Are Seed Oils Really Dangerous?

Seeing how people were happier and healthier after shifting movement patterns to align with their natural structures, gave him the deepest sense of reward he’s felt professionally. Having built impactful and successful businesses in consumer health as well as clinical laboratory, his passion and mission have led him to founding Way, where he’s assembled the pre-eminent group of Intuitive Eating Dietitians and Behavior Scientists. Check out his work and learn more here.

Are Seed Oils Really Dangerous?

The internet is exploding with heated debate around Seed Oils and everyone is asking the question – are Seed Oils really dangerous? Misinformation is everywhere on social media, wellness influencers all seem to have an opinion that Seed Oils are the source of obesity and preventable chronic conditions, and the nutrition professionals are clear and fairly unanimous that Seed Oils are safe and not harmful. 

Let’s explore together what all the fuss is about.

Person holding a bottle of seed oil in a grocery store aisle, considering whether to buy it.

The Basics on Seed Oils

First, it’s the Omega-6 fatty acids that are accused, which are essential fatty acids (because the body does not produce them on their own), that can cause higher levels of inflammation and blood pressure, and tend to be higher in Omega-6 fatty acids. Consuming Omega-3 and Omega-6 together can provide the health benefits of reduce inflammation and decrease the risk of disease (writ large). 

It’s clear that Seed Oils tend to be higher in Omega-6 fatty acids than other foods are. Remember, it’s the balance of these ESSENTIAL fatty acids that cause the health benefit or the health risk.

Eating the right balance of omega-3s and omega-6s can reduce inflammation and generally reduce the risk of a whole bunch of diseases (like heart disease). Having a higher balance (aka an “imbalance”) of Omega-6 fatty acids can be linked to increased inflammation. That’s about as much conclusion that the science and evidence can provide. How we get to the right balance of Omega-3s and Omega-6s is the key, and there’s a big uproar on social media recently about how Seed Oils are the devil and the “cause” for so many of our health problems – let’s settle down a bit people.

How Intuitive Eating and Listening to Your Body Can Help Determine If Seed Oils are Safe or Not

Let’s remember that ALL “essential” fatty acids are just that – ESSENTIAL. Our bodies don’t produce them naturally and they’re linked to many health benefits, when consumed in the right proportions. How to get to the “right balance” is something that I believe the science has not individualized successfully – you may and likely do have a different balance ratio of omega-6s and omega-3s than your friends, family, or coworkers. Like many things in diet culture, trying to track and count these micronutrients may do more harm to your mental health than good. 

And, I believe listening to your body is the best way to find the right balance, since your body is the most intelligent and efficient system humans have ever studied. You may be eating intuitively and still come to the conclusion through experimentation that Seed Oils are totally fine, or you may find that you have digestion issues. It could show up as digestion, as a shift in emotions or mental clarity, too.

An Example of When Seed Oils are Blamed as the Culprit

Recently, Sweetgreen just announced that it was removing Seed Oils from its cooking of meat. I personally met a trainer at SolidCore who had found gut issues and through listening to her body, linked it to eating the meat at Sweetgreen, when they were using Seed Oils. 

When she ordered a salad, she’d have digestion issues for a day or two. Then, she experimented with bringing her own meat and getting a Sweetgreen salad without their meat. She noticed an immediate difference and never had an issue.

There are a few key points about this experience:

  1. She listened to her body as a guide – this time primarily through her digestion. This cannot be overstated in its importance – her body was her guide through the whole experience. Listening to your hunger cues and other body signals is a core part of Intuitive Eating, I believe it’s at least half of the journey, truly.
  2. This person is a professional and knows how to experiment properly by eliminating a suspected food – this is a key technique we focus on in Way Sessions as part and parcel with mindful eating, because experimentation combined with listening to your body is literally the basis for human evolution with eating, and pretty much, everything.
  3. Her experience is STILL INCONCLUSIVE, because we don’t know her other sources of Omega-6 fatty acid intake. Was she eating chips that had seed oils and thus higher omega-6 levels? Did she have a lower intake of omega-3s? Is there some other reason her body had a natural absorption issue with omega-3s and not omega-6s? It’s nearly impossible and very difficult to answer these questions. However, her body told her, and as she listened and adjusted, she’s living a much more enjoyable experience of life and her relationship with food and her body.

Summary:

Clearly, the best thing you can do is to listen to your body, and approach Seed Oils with an open mind. 

They can provide essential omega-6 fatty acids and be a crucial part of your long-term health and enjoyment in life. 

Maybe Seed Oils are the straw that breaks the Camel’s back for you, because they put your Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio out of balance. That doesn’t mean the Seed Oil is the cause, it just means you have to look holistically at what you eat.

One of the elements we explore with the Way app is how to explore your feelings around food and begin to see what food(s) works best for you, and what causes you less enjoyment or maybe doesn’t align with your values. Only you can decide what works for you. 

And remember – there’s no morality in food. No food is inherently “good” or “bad”, so don’t let all of the noise about Seed Oils or anything else make you feel otherwise.