Separating Fact from Fiction: Are Seed Oils Inflammatory?

In recent years, there has been growing attention and scepticism surrounding seed oils, with some people even advocating to avoid them completely. Most of the conversation online stems from concerns of these oils having inflammatory effects. But is this true? And what does inflammatory even mean? That’s where Queen Street Bakery’s nutrition team comes in, we’re going to separate fact from fiction and explore some of the science behind these claims. We’ll also explore the oils we add to our products and why.

While we don’t add seed oils to our products, it’s important to dive into the science so you can make more informed decisions the next time you’re at the grocery store.

What are Seed Oils?

Seeds oils is an umbrella term for oils that are extracted from the seeds of various plants. This extraction usually involves pressing or crushing the seeds until their oil is released. Following this, the oil often goes through some additional processing like getting refined or filtered. This helps to improve their stability and shelf life. Seed oils include canola, sunflower, grapeseed, soybean, corn, peanut, castor, and more. These oils are an important component of many dishes worldwide and serve as essential sources of dietary fats.

Seed oils are mostly made up of unsaturated fats (healthy fats). If we break it down even further, these unsaturated fats contain both mono- and polyunsaturated fats in unique amounts. Polyunsaturated fats, or PUFAs, include both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids which our body’s cannot make. This means, we get these essential fats from the foods we eat which could include seed oils and foods like fatty fish, walnuts, or flax seeds.

What does Inflammatory Even Mean?

Inflammation is a hot topic in the online world so let’s break down what it means. Inflammation is your bodies complex biological response to things like injuries or infections. You can think of inflammation like a defense mechanism – it’s your body’s way of trying to protect and heal itself. When something harmful or foreign impacts your body, your immune system comes in. Ever sprain your ankle? Well, that triggers an inflammatory response which springs the healing process into action. This repair process is often accompanied by things like redness, swelling, and warmth which is a sign that your body is working on getting things back to normal.

Acute (short-term) inflammation, like spraining your ankle, is generally a good thing. If inflammation becomes chronic (long-term), it may lead to health issues. This is where the conversation on inflammation and foods that we hear online comes in. Circling back to the PUFAs we were talking about earlier; we often hear people say that omega-3s are anti-inflammatory and that omega-6s are inflammatory. This is why many speculate that eating foods high in omega-6 and low in omega-3 may increase inflammation in the body. But is this actually true? Let’s take a deeper look into what the research says about inflammation and seed oils.

Are Seed Oils Actually Inflammatory?

Most oils have both omega-3s and omega-6s, just in different amounts. Some oils like sunflower, corn, soybean, and sesame are higher in omega-6s whereas olive, flaxseed, coconut, and canola oils are lower.

So, do oils high in omega-6 actually cause inflammation? According to larger and high-quality studies, the answer is no. There is currently no strong evidence to show that the omega-6s we eat will increase the inflammation in our bodies. As with anything, moderation is key, but there is no need to panic or eliminate seed oils all together. Blaming these oils alone for inflammation oversimplifies our bodies complex response system.

The Oil We Use

At Queen Street Bakery, we don’t add seed oils to our products. However, our cinnamon raisin bagels contain a small amount of vegetable oil in its raisins. A very small amount of oil is often added by manufactures of dried fruits like cranberries, dates, and of course raisins. This oil prevents things from getting sticky and helps preserve their great taste.

As for the oils we add to our products, we keep it simple and just use olive oil! Olive oil helps give our bagels and loaves a perfect fluffy texture and tender crumb. We also chose olive oil because we love its beneficial anti-inflammatory effects that HAVE been proven through research and its loaded with healthy fats that help keep our hearts happy!

Bottom Line: Whether you’re shopping for oil to use at home or reading the ingredients on the back of a product, it’s not realistic to connect seed oils to a list of health concerns. Instead of focusing on any one oil, take a look at what you’re getting alongside that oil. If you’re looking at highly processed foods like chips or baked goods, they are likely to have more seed oils but also larger amounts of sugar and sodium. Alternatively, if you look at something like Queen Street Bakery’s bagels and loaves, oil is listed alongside natural ingredients that pack a nutritional punch.

Queen Street Bakery is here to help empower you by learning more about nutrition. We are always transparent about the ingredients we use and why we use them, like olive oil and its many benefits. We also hope we helped to clear up some of the confusing conversations online surrounding seed oils so you can decide what’s best for you and your lifestyle.

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This article was written by Sophia Battista, RD, MHSc(c) & reviewed by Alicia Lang, RD, MHSc.