I’m not going to sugarcoat it: vegetable oil is just as bad as added sugar. In fact, it’s probably even worse. Because unlike added sugar, people don’t really know about vegetable oil.
They don’t really know about it because vegetable oil has the official seal of approval, and is widely endorsed by major health institutions. It’s known as the “heart-healthy” alternative to animal fats.
People don’t really know about vegetable oil because it has the mother of all healthful-sounding branding advantages: the name vegetable.
You might as well call it “Jesus oil.”
“Vegetable oil” evokes leafy cornucopias of colorful veggies that were somehow reduced to oils, which, like their vegetable parents, probably foster health and longevity.
But vegetable oil doesn’t deserve the name vegetable.
And that’s not an opinion. It’s a fact: none of the major vegetable oils come from vegetables.
Not a single one.
Let me break it down.
Corn oil comes from corn. Corn is botanically a fruit and popularly a grain.
Sunflower oil, safflower oil, canola oil, cottonseed oil, and sesame oil? They’re all squeezed out of seeds. Seeds are not vegetables. (A “vegetable” is defined as the part of the plant without seeds.)
Soybean oil and peanut oil? They’re made from legumes, which are technically a type of dry fruit.
Even olive oil, coconut oil, and palm oil—the health oils du jour—all hail from botanical fruits.
So no vegetables. No carrots, broccoli, asparagus, squash, or kale. No vegetables anywhere.
Especially not in cottonseed oil, which is made from cotton. Yes, that cotton. The one found in clothing. Cottonseed oil is the third most common food oil in the US.
Further departing from the whole vegetable thing, most vegetable oils are highly processed. They’re produced by methods more akin to refining crude oil than pressing vegetables together.
(Most, but not all. Extra-virgin olive oil is made by squeezing olives together. One step. No preservatives. No chemicals. No heat. The way it’s been done for 8,000 years. But such wholesomeness is the rare exception with vegetable oils.)
In 1974, Canadian plant scientists bred a new type of seed for making vegetable oil: the rapeseed. Proud of their creation, and wanting to take the name in a different direction, they combined the words “Canada” and “ola.”
Canola oil was born.
It’s the third most common food oil in the world.
Making canola oil involves wholesome, artisanal methods like hexane baths, high-speed centrifuging, dousing with sodium hydroxide, bleaching with acid-activated clay, and steam-injecting at 265 °C (509 °F) in facilities that can churn out 22,000 bottles of canola oil per hour. (Source.)