Okay, it’s not actually an oil. But it is made from “” (soybean oil, corn oil, canola oil) that are unhealthy, which we’ll talk about in a bit, as well as (often) added man-made trans fat, which helps it stay in a solid form. Synthetic trans fat (as opposed to the naturally occurring trans fats found in some meat and dairy products) is probably the worst fat you can eat. It raises your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and lowers your HDL (“good”) cholesterol, which increases your risk of heart disease.
Now, there are so-called trans-fat-free margarines available, but these are really no healthier than their trans fatty cousins. In these margarines, the trans fat is replaced with another chemically constructed fat that may increase blood sugar and insulin resistance. Not only that, but it still lowers HDL and increases LDL, so not only are you increasing your risk of heart disease but you’re also increasing your risk of diabetes and weight gain!1,2
And another little tidbit you may not be aware of: The labels “trans fat free” and “zero trans fat” are a bit misleading. Manufacturers can have 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving and still claim to have no trans fat.3 While this is a very small amount, it all adds up, especially since health experts agree there is no safe level of trans fats.
The bottom line is there is nothing nutritionally useful in margarine. It is a man-made, highly processed chemical spread that can lead to serious health issues.
Soybean oil is also known typically as vegetable oil. Yup. The same stuff that margarine is made from. Soybean oil is very high in linoleic acid, which is also known as omega-6 fatty acid. Now, omega-6 fatty acids are needed by your body. In fact, they are essential for proper brain function, regulated metabolism, bone health and more. However, we need a balance of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids for optimal health.
Today’s typical diet gives us a major imbalance in these essential fatty acids. We don’t get enough omega-3 (the kind found in fatty fish and fish oil) and we get way too much omega-6 (due to the vegetable oil and soybean oil that’s added to virtually every processed food). This imbalance can contribute to obesity as well as various other serious health issues.4
Soybean oil is also very unstable and goes rancid quickly. Rancid oils form free radicals that, as you may know, can lead to cancer, accelerated aging and other diseases.
When you heat soybean oil, it goes rancid even faster. It simply cannot withstand the heat used in your cooking (and many soybean oils may be rancid before you even begin cooking, due to heat and light exposure during storage and transport).
And if all that isn’t enough to convince you that soybean oil should be a no-no in your kitchen, consider the fact that almost all soybeans are now genetically modified. Genetically modified soy is linked to fertility problems, allergies, and more.5
Like soybean oil, canola oil is typically genetically modified. It has also been linked to vitamin E deficiency and heart problems.6,7 There is a great deal of controversy over canola oil because it was originally derived from rapeseed, which is very high in erucic acid, a compound linked to heart damage. Today’s canola oil contains much lower amounts of erucic acid, but it hasn’t been eliminated.
Note that canola oil was originally intended as an industrial lubricant. It is highly processed and contains trans fats, like margarine. It’s also easily damaged by heat… so definitely not a good choice for your stir-fry.
Corn oil is popular for cooking and is probably the most popular of oils for frying. But that doesn’t mean it is healthy. Like soybean oil, corn oil also has far more omega-6 fats than omega-3 fats, contributing to the imbalance that so many people face today.
And corn oil, like other “vegetable oils,” is not as stable as you’d like to think. It goes rancid fairly quickly on the shelf and even faster in the frying pan. While it may last longer than soy and canola oils, depending on how long it sat on the store shelf before it made its way to your kitchen, it may be rancid before you even buy it. Not to mention, most corn is genetically modified to produce a built-in pesticide that splits open insects’ stomachs when they eat it – which you then get to eat when the corn is harvested and processed. Yummy!
Surprise! You thought olive oil was healthy, didn’t you? Well actually… it IS. Very, BUT, it is not a good oil for cooking. It is unstable at high temperatures. This causes it to form those nasty free radicals we discussed earlier.
Olive oil actually has lots of wonderful health benefits. It is full of antioxidants and monounsaturated fats that have been shown to reduce belly fat8 and help your heart. So enjoy it drizzled over salads and vegetables or as a dip for your whole grain bread, but don’t cook with it if you want to keep all those great benefits intact.
Now that you’ve removed all the unhealthy oils from your kitchen, you’re probably wondering what you’re going to use to cook with. Don’t worry… tomorrow in Part 2, we’ll discuss which oils you should use for cooking, and why…