We’ve always been taught that animal oils are harmful to your health and that traditional animal oils like butter and lard caused high cholesterol leading to heart disease and death. Nutrition experts and the medical community advised us to avoid saturated fat (animal fat) and eat more plant-based oils.
But this shift to plant-based oils is a recent event. For millions of years, our ancestors relied on animal oils until the 19th century, when technological advancements made it possible for vegetable oils to be extracted from plants. The introduction of hydrogenation of liquid fats in 1901 allowed for solid vegetable fats like margarine.
Procter & Gamble took advantage of this development to convert cotton seeds, a toxic waste product, into cottonseed oil, which heralded Crisco’s birth. They then aggressively marketed it, convincing the American public to swap out animal oils like butter for the newly created cottonseed oil.
The packaging claimed that the oil was more versatile; it could be used for baking, frying, and cooking and that it was healthier than animal fats and much easier to digest. Their marketing worked, and vegetable oils became part of the standard American diet.
The consumption of seed oils over the past century has been dramatic. According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, soybean oil consumption increased 1000-fold between 1909 and 1999. By 2010, the amount of vegetable oils in the American diet was 50 grams per day.
The most common vegetable oils available in the market include:
Vegetable oils were also given a massive push by advisory groups such as the American Heart Association, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Education Cholesterol Program. This significant shift from animal fats by the scientific community was inspired by the fraudulent research by a scientist called Ancel Keys. He made unsubstantiated claims and manipulated data to show that saturated fat (animal fat) was the sole cause of heart disease. His research was widely accepted and formed the basis of the current nutrition advice regarding saturated fats.
However, recent studies have shown that animal oils aren’t associated with cardiovascular disease, cardiovascular disease mortality, or myocardial infarction. This study found that animal oils have a positive association with stroke and lower total mortality.
Adding plant-based oils to the carnivore diet, which already restricts plant-based foods, is counter-intuitive. The carnivore diet benefits are enormous and include reduced inflammation, improved digestion, better heart health, weight loss, and improved mental health.
By including vegetable oils in your diet, you reduce the diet’s effectiveness and put yourself at risk for chronic diseases. Here are other reasons why you shouldn’t use vegetable oils on the carnivore diet or any diet for that matter.
1. Fatty Acid Instability
All fats contain a blend of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAS), saturated fatty acids (SFA), and monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA). What delineates these three types of fatty acids is how many double bonds each has. Saturated fats have none, monounsaturated have one, and polyunsaturated have multiple double bonds. Vegetable oils contain polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats; that’s why they’re liquid at room temperature and also why they’re highly unstable.
The double bonds readily react with oxygen, especially when heated, undergoing the oxidation process. When oxidized, vegetable oils produce free radicals, which are unpaired electrons looking to find a match. In the process, they attack and restructure cell membranes, red blood cells, and even damage RNA and DNA strands leading to cellular mutations in the body tissues. Free radicals play a significant role in nearly every known disease such as cancer, diabetes, dementia, asthma, inflammatory joint disease, degenerative eye disease, and atherosclerosis. Free radicals also cause wrinkles and premature aging.
Cooking food in vegetable oils blasts your body with these free radicals, damaging your cells and increasing the risk for diseases. To minimize risk, you should use more stable oils such as butter and other animal oils for cooking. Animal oils contain high levels of saturated fatty acids, are stable, and resist oxidation when heated.
2. Vegetable oils Contain Trans Fats
Vegetable oils are partially or fully hydrogenated. This chemical process adds hydrogen to vegetable oil, causing the oil to be solid at room temperature like butter. Hydrogenated vegetable oils have a longer shelf life. Trans-fat is formed when vegetables are hardened and can be found in margarine, vegetable shortening, vegan cheese, and butter.
Hydrogenated oil is less likely to spoil, and some restaurants use it in their deep fryers since it doesn’t have to be changed as often as animal oils. That’s why trans-fat can be found in a variety of food products such as:
Trans-fat can also be found in non-hydrogenated vegetable oils. A study investigated US vegetable oils like soybean and canola oils and found that their trans-fat contents ranged between 0.56% and 4.2%. Trans-fats are associated with all sorts of chronic diseases, including type2 diabetes, heart attack, obesity, and cancer. Trans-fat also has an unhealthy effect on your cholesterol levels.
There are two main types of cholesterol:
Trans-fat decreases your HDL cholesterol and increases your LDL cholesterol. This results in fatty deposits clogging up your arteries, increasing your risk for heart attack. It also suppresses prostacyclin production, which is an effective vasodilator preventing blood clots. When your body can produce this compound, blood clots may form and block blood flow to your brain, causing a stroke or to your heart, leading to a heart attack.
3. Toxic Byproducts
When polyunsaturated fats are broken down and oxidized, they produce toxic byproducts, including Acrolein, malondialdehyde (MDA), and 4‐hydroxy‐hexenal (HNE). These substances are highly reactive and bind with key cellular enzymes resulting in their depletion or inactivation. They’re also linked to several health problems like cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, and cardiovascular diseases. Studies show that MDA and HNE are present in all vegetable oils.
4. Unbalanced Omega 6: Omega 3 Ratio
Omega 6 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids and are mostly found in vegetable oils, while omega 3 fatty acids are mostly found in animal foods like fish. These fatty acids are essential to our bodies, mainly since the body doesn’t produce them.
Throughout human evolution, we consumed omega 6 and omega 3 in a 1:1 ratio. But in the past century, this ratio in the standard American diet has dramatically shifted to 20:1 or even higher. The fact that vegetable oils form a significant part of the western diet contributes to this explosive increase. Introducing refined oils into our diet and moving away from animal oils increased our omega 6 fat intake. Vegetable oils contain an unnatural amount of omega-6 fats, which wildly distorts the ideal omega fatty acid ratio.
The benefits of omega 3 are well documented and include lower blood pressure, reduced risk for stroke and heart disease, and slow development of plaque in the arteries. But a high omega 6: omega 3 ratio can reverse these benefits, shifting your body to a pro-inflammatory state.
Chronic inflammation is an underlying factor in almost all severe medical conditions like cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and cardiovascular disease. Too much omega 6 can lead to blood clots that can cause stroke and heart attack, an increase in your blood pressure, and water retention.
The best way to change your fatty acid profile on the carnivore diet is by eliminating vegetable oils and only using animal oils for cooking.
These oils are believed to be healthy since they’re low in omega-6 fatty acids. Olive oil contains monounsaturated fats, which are moderately stable, while coconut oil comprises 90% saturated fat and 10% unsaturated fat. MCT oil, on the other hand, is manufactured from saturated fat from coconut and palm oils.
But these so-called healthy plant oils still have some harmful toxins such as polyphenols, salicylates, and oleosin. Polyphenols are antioxidants and are supposed to benefit your body, but studies show that polyphenols inhibit iron absorption resulting in iron depletion and interfering with thyroid hormone biosynthesis.
Salicylate is a natural chemical that plants use to protect themselves from disease, insects, and bacteria. When consumed, it can cause bronchial asthma, gastrointestinal inflammation, hives, nasal polyps, diarrhea, or rhinitis. Oleosin is a plant protein that triggers an immune response in some people and causes an allergic reaction. MCT oil is processed food and can also cause an allergic reaction with symptoms like tightness in the chest or throat, rash and hives, diarrhea and vomiting, and peeling skin.
Animal oils are far superior to vegetable or plant oils. They’re an excellent source of bioavailable minerals and nutrients, and you don’t have to worry about inflammation. Here are some oils to use on the carnivore diet:
As we’ve seen, vegetable and plant oils are highly inflammatory and can be dangerous to your health. While starting a carnivore diet, eliminating plant and vegetable oils from your diet is the best thing you can do to reap all its benefits. Use animal fats for cooking as they’re highly stable and resist oxidation even at extreme heat.
Paul is a nutrition freelance writer contributing to carnivore dieting topics, trends, and recipes. He expresses his prowess in creating insightful and educational pieces. His content is a product of deep research, wide reading, and clear understanding. When not on his desk, he spends his time hiking and camping with his wife, son, and dog.