If you want to improve your physical and mental health, it’s a good idea to understand which seed oils to avoid.
Seed oils have become increasingly prevalent in our modern food system, but not all seed oils are created equal when it comes to health impacts.
Many experts advise avoiding certain types of seed oils that may contribute to inflammation and other health issues.
Seed oils like soybean, canola, and corn have become ubiquitous in our food system.
However, many of these highly processed oils can negatively impact health.
In this post, we will cover everything you need to know about seed oils – from why they are concerning, which ones to limit, and how to avoid them.
Let’s get started!
Best Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Desert Miracle Cold Pressed
Best Nut Oil: Macadamia Nut Oil
Best for Cooking: South Chicago Packing Beef Tallow
What Are Seed Oils?
Seed oils are vegetable oils that have been extracted from seeds.
Some of the most common seed oils include soybean oil, canola oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, peanut oil, grapeseed oil, and rice bran oil.
Seed oils are extracted from oil-rich seeds through pressing and processing methods.
This intensive industrial process applies high heat, pressure, and chemical solvents like hexane to extract the maximum oil content from seeds.
The oil is then refined using steps like degumming, neutralization, bleaching, and deodorization to create a bland, shelf-stable oil.
While the nutrients seeds contain provide benefits when eaten whole, the industrial seed oil extraction process creates an isolated, processed oil.
This modern extraction technique allows a large amount of oil to be extracted from seeds that would not be naturally consumed in such high amounts.
More research is needed, but the increase in seed oil consumption aligns with the rise in modern chronic diseases.
Replacing seed oils with less processed, more stable traditional fats like olive, avocado, and animal fats can improve omega oil balance and reduce oxidative damage.
Related: Andrew Huberman on Fish Oil
Why Are Seed Oils Bad?
While food manufacturers promote seed oils as healthy, there are several reasons why these highly refined oils can negatively impact health.
Imbalanced Omega-6 to Omega-3 Ratio
Many seed oils are extremely high in omega-6 linoleic acid and lack beneficial omega-3 fats.
This skews the ratio and promotes systemic inflammation, which drives chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and autoimmune disorders.
Prone to Oxidation
The delicate polyunsaturated fats in seed oils are unstable and readily oxidize when exposed to heat, light, or air.
Oxidative damage generates free radicals and compounds linked to chronic disease, inflammation, and accelerated aging.
The high heat, pressure, and chemical solvents used to extract oils from seeds generate free radicals, trans fats, and other undesirable compounds while depleting antioxidants and vitamins.
Seed oils have “natural” removed and often have synthetic antioxidants, emulsifiers, and thickeners added for stability and texture.
Switching from unstable, oxidized seed oils to more traditional fats like olive oil, butter, and lard from pasture-raised animals can restore balance and avoid the damaging effects of industrial oils.
What Is Linoleic Acid?
Linoleic acid is an omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid found in high amounts in various seed oils.
Omega-6 fatty acids are essential fats that must be obtained from the diet because the body cannot produce them.
Linoleic acid is the most abundant polyunsaturated fat in most Western diets today.
While omega-6s are essential in moderation, excessive intake can promote inflammation, especially when omega-3 intake is low.
Over the last century, linoleic acid consumption has markedly increased, largely due to the widespread use of seed oils like soybean, corn, cottonseed, and sunflower oil in processed foods.
Experts believe our hunter-gatherer ancestors consumed a ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 closer to 1:1 or 2:1.
Today, the typical Western diet contains a ratio around 10-20:1 in favor of inflammatory omega-6s.
Minimizing intake of oils high in linoleic acid can help restore a more physiologically ideal ratio to reduce systemic inflammation linked to chronic diseases and conditions.
Seed Oils List
Below is an overview of common seed oils with the linoleic acid content, omega-6 level, and heat stability.
Heat stability is important when it comes to cooking.
When oils are heated, oxidation occurs, altering their quality and chemical composition.
|Oil||Linoleic Acid %||Omega 6||Heat Stability|
|Safflower Oil||78%||Very High||Low|
|Grapeseed Oil||73%||Very High||Low|
|Wheat Germ Oil||55%||High||Low|
|Black Seed Oil||50%||High||Low|
|Oil||Linoleic Acid %||Omega 6||Heat Stability|
|Brazil Nut Oil||42%||Moderate||Low|
|Sesame Seed Oil||41%||Moderate||Low|
|Rice Bran Oil||39%||Moderate||Low|
|Oil||Linoleic Acid %||Omega 6||Heat Stability|
|Palm Kernel Oil||2.3%||Low||High|
Benefits Of Switching From Seed Oils
Replacing pro-inflammatory seed oils with more stable traditional fats can offer several benefits for your overall health and well-being.
Reducing intake of high omega-6 oils curbs chronic inflammation, the root cause of most diseases.
This may alleviate joint pain, improve skin conditions, and support overall health.
Increased Nutrient Absorption
Seed oils can impair absorption of antioxidants and vitamins like vitamin E.
Eliminating them enhances the utilization of beneficial nutrients in other foods.
Swapping seed oils for olive and avocado oil has been shown to support a better cholesterol profile with more HDL and less oxidized LDL particles.
Reduced Oxidative Stress
Minimizing consumption of easily oxidized seed oils decreases free radical damage linked to cancer, heart disease, and accelerated aging.
Potential Weight Loss
The high omega-6 content of seed oils may disrupt hunger signaling and encourage weight gain.
Replacing them can help regulate appetite and metabolism.
Foods With Seed Oils
Once you know which seed oils to avoid, it’s helpful to understand all the foods and products they can hide in.
Being an informed shopper and reader of labels is key to limiting intake.
Items like fries, fried chicken, chips, and other deep-fried foods at restaurants are most often cooked in cheap soybean, canola, cottonseed, or corn oil.
Baked Goods and Sweets
Packaged cookies, cakes, muffins, doughnuts, and candy contain soybean and canola oil for shelf stability and texture. Margarine made from seed oils is also common in frosting and baked goods.
Potato chips, cheese puffs, corn chips, crackers, microwave popcorn, granola bars, and similar convenience snack items rely on seed oils for crispness and to extend shelf life.
Salad Dressings and Mayonnaise
Soybean oil is commonly used in bottled dressings and condiments, including mayonnaise and creamy salad dressing.
Packaged and Frozen Meals
For convenience, pre-made frozen meals, pizza, soups, sauces, packaged rice, noodles, and steamer bags often use soybean, canola, or corn oil.
Checking labels and becoming aware of all the everyday products seed oils hide in is the first step toward avoiding them.
We recommend focusing on eating whole foods prepared at home using healthy oils like olive and avocado oil instead.
What are the main health concerns with seed oils?
The main concerns are high omega-6 content leading to imbalance and inflammation, oxidation creating free radicals and toxic compounds, and industrial processing generating undesirable compounds.
Which seed oil is the worst for your health?
Soybean oil is one of the worst, with very high omega-6s, heavy processing, and GMO sourcing. Cottonseed, grapeseed, sunflower, and corn oils are also very high in omega-6s.
What happens when you stop eating seed oils?
Reducing seed oil intake can lower inflammation, improve cholesterol, support nutrient absorption, reduce oxidative stress, regulate metabolism and hunger signals, and allow you to enjoy the natural flavors of food better.
Are all seed oils bad? What about cold pressed?
Cold-pressed, unrefined oils like flaxseed oil have some health benefits.
But, many seed oils high in omega-6 polyunsaturated fats pose problems for oxidation and inflammation.
What are the healthiest cooking oils?
The healthiest oils for cooking are avocado, olive, coconut, grass-fed butter or ghee, and animal fats like tallow or lard.
Oils high in saturated or monounsaturated fats have higher smoke points.
Are seed oils banned in some countries?
No countries have fully banned seed oils.
However, some have set limits on industrially produced trans fats, which would curb hydrogenated seed oil use.
What oils have no seed oil?
Options with no seed oils include olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, red palm oil, macadamia oil, algae oil, animal fats like lard/tallow/duck fat, and rendered fats like schmaltz and ghee.
How do you detox seed oils?
Ways to help detox from seed oils include:
- Stop buying and consuming products made with seed oils
- Focus your diet on whole, unprocessed foods
- Cook exclusively with stable, antioxidant oils like olive and avocado
- Supplement with omega-3s from fish oil or algae
- Consider intermittent fasting to promote metabolic cleansing
- Stay hydrated with lemon water to flush out toxins
- Use infrared saunas to sweat out stored seed oil residues
- Exercise and move your body frequently to boost circulation
With time, avoiding seed oils and emphasizing nutrient-dense whole foods will allow your body to clear out accumulated seed oil residues.