Vegetable oil is not as healthy as the ads claim. Learn the surprising truth behind the chemical process used to make it, and what is a better choice.
You might be surprised to learn that our family doesn’t cook with vegetable oils of any kind.
“What?” you exclaim. “You don’t use vegetable oil? Seriously? You must be using canola oil then. That’s healthy, right?” Nope, I don’t use vegetable oil, canola oil, or soybean oil. In fact the only cooking oils I use are olive oil and coconut oil.
To learn why vegetable oil is unhealthy, we need to talk about how it’s made–it’s a 6-step process.
First, you need to harvest the extract the oil from the plant seed. For example, canola oil is made from a hybrid version of rapeseed–usually genetically engineered to resist the huge amounts of pesticides applied to them.
The seeds are husked and cleaned. Then they are crushed, heated to high temperatures (up to 180F) and pressed with heat and friction to extract the oil from the seed pulp.
3. Hexane solvent bath
Yep, you read that right. The seed pulp and the oil are put in a hexane solvent bath to extract more oil. Hexane is produced by refining crude petroleum oil. According to the EPA, “Acute (short-term) inhalation exposure of humans to high levels of hexane causes mild central nervous system effects, including dizziness, giddiness, slight nausea, and headache. Chronic (long-term) exposure to hexane in air is associated with polyneuropathy in humans, with numbness in the extremities, muscular weakness, blurred vision, headache, and fatigue.”
Next, the oil is separated from the seed residue in a centrifuge and phosphate is added. The residue that is collected is often used as animal feed. Ack.
5. Neutralization and bleaching
Now that the oil has been super-heated and treated with solvents, it’s called “crude oil.” It has a terrible smell and an awful color. This, of course, means even more processing. Any impurities in the oil will cause it to oxidize (spoil), so they are neutralized and drawn off with caustic soda (sodium hydroxide) or soda ash (sodium carbonate). Then the heated oil is treated with bleaching agents to remove any unwanted color.
This is the last step before bottling. Pressurized steam at temperatures of 500 degrees or more removes volatile compounds that cause the final product to taste or smell bad.
Now it’s ready to eat! Or you can add just two ingredients and make biodiesel. Anybody grossed out yet?
Vegetable Oil Alternative
Good question. Let’s compare how vegetable oil is made to how my favorite coconut oil is made–Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil from Healthy Traditions. Then you can decide which you’d rather eat!
Organic coconuts are used fresh (within 24-48 hours of harvest) from small family farms on Mt. Banahaw and other rural places in Quezon Province, the coconut capital of the Philippines.
The fresh coconut meat is shredded and then the water from inside the coconuts to is added to make coconut milk (wet-milled). The coconut milk is then allowed to sit for about half a day, while the oil naturally separates from the heavier water.
The oil is then heated for a short time and filtered from the curds (coconut solids). No chemicals or high-heat (e.g. steam deodorization) treatment is used.
Want to know more? The good folks at Healthy Traditions have lots of resources for you.