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Vegetable oil: Not as healthy as you might think it is

When it comes to vegetables, it’s easy to decide which ones are good for you, right? Unfortunately, this simplicity doesn’t carry over to vegetable oils.

Vegetable oils are edible oils that are extracted from plants. While we use vegetable oils in cooking and baking, most of our vegetable oil consumption comes in the form of the processed foods we eat, such as fast food, packaged foods and snacks, salad dressings and condiments. Vegetable oils are used as a preservative in foods to extend their shelf life.

What makes it confusing is that not all vegetable oils are created equal. How the vegetable oil is processed determines whether it causes an inflammatory or anti-inflammatory state in your body. The big question is: “How can you know if the oil you are using is healthy or not healthy for your body?”

Tip No. 1: Choose unrefined vegetable oils. Let’s look at the process of refining vegetable oils. The refining process generally uses a chemical solvent to extract the oil from the plant source. The process of purifying the oil, refining the oil and sometimes chemically altering the oil makes these types of oils unhealthy for the body. Some examples are soybean oil, corn oil, canola oil, hydrogenated oils and grapeseed oil.

Unrefined vegetable oils are healthier because they are created by crushing or pressing the plants or seeds without the use of harmful chemicals. These oils include olive oil, avocado oil, grapeseed oil and coconut oil. If you’re paying attention, you’ll see grapeseed oil on both lists. This is not a mistake. You can find unrefined versions of many different oils.

Tip No. 2: Be cautious about health claims.All vegetable oils are labeled and considered “heart healthy.” This is because these oils are polyunsaturated fats, which are considered healthier for your heart than saturated fats. So yes, corn oil or soybean oil is deemed healthier than a saturated fat such as coconut oil. But, is that really the case?

These claims look at the type of fat but not the plant’s origin, the processing or the volume of consumption. Don’t be fooled by these health claims – refined corn oil and refined soybean oil, which are largely used in the food industry, should be avoided in your diet.

Tip No. 3: Start reading ingredients lists.It’s just as important to look for vegetable oils as it is to look for refined sugar on ingredients lists. What oil is being used in your “healthier” bag of chips or crackers? You need to know.

Vegetable oils that inflame the human body and should be avoided include: soybean oil, corn oil, cottonseed/canola oil, sunflower oil, peanut oil, sesame oil and rice bran oil.

Don’t be fooled by advertisements saying corn-based oils are the heathiest vegetable oil to use. Instead, use these three tips to get started in choosing healthier vegetable oils. They are not all created equal.

Fran Sutherlin is a local registered dietitian, health coach, speaker and owner of Sustainable Nutrition, which has offices in Durango and Bayfield and offers virtual-coaching options. She can be reached at 444-2122 or fran@fransutherlin.com.