of seed oil a day, you’ll likely be okay. Seed oils do have more omega-6s than omega-3s in them. Both are healthy fats, but Westerners tend to get enough omega-6s and not enough omega-3s. Adding more omega-3s to your diet may boost your heart, joint and brain health.

Our website content, services and products are for informational purposes only. The Well News does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you have medical concerns or questions, discuss with your health care professional.

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