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RDs Want To Debunk These 4 Myths About Seed Oils and Inflammation

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Photo: Getty Images/ alvarez

Whether from social media, magazines, or TV shows, you may have heard that seed oils are bad, bad, bad. (There’s always a food to demonize, it seems like.) Some people claim that there are harmful ties between seed oils and inflammation, gut health, general health, and so on.

But a lot of that information is misleading, according to nutrition experts. It’s either myths or half-truths with missing pieces. Plus, inflammation isn’t as bad as it’s often portrayed to be; in fact, exercise leads to short-term inflammation. Plus, we have to keep in mind how “inflammation” is a buzzword that’s often used to encourage anti-fat bias.


Experts In This Article

But back to seed oils! The beloved ingredient isn’t one you need to completely forgo. According to dietitians, there are a few more entires into the list of anti-inflammatory diet myths that need to be added when it comes to seed oils.

Myth 1: Seed oils are bad for your heart

When discussing seed oils and inflammation concerns, heart health concerns arise, too. According to the American Heart Association, there’s no proof inflammation is a direct cause of cardiovascular disease, but it is common among patients who have heart disease or a stroke. Does this mean seed oils are bad for your heart?

Actually, quite the opposite. “Seed oils like flaxseed, chia seed, and hemp seed oil are rich in omega-3 fatty acids,” says Catherine Gervacio, RD, registered dietitian and nutrition writer. “These are essential for our bodies and are important for brain function, heart health, and reducing inflammation.” Add pumpkin seed oil and sesame seed oil to the list as well.

The types of fat in seed oils help, too. “Seed oils are sources of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, [which] have been found to offer benefits for heart health, such as reducing LDL, ‘bad,’ cholesterol levels,” adds Danielle Smith, RDN, LDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist with Top Nutrition Coaching.

Myth 2: Since seed oils are high in omega-6, they’re universally pro-inflammatory

This statement is a simplification, according to Smith. While it’s true that omega-6 fatty acids are considered pro-inflammatory, some research findings indicate that increased consumption of omega-6 fats does not appear to correlate with heightened inflammatory responses in the body. “It’s more about the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in the diet and ensuring adequate intake of both,” she says. When you consumer higher ratios of the former than the latter is when inflammation can arise.

Let’s also not forget that omega-6 fatty acids are an essential nutrient to incorporate, especially given “our body needs them for proper function but can’t produce them on its own,” Smith continues.

It’s also important to note that the idea that one dietary change can keep inflammation away is a myth. Stress management, for example, is also important.

Myth 3: Seed oils are toxic

This myth leaves out a lot of context. “The concern arises when oils are used past their expiration date or if they’re improperly stored, leading to rancidity,” Gervacio says. “Seed oils that are properly processed and stored are generally safe for consumption.”

More specifically, Gervacio recommends using fresh, high-quality oils and storing them in a cool, dark place. Furthermore, Smith encourages opting for cold-pressed versions of oils so they retain more of their nutrients.

Along the lines of the latter, seed oils are not only safe, but can be health-promoting. “In fact, many seed oils are rich in essential nutrients such as vitamin E, which acts as a powerful antioxidant,” Smith adds. And antioxidants can reduce inflammation.

For example, black seed oil is high in antioxidants (and also fights inflammation, lowers cholesterol levels, contains fatty acids your body needs, and more).

Myth 4: Seed oils affect everyone the same way

To be clear, seed oils can have inflammatory effects, Gervacio notes, but only if consumed in excess. Smith agrees, adding it depends on a person’s general health, too. “The inflammatory potential of these oils may be more pronounced in individuals with certain health conditions,” she says, sharing examples such as metabolic syndrome and inflammatory diseases.

So yes, when it comes to seed oils and inflammation, we’ve got another case of “look at health advice with a critical eye.”

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