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What is seed oil and is it healthy?

Seed oils are full of good fats but they can still get a bad rap. To help bust big fat myths, here are my answers to the most common questions on seed oil. 

What are seed oils?  

Seed oil is any vegetable oil that comes from the seed of a plant – sunflower, canola, linseed, grapeseed and sesame oils are all common seed oils.   

Alongside olive oil, seed oils are among the most popular oils worldwide. They’re a good all-rounder that can be used for anything from baking to sauteing, to drizzling on salads.  

Are seed oils healthy?  

Absolutely! Coming from plants, seed oils naturally contain healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. 

Choosing these healthy unsaturated fats instead of saturated fats (e.g. coconut oil, butter) is good for your heart and can decrease bad (LDL) cholesterol while also increasing good (HDL) cholesterol.  

Seed oils, such as canola and linseed oil, are also a source of omega 3 and omega 6 essential fatty acids. As well as great addition to a heart healthy diet, omega 3 and omega 6 are good for brain function and supporting healthy growth.  

The Heart Foundation recommends cooking with canola oil as a nutritional and affordable option. Research shows canola oil may have a positive effect on diabetes, cholesterol, heart disease and metabolic syndrome. As with all seed oils, it also contains no trans fat, which is best avoided.  

Can seed oils cause cancer?  

There’s plenty of inaccurate information on the internet, including the myth that there is a link between vegetable or seed oils and cancer. This is false. The World Cancer Research Fund reviewed the latest scientific evidence on fats, oil and cancer risk, finding no evidence that eating vegetable oil or seed oil in moderation increased cancer risk.  

Aren’t seed oils highly processed? 

The process to create common seed oils and vegetable oils involves crushing the plant material, extracting the remaining oil with organic solvents and deodorising the oils to provide a neutral flavour and stability when cooking at high temperatures.  

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Organic solvent hexane has been used to extract oils from plants since the 1930s, with no evidence of health risks from consuming any trace residue left in the oils. Any residues of hexane present in food products are not allowed to exceed the levels outlined by the Food Standards Code in Australia and New Zealand. 

Do seed oils cause inflammation?  

Some vegetable and seed oils, such as soy, canola, and corn oils, are rich in linoleic acid - an essential omega-6 fatty acid. More than 40 years of research consistently shows linoleic acid reduces cholesterol and lowers the risk of heart disease. A good thing.  

But despite these benefits, speculation that large amounts of linoleic acid could cause inflammation has received prompted warnings to avoid seed oils.  

In 2014, a major review of all the science found no need for concern and absolutely no evidence that linoleic acid causes inflammation. Myth busted.  

The takeaway message - Next time you’re looking for a versatile oil, don’t be shy about using a simple seed oil. Full of healthy fats, these oils work well in anything from a colourful stir fry  to quick and easy date bran muffins


Contact our team of expert dietitians by using the free Ask a Dietitian service - online form here, or you can email or call on 1800 673 392.