The bottles of yellow oil on the supermarket shelves are labeled heart-healthy, but they are in actuality damaging for our health (and the heart). These are seed oils—unstable fats extruded from seeds that are not meant for human consumption. They are deodorized and colorized to make them look and taste appealing, but they are rancid and difficult to digest.
These oils especially harm the younger generation since they don’t offer the building blocks that come from animal fats, including cholesterol and arachidonic acid. Seed oils also lead to a host of health conditions from obesity, to cancer, to diabetes, to premature aging. Learn how to spot the seed oils and swap them out of the diet on today’s episode with Sally Fallon Morell, president of the Weston A. Price Foundation.
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They’re found in packaged processed foods like chips and protein bars. They’re in salad dressings and baked goods. Even products labeled healthy and natural contain them. We’re talking about seed oils. They’re unstable fats extruded from seeds that are not meant for human consumption. They’re linked to a slew of chronic health conditions. In this episode, we discuss how to avoid them and what to use instead.
This is episode 406. Our guest is an advocate for real food, regenerative farming, and health freedom. She’s a prolific author and the Head of the Weston A. Price Foundation. Sally Fallon Morell focuses on the problem with seed oils. She tells us how to spot them in our food, how they’re making us sick, and how to swap them out.
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Welcome to Wise Traditions, Sally.
It’s great to be back.
I want to talk with you about seed oils. They seem to be everywhere. They’re bad for our health.
In fact, the one thing that’s different about modern diets and traditional diets is these industrial fats and oils. We did not even have them until the early 1900s. They are a disaster for our health. People say, “Where should I start? How do I change my diet?” I always say, “Get your fats right first.” That means get all these industrial fats and oils out of your kitchen and use the traditional fats. We’re going to start with, what are these?
That’s what I was going to ask you.
These are oils that come from hard seeds. In the past, we couldn’t get oils out of these seeds. We could get oil out of oily seeds like sesame or flax seeds that are not hard. Traditionally, they were removed with a stone press, but mostly, we ate animal fats or fruit oils. Olives and palm fruits are fruit oils. They’re oily fruits, and it’s easy to get the oils out of them.
In the late 1800s, they had this waste product. It was cottonseeds. They were growing cotton and the seeds were removed. They had piles of cottonseeds. They invented the stainless steel roller press. They could put the cottonseed through this roller press, and that got the oil out. This was the first vegetable oil. Only a madman would think you could eat this oil because it smelled to high heaven and it was black and gunky. It looked like car oil, tar, or something.
The experts in food technology over the years figured out how to refine this oil. It’s the same process they used for petroleum products. They use the same equipment. The oil is heated five times to very high temperatures during this process and chemicals are added. It’s bleached to get rid of the dark color, and then strong antioxidants are added.
The thing with these liquid vegetable oils is that they break down easily whereas saturated fats don’t break down. They’re very stable. You can eat them without problems. The vegetable oils break down, so they have to use these antioxidants and things. After all of this processing, they tell us to cook with these oils or fry with them. These vegetable oils come not so much from cottonseed, but from soy, corn, canola, and these kinds of seeds.
I was going to say I never see cottonseed oil on supermarket shelves.
It might be there because if they say vegetable oil, it could be cottonseed oil.
That’s what I was trying to get at. It is mislabeled and it says vegetable oil, so you can’t know.
They shouldn’t even call it vegetable oil. It doesn’t come out of vegetables. It comes out of seeds. The accurate term is industrial seed oils. Crisco was the first commercial product made from cottonseeds. It stands for crystallized cottonseed oil.
In addition to all that processing, they then do something called partial hydrogenation, which rearranges the structure of the liquid oil and makes it hard at room temperature. Partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil was originally used to make candles. With the invention of electricity, people didn’t buy candles anymore. The inventors of this process, Procter & Gamble, were originally candle makers. They thought, “What are we going to do with all this stuff? Let’s feed it to people.” No one knows whether it would be good for people or harmful for people.
People have no idea. They’re very unaware of the harm it causes. It’s insidious. Wouldn’t you agree?
It’s insidious because the changes take place over a long time. Especially with the next generation, they are not carrying the components and the vitamins that we need in our diet to have healthy babies. One of the first consequences is that children need braces. In the past, we used lard, butter, meat fat, and so forth. These had the fat-soluble vitamins that we need to have nice, wide palates in our children. The growth of the orthodontics industry is one sign of the terrible effects of these oils.
With the seed oils, not only do they not contain the vitamins that kids need, but they contain harmful ingredients.
Number one, they cause cancer. The fragile oils that are highly processed contain breakdown products called aldehydes. The one that you may know of as formaldehyde is very toxic. These aldehydes are toxic. They get in the body, and over time, they poison you.
Cancer is so huge. It is especially big among children, it seems like, and in developed countries where these seed oils are used.
The oils are everywhere. They’re in all parts of the globe. I remember seeing an article in the Washington Post years ago about how China wanted to shut down outdoor food markets. They said, “We want to have modern supermarkets.” They showed this picture of somebody with a shopping cart, and in the back of her were all the vegetable oils. At the outdoor markets, they were getting lard, coconut oil, and fats like that. Duck fat was another nutritious fat. They wanted to push people to buy in the supermarket so they would buy the vegetable oils.
That’s because they make a pretty penny off of that.
They’re extremely profitable. Any plant food is much more profitable than animal food. China has the same health problems that we do. It doesn’t show up immediately. You don’t drop dead if you eat some french fries, but over time, it’s insidious, the effects on the cell membranes, cells, hormone production, and enzyme receptors. All of these things get messed up with industrial fats and oils.
The first disease you mentioned was cancer. What are some of the other effects of the issues you were describing?
Less robust children, braces, and then over a couple of generations, you get infertility or difficulty in conceiving. Diabetes is a side effect of trans fats. I will say this. Since we know that trans fats are bad, they have been more or less taken out of the food supply. They’ve been replaced with liquid oils, and the liquid oils are more dangerous in a way.
There’s also heart disease. Heart disease has climbed as vegetable oil use has climbed. The marketing of the vegetables was clever. They said that vegetable oils are going to prevent heart disease because they don’t contain any cholesterol or saturated fat. That’s when we got this demonization of cholesterol and saturated fat, which are essential for life, good health, and having healthy babies. We have demonized the things that we need in our food.
Heart disease has climbed as vegetable oil use has climbed.
The suffering from the use of seed oils is horrendous. Little by little, people are waking up. Individuals are finding out and going back to animal fats and olive oil for their salad dressing, but avoiding these industrial fats and oils. The agencies, dieticians, heart association, and the government are still sticking to their story that we shouldn’t eat animal fats and we should eat these polyunsaturated oils.
Do you think these seed oils also contribute to obesity?
Absolutely. We know that for both trans fats and vegetable oils. I’m not sure what the mechanism is, but one of the things that happen when you eat industrial seed oils is it interferes with thyroid function. Your metabolism is not as robust. Your fire isn’t burning as well, so you’ll gain weight more easily.
Children don’t seem as energetic to me anymore.
They don’t have the energy. They become obese. It’s hard for them to concentrate. Their brains don’t work as well. We need animal fats for our brains.
I’m still stuck on the obesity thing. I read something about the FDA possibly approving gastric bypass surgery for children who are obese instead of looking at the solution or the reason behind why these kids might be getting heavier in the first place.
When you look at old black-and-white pictures of people in America, we ate more calories in those days. The typical diet was 3,000 calories a day. We ate potatoes, bread, and butter, but you don’t see obesity in the old photos. You see slender people. We had sugar, too. People ate a lot of sugar. I’m not saying sugar’s good, but it’s not the worst thing in the diet. The worst thing is these seed oils.
I’m letting that sink in.
The other thing that we’ve found, which is interesting, is a lot of people are addicted to sugar and want to get off their addiction. It’s very hard. In fact, I’ve had addicts tell me the hardest addiction to shake is sugar. It’s harder than alcohol, tobacco, or drugs. We have had people tell us that when they get back to the original fats and eat butter, lard, and so forth, and get off these industrial seed oils, the craving for sugar naturally diminishes. It even goes away completely.
During the low-fat movement of the ‘70s, which somehow continued, they took out the fat in a lot of products and replaced it with sugar.
Also low-fat foods. That’s what they did. The thing about these industrial fats and oils is you don’t see them. It’s not like you see your butter on your toast. They’re part of the food.
The thing about these industrial fats and oils is you don’t see them. They’re part of the food.
It’s included in the ingredients. You have no idea because you can’t see it.
You think you’re not eating fat, but you are eating fat. You are eating the wrong kinds of fats.
You mentioned cancer, obesity, and infertility.
Premature aging is one. This was never published, but I read a book about fats. They said the plastic surgeons in Los Angeles did a survey of their patients to see what the correlation with wrinkles was. Women who had a lot of wrinkles, when they were asked about their diet, were deliberately eating a lot of polyunsaturated oils.
Coming up, Sally spells out which oils exactly we should avoid and which fats we should use instead. She also explains what the food industry has done to replace trans fats, and it’s not a pretty alternative.
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Which ones are they? Can you name names? Can you tell us which ones are polyunsaturated oils?
It would be soybean oil, corn oil, canola oil, cottonseed oil, and safflower oil. That was also pushed back in the ‘60s and ‘70s.
I see sunflower and safflower oils in organic, ostensibly healthy products, but are they still to be avoided?
It’s certainly minimized.
You say that trans fats have been taken out of a lot of the food supply. Can you tell us a little bit more about how that happened and why?
There was a big scandal about trans fats. The government finally had to admit that they were dangerous at any level. What did the industry do? They said, “We’re going to take them out of the food,” and they have. We’ve tested a lot of foods and they’re not there anymore. They use something called interesterification.
I’ve never heard of that.
They take vegetable oils. Instead of partially hydrogenating them, they fully hydrogenate them, which means they make saturated fats out of them. They take about 10% of these artificially saturated fats and blend them with vegetable oil so that they harden at room temperature. The problem with interesterification is tons of chemicals are used and there are some problems. There was a correlation with diabetes. They did get the trans fats out. The thing is what we need is something much more drastic, and that is to refuse to eat foods with industrial seed oils in them.
Refuse to eat foods with industrial seed oils in them.
With many food companies and even fast food, why do they use seed oils so much?
The thing is that animal fats are much more expensive. That’s why they don’t want to use them. Up until 1984, McDonald’s french fries were done in deodorized lamb tallow. They weren’t bad for you. I’m not saying they were good for you, but they certainly weren’t bad for you. On the premise that these fats contained cholesterol and were saturated fats, they removed them and started using trans fats. They use vegetable oil. They use canola oil. You’re eating cancer sticks when you eat these french fries.
The one thing that comes to my mind is that there is something of an epidemic. It’s one of depression and anxiety. It’s a low mood among the whole populace. It may be that these seed oils have something to do with that.
In fact, one of the things that you get uniquely in animal fats is a type of fat called arachidonic acid. Out of arachidonic acid, we make endocannabinoids. We make our own natural marijuana in our bodies. We have receptors for this marijuana and it’s naturally cleared. We don’t get addicted to it or anything. The natural state of the body, if you’re eating lots of animal fats, it’s to be naturally high all the time. You feel good. You feel happy. You feel mellow, but you’re motivated.
People who are not eating animal fats feel lousy. They don’t feel normal. We have to have a lot of sympathy for people who get addicted to drugs. They’re trying to create a feeling of normalcy and happiness. That is our birthright if we would be eating the right fats. I agree. This depression and anxiety and the use of antidepressants and drugs to boost our moods even temporarily, I never want to say 100%, but is quite largely based on the switch from animal fats to vegetable oils. It’s tragic.
I feel especially for the children. We see that it’s normal for them to be in a sour mood, unhappy, uncreative, or unmotivated. It’s common, but it’s not normal. It’s not their birthright.
It is not normal. Healthy children are rambunctious. They’re energetic. They get into trouble sometimes. That’s normal with children. They also can calm down. They can concentrate. They can behave themselves. They can respond to discipline. That’s normal brain function. We have kids who are either depressed or they’re off the wall and don’t even respond to any discipline. They can’t sit still for a minute. These are poisoned brains. It’s not just the vegetable oils, but it’s certainly a large part of it. The other big factor is MSG in the food, which is added to processed foods to make them taste right.
We’re going to do what we can to get the word out. Let’s talk about the good fats that we should be taking in to replace these seed oils.
Number one, my favorite fat is butter. Butter is the healthiest fat on the planet. It is, after all, the fat in nature for the growth and development of all mammals. Human beings are mammals. Children need whole milk. They need lots of butter, cream, and full-fat cheese all throughout the growth period, and that’s eighteen years.
This idea that we should give skim milk to children is horrendous. It’s genocide. If fat is this good for children, there can’t be anything wrong with it. Adults should be eating also. There are many wonderful components in butter, cream, whole milk, and egg yolks. People think they should eat the whites of the egg, but the yolks are the healthy part.
That’s the part that tastes better, too.
Egg yolks contain this arachidonic acid I was talking about. They contain cholesterol. They’re the highest cholesterol food. It is very important for babies to have lots of cholesterol because babies can’t make cholesterol. Mother’s milk is rich in cholesterol because babies need this cholesterol for the growth of their brain, development, and everything. Lard and bacon are my preferred fats for cooking. I use a lot of these fats. We know that lard is a great source of vitamin D.
Vitamin D is great for your mood.
Vitamin D is a mood booster. Duck fat and goose fat are used in Europe a lot and in China. These are wonderful sources of vitamin K2, which we know is extremely important for building healthy bones and also preventing heart disease. Some of the plant oils would be coconut oil, palm oil, and olive oil. You can use a little sesame oil. We also recommend cod liver oil in very small amounts for A&D.
You wouldn’t cook with cod liver oil.
It would change the taste.
To wrap this up, where are these industrial fats and seed oils found?
They’re everywhere. They’re in cooking oils and margarine, but also spreads. These are called heart-healthy spreads. They’re not healthy for your heart and they’re made with these awful oils, shortening, and artificial whipped cream. They’re in Cool Whip, the artificial whipped cream, non-dairy creamers, and snack foods such as chips, pretzels, and cookies. They’re in cake frosting and fried foods.
Think about chicken nuggets. You’re getting 2 or 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil with every serving of chicken nuggets. You wouldn’t be able to eat that oil by itself. It would make you nauseous or something. They’re in commercial mayonnaise dips and commercial salad dressings. This is why we say, “Make your own salad dressing with olive oil so you know what’s in it.” They’re in commercial nut butter, spreads, all fast food including pizza, and most restaurant food. If you want to get your fats right, you have to say, “No more processed food. I’m going to eat real food.”
Make your own salad dressing with olive oil, so you know what’s in it.
In other words, avoid the center aisles in the grocery store. What you’re describing sounds like food that has a very long shelf life. I always say if it has a long shelf life, it may shorten your life. Speaking of restaurants, let me hasten to say that we have a 12-Spoon Rating System. If people are looking for restaurants, they can find some that are using the healthy fats that we recommend. They can go to 12Spoons.com.
We’re hoping that our 12 Spoons Restaurant Rating project will encourage more restaurants to use healthy fats and oils.
It tastes so good, but it is more expensive. Maybe that’s why they don’t do it.
When you are looking at your food budget, you need to add to that your medical budget. Back in the 1900s, we had a higher food budget. It was something like 18% of people’s incomes, but the medical budget was 3%. That’s been reversed. 6% or 7% we spend on food. Our food is extremely cheap in the United States, but we’re spending 10% to 12% on medical. It’s a false economy to eat cheap food because it’s going to make you sick. It is not just the medical costs, but the reduced income, lost days at work, or reduced drive and willpower for work. That’s all affected by how we eat.
It’s very costly to your quality of life.
Also, to your happiness.
This has been a great conversation. I’m so thankful. Is there anything else you want to add?
We have a nice little flyer, Industrial Fats and Oils. You can order that from the foundation. It’s also in a PDF format on our website. You can help become a teacher, like we are teachers, and give these little flyers to people.
That’s great. They’re only $0.25 or less if they buy them in bulk.
It is $0.15.
We’ve made it to the end of the show. It’s time for the final question. If you could invite the readers to do one thing to improve their health, what would you recommend that they do?
I recommend what I said at the beginning. Get your fats right. That’s number one. If you don’t do anything else, get those fats right. Get back to traditional, natural fats and stop eating industrial fats and oils.
Thank you so much. That is advice well worth repeating. I appreciate you.
Our guest was none other than Sally Fallon Morell. Check out her website for her blog, NourishingTraditions.com. You can find me at HolisticHilda.com. For a review from Apple Podcasts, this is what Maureenveterinarian has to say, “I love this podcast. The host is respectful and helpful in leading with relevant questions. The guests are incredibly informative and interesting. I always walk away with tangible tools to help in so many areas of life.” Maureen, thank you so much for your lovely review.
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About Sally Fallon Morell
Sally Fallon Morell, MA, President, is best known as the author of the best-selling cookbook, Nourishing Traditions®: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats. This well-researched, thought-provoking guide to traditional foods contains a startling message: animal fats and cholesterol are not villains but vital factors in the diet, necessary for normal growth, proper function of the brain and nervous system, protection from disease and optimum energy levels.🖨️ Print post
Jeff Nobbs says
A molecule called HNE (4-Hydroxynonenal) is one possible mechanism linking seed oils to obesity. HNE is a breakdown product of omega-6 fats, which come primarily from seed oils in our diets. Here’s the evidence linking seed oil-derived HNE to weight gain: https://twitter.com/jeffnobbs/status/1623010399695290368
What IS this cultured oil and how is it made? How is this “cultured” oil natural? What are the advantages of this oil over butter, natural lard or tallow, or avocado oils?
Thank you for speaking on this topic. It’s very interesting , and I’d sincerely like to understand the mechanisms at work in the why and how they’re harmful to our health (or why sugar cravings disappear when they’re removed, for example). I was hoping that Sally would cite scientific studies to back her claims. It’s not that I’m doubtful about what she has shared but that I would like a basis for this information in order to decide what’s best for me and my family and to confidently share it with everyone I know. I feel that the information is anecdotal unless we can review studies.
Thank you for taking my feedback and considering updating this page with study links.