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Is avocado a seed oil? This is a question many people have right now, especially because there is so much pushback against the use of seed oils and vegetable oils. There’s increasing evidence that seed oils can affect your health.
Below we answer “is avocado a seed oil,” and provide a brief overview of what you should know about the possible dangers of consuming these oils.
What Are Seed Oils?
The consumption of seed and vegetable oils has increased dramatically in the past 100 years. In our culture, we want to rush everything, including our food. That’s why seed oils are so common—they’re inexpensive and easy to produce and add to foods.
Examples of seed oils include:
- Rice brand
Even if you’re cooking your foods with healthy fats like grass-fed butter, these seed oils are still sneakily in many packaged and processed foods, including those that are marketed as being “healthy.” For example, seed oils are commonly found in baked chips, granola bars, bread, and even dried fruits.
Seed oils were only recently introduced to our diets as humans. Before their introduction, the fat sources used for foods and cooking were butter and ghee, lard and suet from beef or mutton.
Unfortunately, in 1961, the American Heart Association recommended polyunsaturated fats to replace saturated fats. We started to see saturated fats being linked as a cause of heart disease. Because of this misinformation, there was a major push to replace natural fats with the seed oils we so commonly see today. In the early 1930s, coronary heart disease became America’s leading cause of death, even though it was a condition that was nearly unknown just 30 years before.
By 2010, around one in three deaths in the U.S. were from coronary heart disease.
Why Are Seed Oils Bad?
Oils that come from seeds and vegetables are refined. Then, the properties desirable from the original ingredient, such as the phytochemicals from plants and antioxidants, are lost. There are small amounts of trans fats that are formed during this process.
Some of the reasons seed oils are bad include:
- There is an imbalance in the fatty acid ratio. In our Western diets, we often consume foods that are very imbalanced in the content of essential fatty acids. Essential fatty acids are something we can’t produce naturally. We have to get them from the foods we eat. There are two types—omega-6 fatty acids and omega-3 fatty acids. When we consume omega-6 fatty acids leads to inflammation, while omega-3s reduce inflammation. A good balance between the two is ideal for keeping health and inflammation in check. Seed oils are higher in omega-6 fatty acids, contributing to an inflammatory environment in our bodies.
- Another problem with seed oils is that they’re unstable when exposed to heat, as well as light and chemicals. Seed oils become toxic when used in cooking because of the heat. They produce trans-fats and also lipid peroxide byproducts. Lipid peroxides can damage DNA, and trans-fats accumulation is linked to heart disease, rapid aging, and the development of chronic disease.
- Seed and vegetable oils are often used to save money, especially in restaurants. The repeated heating processes further deplete these oils of natural antioxidants but increases free radicals.
- Even when seed oils aren’t overly heated or processed, they’re high in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). When you consume high amounts, these damage your body because they stimulate your inflammatory processes, leading to disease states.
- Some opponents of seed oils feel an evolutionary mismatch should prevent us from consuming them. That means that these are industrial ingredients that, until the 1900s, humans didn’t consume. Currently, linoleic acid, one of the main fatty acids in industrial seed oils, makes up around 8% of our total calorie intake, which is much higher than was the case historically. Our bodies likely aren’t designed to consume such high amounts of linoleic acid.
- Seed oils come from genetically modified plants, which we don’t know much about the long-term effects of.
How Seed Oils Are Made
Part of understanding why you might want to avoid seed oils comes from knowing how they’re produced. The oils extracted from seeds are gathered and then heated to very high temperatures. This causes the unsaturated fatty acids to oxidize, leading to byproducts that can harm your health.
Then, the seeds are processed with a solvent like petroleum-based hexane to get the most oil from them.
The manufacturers then use chemicals to deodorize the oils because they have a bad smell when extracted. The final production step involves adding more chemicals to improve the color of the oils.
Is Avocado Oil a Seed Oil?
Avocadoes are often considered a superfood because they’re high in healthy fats, fiber, and vitamins. That leaves many people wondering, is avocado oil a seed oil?
The answer is no. Avocado oil is not a seed oil. Avocado oil is produced by pressing on the pulp surrounding the fruit’s pit. This area is full of healthy fats. Benefits of avocado oil include:
- Avocado oil is made primarily of oleic acid, a monosaturated omega-9 fatty acid with heart benefits.
- Avocado oil is low in cholesterol and can help increase HDL or the so-called good cholesterol.
- Avocado has lutein, which is a carotenoid that may benefit eye health.
- Oleic acid may help reduce the risk of certain cancers.
- Certain nutrients need fat to be better absorbed by the body, so using avocado oil can help with this.
There are two types of avocado oil—virgin and refined. Virgin avocado oil comes from pressing the fruit’s flesh and spinning the pulp to separate the oil. When avocado oil is made from the first pressing of avocados, it’s known as extra-virgin.
Refined avocado oil is made by filtering virgin olive oil to remove small pulp particles and impurities. This also removes the green color.
Avocado oil has a smoke point of around 480-520 degrees, so you can use it safely for high-heat cooking, such as frying and sautéing. Avocado oil is pretty shelf-stable, especially if it’s refined, but store it in a cold, dry place.
Other healthy fats you might consider cooking with include:
- Coconut oil
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Pastured lard
- Pastured tallow
- Duck fat
As a note, when you choose animal fats to cook with, make sure you’re choosing options from pasture-raised sources. Conventionally-raised animals are higher in omega-6s.
Final Thoughts—Is Avocado a Seed Oil?
If you’re trying to stop using seed oils or reduce your intake, you can safely use avocado oil. Avocado oil is not a seed oil; it can be a healthy fat to cook with and use in various applications and recipes.
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Gunnars, Kris. “Are Vegetable and Seed Oils Bad For Your Health?” Healthline, December 12, 2019. Accessed August 16, 2022.
Sisson, Mark. “The Definitive Guide to Oils.” Mark’s Daily Apple, September 9, 2020. Accessed August 16, 2022.
Alfaro, Danilo. “What is Avocado Oil?” The Spruce Eats, October 8, 2021. Accessed August 16, 2022.
U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Facts About Saturated Fats.” MedlinePlus, May 26, 2020. Accessed August 16, 2022.
U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Omega-6 Fatty Acids.” MedlinePlus, February 8, 2022. Accessed August 16, 2022.
McDonald, Edwin MD. “What foods cause or reduce inflammation.” University of Chicago Medicine, September 4, 2020. Accessed August 16, 2022.
U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Facts about trans fats.” MedlinePlus, May 26, 2020. Accessed August 16, 2022.
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “Dietary linoleic acid and the risk coronary heart disease.” November 5, 2014. Accessed August 16, 2022.
Parthasarathy, Sampath. “Linoleic Acid: A Nutritional Quandary.” Healthcare, June 2017. Accessed August 16, 2022.