Did you know the world produces 184.08 million metric tons of vegetabel oil?
This post was inspired by our Facebook follower, Cathy Crowley. After reading our post about the health effects of palm oil she asked us to look into the health effects of canola oil. Thank you Cathy for that suggestion. I decided that maybe I should widen my research beyond canola oil. You probably consume a dozen different oils in a week. Have you ever wondered what they do to your body and the environment? Well I looked into the 9 most popular vegetable oils to see how they effect our health and the environment.
Did you know the world produces 184.08 million metric tons of vegetable oil? #vegetableoil #palmoil #gogreen @goingreencouple
Before we jump into the list I wanted to cover a few things up front. First, I’m not a nutritionist and these views are my own based upon my own research. You should always consult your doctor if you have questions about your diet, especially those with food allergies. Second, you will see that some oil is better for you than other but that doesn’t mean go crazy with it. The American Heart Association recommends that fat make up no more than 20-35% of your daily calories. That translates to about 44 to 78 grams of fat depending on how many calories you need each day. And your daily fat intake comes from other things besides oil. The name of the game is moderation. Third, numbers represent tons of oil produced, not consumed. The list is ranked by production. The data comes from Statista, so thank you to them. Finally, be sure to share The GGC recommendations and the whole post. With out an further delay here they are.
1. Palm Oil
64.02 million metric tons
- Health Effects: As we said in our earlier post about the health effects of palm oil it is especially high in fat. One tablespoon of palm oil has 13.6g of fat. More than half of that fat in saturated fat which can increase your risk of heart attack or stroke. You would reach your daily limit of saturated fat by consuming a mere 2.5 tablespoons of palm oil. Raw palm oil does contain beneficial compounds that are good for our bodies. The problem is most palm oil we consume is highly processed which removes all of the healthy compounds.
- Environmental Effects: 300 football fields of rainforest are burned to the ground every hour. In the process the fires kill many animals and drive thousands of others from their home. Orangutans specifically are critically in danger from the growing palm oil industry. The fires also release thousands of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere everyday contributing to climate change.
- The GGC Recommendation: Avoid! It’s bad for the environment and most of what we consume is bad for our health. Our recommendation, consume less processed foods, use olive oil for cooking, and use sustainably produced palm oil products in your bathroom and laundry.
2. Soybean Oil
53.15 million metric tons
- Health Effects: Soybean oil in its raw and natural form is a fairly healthy source of fat. 1 tablespoon of soybean oil contains 13.6 grams of fat with more than half of that being healthy polyunsaturated fat rich in Omega-3. Much like palm oil the health problems with soybean oil come from the highly processed hydrogenated form.
- Environmental Effects: Soybean oil production affects the environment much the same way palm oil does. Soybean production has caused major rain forest deforestation in South America. 200 football fields of rainforest are lost every hour leading to a massive release of stored CO2 into the atmosphere. Soybean production also threatens may of the species that call the rainforest home.
- The GGC Recommendation: Use Sparingly! Soybean oil is not great for the environment buts it’s better for you than palm oil. Our advice, stay away from highly processed foods, buy fairtrade and/or organic products containing soybean oil, use raw soybean oil if you can find it.
3. Canola Oil (Rapeseed Oil)
27.65 million metric tons
- Health Effects: News to us, there is no such thing as the canola plant. Canola is a genetically modified version of Rapeseed oil and gets its name from the phrase Canadian oil low acid. There’s a lot of history here so check out www.smallfootprintfamily.com for the whole scoop. Anyway, there has been a lot of debate lately about the health effects of canola oil. What it boils down too is the same issue with palm oil. Raw canola oil is high in healthy monounsaturated fats. Most canola oil is extracted using high heat, pressure, and potentially solvents. Solvents aside, the high heat and pressure can oxidizes the polyunsaturated fats creating harmful free radicals. Additionally, when the oil is deodorized, to leave a bland taste, it turns some of the unsaturated fat into trans fat which can cause heart and kidney troubles as well as stroke. However, this trans fat makes up only 1.9-3.6% of the oil which is much less than the almost 50% for hydrogenated oils. Much like palm and soybean oil, the highly processed form found in most processed foods has been hydrogenated creating more trans fat.
- Environmental Effects: Okay, so there’s little available research about the environmental impacts of canola oil production. There is some concern that a variation of canola oil used as biofuel may release more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere but that discussion is beyond this post. Like other large scale agricultural businesses we would be concerned about the pesticides and herbicides used and their effects on the surrounding land. There’s also the general CO2 production that is released during the growing and production of canola oil but we see that as probably being on par with other farming operations. It’s probably less harmful for the environment that palm or soybean oil.
- The GGC Recommendation: Avoid for now! It appears more studies need to be done on the health effects. In the meantime avoid highly processed foods containing hydrogenated canola oil and switch to olive oil or sunflower oil for your cooking needs.
4. Sunflower Seed Oil
15.55 million metric tons
- Health Effects: Sunflower oils is one of the healthier oil options. Its high in healthy polyunsaturated fat including Omega-6. Its high fatty acid count makes it a healthy choice but beware most western diets already contain too much Omega-6 fatty acids. Sunflower oil also contains vitamin E, an essential vitamin key for bodily functions. And as with the other oils above beware of the hydrogenated version in processed foods.
- Environmental Impacts: Okay, so almost no information about the effects of sunflower seed oil on the environment. Sorry guys, can’t be much help here.
- The GGC Recommendation: Moderate Intake! Sunflower oil is a healthy option but you’re probably eating more of it than you need. Feel free to use it in your cooking as long as you avoid the highly processed foods.
5. Palm Kernel Oil
7.3 million metric tons
- Health Effects: Palm kernel oil has many of the same health effects that regular palm oil has but only a little worse. First, palm oil is mostly saturated fat, almost 80%. While not as bad a trans fat its worse that unsaturated. Second, much like regular palm oil, palm kernel oil is found in a highly processed form thereby removing any health properties associated with it. Again, some of that fat is transformed into trans fat through hydrogenation. Though there is less processing that needs to be done on palm kernel oil because it is more stable than palm oil. Third, there is no natural way to extract the oil from the seed so petroleum based chemicals are needed to extract the oil. Because it is made up of mostly saturated fat it can increase your risk of heart attack or stroke. Our advice is to just stay away from it when possible.
- Environmental Effects: Palm kernel oil come from the same plant as palm oil so it has the same environmental effect. Deforestation leading to a loss of animal life and the release of CO2 through the burning of the deforested land. There is also the question of workers/human rights for the employees the palm oil producers employ. It’s bad for them, bad for us, bad for the animals, bad for the environment.
- The GGC Recommendation: Avoid, Avoid, Avoid! Stay away from it at all costs. Its unhealthy, bad for the environment, and only found in highly processed foods that are bad in many ways other than palm kernel oil.
6. Peanut Oil
5.68 million metric tons
- Health Effects: Compared to palm oil and soybean oil, peanut oil makes up a relatively small portion of global vegetable oil consumption but it might be one of the healthiest options. Peanut oil is made up of mostly (85% to be exact) monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat. These fats have been shown to lower cholesterol and improve heart health. It contains no cholesterol, is low in saturated fats, and contains nutritious amounts of vitamin E. It is also a stable oil so you’re less likely to run into the hydrogenated form but do beware of the highly processed forms lurking in fast food. The main drawback of peanut oil it has a high caloric count at 120 calories per tablespoon, so go easy on it. There is also the concern for those with peanut allergies. Studies and manufacturers say that the highly processed form found in most processed and fast foods is devoid of the allergen causing components. That being said those with an allergy should always exercise a high degree of caution with anything containing peanut oil.
- Environmental Impacts: As we get further and further down the list it seems there is less and less information available about the environmental impacts of the oil. This is not to say it’s environmentally friendly. What it probably means is that the production volume is relatively small compared to other oils that there is less of an interest in studying its effects.
- The GGC Recommendation: Moderate Intake! First, if you have a peanut allergy avoid until you consult with your doctor about eating it. Second, buy peanut oil that comes from smaller/organic farms. Third, eat less fast food. Fourth, use freely at home in cooking. Its great for foods that need a high cooking heat just avoid using too much on a daily basis since it’s high in calories.
7. Cottonseed Oil
4.46 million metric tons
- Health Effects: Avoid it!! That’s the general consensus. Cottonseed oil is high in saturated fat and polyunsaturated fat but contains little monounsaturated fat. This combination increases cholesterol and lowers the level of health fat in your body. Most cottonseed oil has been hydrogenated to increase its shelf-life but that also creates some trans fat in the process. The biggest health risk comes from the residual pesticide in the oil. The cotton plant is one of the most heavily sprayed agricultural plants. These pesticides have been linked to cancer.
- Environmental Effects: Once again, little information about the environmental effects of cottonseed oil can be found but the heavy pesticide use is not good for the environment. Run off from the farms pollutes the local water table and surrounding habitat.
- The GGC Recommendation: Avoid, Avoid, Avoid! Like we said above the consensus is to avoid it. It’s bad for your health in so many ways. Don’t eat anything that has cottonseed oil in it. It’s usually found in fast food and potato chips (ugh! I love potato chips).
8. Coconut Oil
3.38 million metric tons
- Health Effects: The consensus so far is that coconut oil is a healthy oil if used in moderation. Coconut contains the most saturated fat of all edible oils, almost 90% of it is saturated fat. But not all saturated fat is created equally. Long-chain saturated fat is easy for our bodies to turn into fat cells and too much of it can lead to heart disease. Medium-chain saturated fat, which makes up more than 50% of fat in coconut oil, is much harder for the body to turn into fat cells. This type of fat also promotes healthy cholesterol. Coconut oil is also rich in healthy age defying antioxidants and vitamin E. Coconut oil also have antibacterial and antiviral properties that can help fight off infection. Beware of hydrogenated coconut oil processed coconut oil because most of the health parts of the oil have been removed. The best coconut oil is virgin coconut oil.
- Environmental Effects: The environmental effects of coconut oil production are far less substantial than palm oil. While there is some deforestation and wetlands destruction it pales in comparison to the massive slash and burn tactics of palm oil. There are two big concerns with coconut oil production. First, is monoculture farming. That means only one plant is grown on the whole farm, in this case coconut trees. This is monoculture is great for production numbers but bad for biodiversity and the soil. The more a farmer plants the same crop the less nutrients are put back in the soil. This leads to lower production yields. To cope farmers increase their farm size into fresh soil or turn to chemical fertilizers. The runoff from chemical fertilizers is bad for the environment and can be bad for your health. The second concerns is transportation, most coconut oil comes from Indonesia and the Philippines. That means a lot more planes, ships, and trucks spewing green houses gases into the atmosphere.
- The GGC Recommendation: Enjoy! Enjoy coconut oil and its health benefits freely. Don’t go overboard thought.
9. Olive Oil
2.89 million metric tons
- Health Effects: Olive oil may be one of the healthiest oils on the market. Its rich in monounsaturated fat, just over 75% of it is monounsaturated fat. This type of fat has been shown to lower your risk of heart disease. It also can lower your cholesterol, including bad LDL cholesterol. Olive oil is rich in vitamins and antioxidants which can reduce your risk of cancer and increase longevity. People who follow the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in olive oil, have been shown to live longer than those who follow a traditional western diet. Olive oil is also an anti-inflammatory and is good for your hair and skin.
- Environmental Impacts: The increase in olive oil demand in the last ¼ of the century has created water shortage and soil erosion in Europe, the primary producer of olive oil. There are also concerns about herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers entering into the water table due to surface water runoff. A recent report from the EU notes that there is a lack of concrete data surrounding the environmental impact of olive oil production. Still many of the traditionally managed groves still use traditional practices that reduces erosion, calls for minimal pesticides, and promotes biodiversity.
- The GGC Recommendation: Enjoy Freely! Enjoy and love olive oil to your hearts content. You heart will thank you. Like all things in life practice moderation but don’t worry about how it affects you or the environment. Try using California Olive Ranch’s EVOO. They use sustainable farming techniques and they are based in California, so they help the U.S. economy and its makes their oil affordable. Buy it online (affiliate link) HERE.
So there is the list. Below The GGC has ranked the list based on how good the oils are for your health and their effect on the environment. In other words use more of the oils at the top of the list and less at the bottom.
The GGC Rank
- Olive Oil
- Coconut Oil
- Peanut Oil
- Sunflower Oil
- Canola Oil
- Soybean Oil
- Palm Oil
- Palm Kernel Oil
- Cottonseed Oil
So there you have it. I know its a long post but there was a lot of research out there to cover. I hope it helps. Please share it with your friends in family. If we all share a little it will make everyone healthier and the earth greener. Keep on going green, thanks.
Please share your thoughts!!
Sunflower Seed Oil
Palm Kernel Oil