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5 Reasons to Quit Vegetable Oil

Just because vegetable oil looks like it should be good for you, there are a lot of hidden dangers inside. Don’t be fooled by fancy marketing and years of hype–get the scoop on why quitting vegetable oil could be a wise decision for your family’s health.

a jar of beef tallow in a jar on a table with other healthy oils.

I don’t really know if there’s a way to cut all vegetable oil out of our diets. If you eat out at all, there’s a very good chance you’re going to eat at least a little bit from time to time.

But because we all know how I believe in the power of the small change, this is one place you can start making your own shift: at home in your own kitchen.

For anyone who wants to live well and feel well, the decision to quit vegetable oil and move to less refined fats is a wise choice.

What is vegetable oil made out of?

Vegetable oil is not made from vegetables. Instead, a variety of seeds are used including soybean, corn, safflower, sunflower, peanut and rapeseed which is used to make canola oil.

What’s the difference between vegetable oil and canola oil?

Vegetable oil is a broad term used to describe a class of fats that have been processed and extracted from seeds. You can find vegetable oil in liquid form or as margarine, shortening and tub “butters” and marketed as health foods (which they are not). Canola oil is one type of vegetable oil made from the rapeseed and once extracted is used to make the same types of vegetable oil products.

5 Reasons to Quit Vegetable Oil

  1. History speaks for the impact of vegetable oil and poor diet on our health. Prior to 1920, coronary heart disease barely existed but by the 1950’s it was the leading cause of death in America. What changed? Between 1910 and 1970 the amount of animal fat eaten in this country dropped from 83 to 62 percent and butter consumption dropped from 18 pounds per person per year to just four while vegetable oils (including margarine and shortening) increased 400% and the consumption of sugar and processed foods increased 60%.
  2. Vegetable oils are chemically treated to get every last drop. When oils were first extracted centuries ago, stone presses were used to crush the seeds or fruit and remove the oil. Today, factory processing uses heat and pressure to pull the oils from seeds. Then to get the last 10% out, the seeds are washed in a chemical solvent called hexane. It looks much like a big washing machine but that’s not water inside. The hexane is usually boiled off after processing, but up to 100 ppm may still remain in the oil and you get to eat it.
  3. The heat and pressure of extraction destabilizes the oil making it rancid, and potentially toxic to the body. As vegetable oils are heated, it changes the chemical structure of the molecules. Trust me on this–it’s pretty scientific. But just know that chances are the oil you buy fresh off the shelf at the store is probably already rancid and then further heating it on your stove causes the release of aldehydes–compounds linked to higher rates of heart disease, cancer and dementia.
  4. Oh mercy it’s been hydrogenated. We know that word. We’ve seen it everywhere “No hydrogenated oils!” or if you read the label you’ll often see “partially hydrogenated” but we don’t really know that means in terms of our health. Hydrogenation is the process used to turn an oil that’s normally liquid at room temperature into a solid–like margarine, shortening and even some of those tub butters everyone thinks is so amazing for them.To hydrogenate an oil, manufacturers start with the cheapest they can get that have already been chemically treated and extracted then they add tiny particles of metal as a catalyst (usually nickel oxide) which is exposed to hydrogen gas in a high pressure reactor. Soap-like emulsifiers and starch are added for better consistency and it’s heated again to be steam cleaned then bleached, dyed and flavored so you can spread it on your toast. Yum.
  5. Saturated fat (fats solid at room temperature) fuel your body’s function. Good quality butter, lard, tallow, coconut oil, olive oil and avocado oil contain fatty acids your body needs for daily function. Your cell membranes are 50% fatty acids, bones need fatty acids for calcium to absorb properly, and they enhance the immune system just to name a few tiny benefits. There’s also plenty of research that oils like coconut lower bad cholesterol and raise good.

What oil should I fry in?

One of the biggest challenges when changing to a different oil for frying is cost. That’s why I choose (affiliate link) refined coconut oil for almost all of my frying now. Refined has no coconut flavor (pay attention to what you’re buying!) and it does a great job for simple shallow frying for things like crispy fried chicken tenders. Just keep an eye on your heat because it’s best around 400 degrees an no higher.

My second favorite for sautéing is (affiliate link) avocado oil. Much pricier than coconut oil, I use it sparingly.

I also love butter of course. Butter is my friend for many things but it will burn if you aren’t careful, so use it more when sweating onions for fried rice, or as a flavor booster with avocado oil (the avocado oil will slow down how quickly the butter will burn) when cooking simple chicken breasts.

(affiliate link) Ghee is also an option. You can make ghee yourself much more affordably than you can buy it. It’s just butter that’s been cooked down to remove the milk solids and makes it much less likely to burn. Ghee is also casein and lactose free, too.

Pin this handy cooking oils guide for later!

a simple infographic to guide your decision about what oils to cook with and why you should quit vegetable oil

Practical tips to quit vegetable oil

It has taken me the better part of 6 months to get rid of the vegetable oil in our house. I did it slowly and experimented and had great success. Here’s what I learned:

  • If you need to fry, start with refined coconut oil. I know it’s not the highest heat option, but it’s affordable and has no flavor whatsoever. If you goof and get unrefined, everything you eat is going to taste like you’ve been to the tropics so make sure you get refined. Look for organic and “expeller pressed” on the label as well.
  • Change your cooking habits. Deep fat frying hardly ever happens for us. I might fry chicken a couple of times a month and now instead of the chicken bobbing in oil I use just enough to bring the oil about halfway up the sides. One simple way to eat less vegetable oil is to simply not cook with methods that require it.
  • For higher heat (like oven roasting) go avocado. Avocado oil is more expensive than some other options, but when used sparingly it will last. I grab mine for anything going in the oven oven 400 degrees. Vegetables, roast chicken, even french fries get a little toss before they hit the heat. It won’t smoke as easily as other oils and has a neutral flavor.

Note: There are a LOT of recipes on Feast and Farm that instruct you to use vegetable oil. There’s no way I can go back and change them all and I’m sorry about that. I’m just glad we can have a chance to know better and do better when we can. #smallchanges y’all.

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Shannan Knutson

Tuesday 25th of August 2020

Hi - this is a helpful article. I note however, that you comment that ghee is "dairy free". The reading I did suggests that while ghee may be lactose free and lower in milk proteins than many other dairy products, it is milk fat and may contain trace amounts of milk proteins that are harmful for people with milk protein allergies.

Rachel Ballard

Wednesday 26th of August 2020

Well you are probably right about that Shannan. I wasn't writing this post from the angle of allergies. I would hope anyone with a dairy allergy would stay away from all dairy if they have a true issue with it. Ghee is casein free which is what I meant by "dairy free" but I'll update that. Ghee is usually fine for people with dairy sensitivities but I'd never recommend it for those with true allergies. --Rachel

Maggie

Friday 1st of November 2019

I use your yeast roll recipe multiple times a week and as a base for like half of my desserts! What would you recommend as a substitute in that?

Rachel Ballard

Friday 1st of November 2019

Gosh Maggie you're eating a lot of bread! Hahaha! I'd use avocado oil to replace the vegetable--it's neutrally flavored. --Rachel

Carol Clemmons

Tuesday 1st of October 2019

Hi Rachel, awesome information, thank you!! I am definitely going to ditch the vegetable oil. I am convinced that the food we eat will either nourish us or make us sick. Thanks again

Aunt Sonnie

Tuesday 1st of October 2019

What about extra virgin olive oil? (in dark bottle only)

Rachel Ballard

Tuesday 1st of October 2019

Olive oil is great for salads, dips, and flavoring. I don't bake with olive oil because it just has more flavor than I want in the recipe (there are some great olive oil cake recipes out there in the internet world though). You also have to research because most of the olive oils sold here in America are blends of junk oils, rancid or just plain old fake. I use California Olive Ranch because it's the real deal. --Rachel

Rosanna

Tuesday 1st of October 2019

What about for baking cakes, muffins, cookies and such, breads?

Rachel Ballard

Tuesday 1st of October 2019

Rosanna, I'd use melted organic expeller pressed refined coconut oil (no coconut flavor, and there's a link to a good brand from Amazon in the post) in place of oil or you can use it at room temperature to "cream" in to recipes. I also love butter in a lot of baked goods but you will get a slightly different texture and rise when baking with butter than with vegetable oil. It's nothing terrible--cookies spread a bit more, final texture of cakes is slightly less springy. It's a small trade off for the unhealthy nature of the vegetable oil though. Avocado oil is also a nice choice, but more expensive. If you have the budget for it, it's GREAT in baked goods. --Rachel