For those trying to eat healthier, especially when it comes to heart health, replacing things like butter and margarine with vegetable oil is usually one of the first steps recommended by a doctor. However, it’s important to take a closer look at which type of oil you choose to stock up on.
The term “vegetable oil” can mean a lot of different things, but typically refers to things like canola and olive oil found in grocery stores. Other common options include coconut, soybean, peanut, sunflower, and sesame oil. Each of these contain less saturated fat than butter, margarine, lard, and shortening, which earns them the label of “heart-healthy” substitutes for cooking. According to Healthline, though, it’s also important to note the amount of omega-6 present in some of those popular vegetable oils.
Omega-6 and omega-3 are both essential fatty acids in a healthy diet because our bodies can't produce them on our own. Although previous generations maintained a 1:1 balance of the two omegas, a 2016 study published in Nutrition journal claims that it might now be as high as a 20:1 ratio with omega-6 overpowering omega-3. This can lead to chronic inflammation, which can cause troubling health problems.
A study published in 2018 claimed high levels of omega-6, “especially when consumed in the form of industrial seed oils commonly referred to as ‘vegetable oils’,” promote oxidative stress, chronic low-grade inflammation, and “is likely a major dietary culprit” for coronary heart disease. More research is needed to confirm just how much omega-6 affects our long term health, but it might be a good idea to avoid it more often than not in the meantime. Canola, soybean, sunflower, peanut, sesame, corn, cottonseed, and rice bran oils are all high in omega-6, reports Healthline.
But this doesn’t mean you have to stop using oil altogether — heart-healthy olive oil is low in omega-6 and boasts plenty of other benefits, too. MedicalNewsToday gathered several studies that showed how consuming olive oil helps ease issues like hypertension, high cholesterol, stroke, and even depression. Plus, it tastes delicious!
Of course, you should also talk with your doctor before making any major changes to your diet. Just keep in mind that it’s best to enjoy everything, even healthy foods, in moderation!