What are Seed Oils and are They Bad for You?

Last Update: September 13, 2023

There was a time when many people thought sticking to a “healthy diet” meant avoiding fats and oils at all costs. That advice may have changed, but there’s one type of oil that still raises red flags: seed oils.  

Multipurpose seed oils (like canola oil) are a common pantry staple in households around the world, but recently they’ve become controversial. Is it possible that they’re actually bad for you? We did some digging to find out, and along the way, learned exactly how Thrive Market makes seed oils that you can feel good about stocking in your kitchen. 

What are Seed Oils? 

Seed oils are cooking oils that are made from the seeds of certain plants—think soybean, grapeseed, and canola. The seeds are put under pressure to extract their oils, whether by pressing or by chemical extraction (more on that later). This differs from other oils, like olive oil or coconut oil, which come from the fruit itself.

Are Seed Oils Bad for You? 

While all of the above sounds pretty pure (oils extracted from seeds, which come from plants—what could be bad about that?), the problems begin with how the oils are extracted. 

In some cases, the seeds are simply pressed to extract the oils; this is the ideal situation, and while it produces pure, high-quality oils, it’s labor intensive and costly. To keep costs down, many seed oils are made using chemical extraction methods and may even go through other synthetic processes (like bleaching). At this point in the process, manufacturers may also add additives and preservatives. This may be a reason why some choose to shop seed oil free.

There’s also the matter of heating seed oils—or, more specifically, reheating seed oils. When cooking at home, you’re likely only heating your oil once; no problem there. In restaurants, though, seed oils are often heated and reheated numerous times. This generates polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that are not only carcinogenic when consumed, but may even be dangerous to inhale while cooking. 

Health Benefits of Seed Oils 

Seed oils are high oleic oils, which means that they’re high in monounsaturated fats, but don’t contain trans fats or saturated fats. High oleic oils are becoming more popular because they help to lower cholesterol and contain high levels of Vitamin E

Some seed oils, such as canola and sunflower oil, are also high in polyunsaturated fats. These omega-3 fatty acids (like alpha-linoleic acid) offer benefits such as:

Seed oils also contain omega-6 fatty acids, which are a bit more controversial than their omega-3 counterparts. Some studies say these fatty acids may cause inflammation and increased risk of heart disease, though in recent years, other outlets have stated that there’s not enough scientific evidence to support these claims (and, in fact, that they may have similar benefits to omega-3 fatty acids). 

Types of Seed Oils at Thrive Market

Lisa Schilling, Product Innovator at Thrive Market, explains what went into sourcing and formulating our cooking oils to make them as healthy as can be. She starts by emphasizing that all of our seed oils are expeller-pressed, which means that we don’t use chemical extraction methods to release the oils from the seeds. Next, she notes that all of our seed oils are non-GMO and nearly all are certified organic, which means they don’t contain any of the potentially harmful chemicals or additives that other cooking oils may have. 

These pure, neutral-tasting oils are essential for high-heat cooking, and because they meet our strict ingredient and sourcing standards, you can feel good about adding them to your pantry shelf.  

Canola oil

Where it comes from: Pressed from the seeds of the rapeseed plant, a plant in the mustard family 

Why ours is better: It’s expeller-pressed (without chemical solvents), organic, and non-GMO, unlike many other canola oils, which may be chemically extracted and/or mixed with additives

Smoke point: 400 degrees Fahrenheit

How to use it: As an all-purpose cooking, baking, and frying oil, particularly for high-heat cooking

Sunflower oil

Where it comes from: Pressed from the seeds of the sunflower plant

Why ours is better: It’s expeller-pressed (without chemical solvents), non-GMO, and organic, and it has a neutral taste that makes it a good alternative to canola or vegetable oil 

Smoke point: 450 degrees Fahrenheit

How to use it: For searing, sauteing, and other very high-heat cooking 

Grapeseed oil

Where it comes from: Pressed from the seeds of grapes; a byproduct of winemaking 

Why ours is better: It’s expeller-pressed (without chemical solvents) and non-GMO, and it makes an inexpensive alternative to pricier olive oil 

Smoke point: 420 degrees Fahrenheit

How to use it: For pan-frying, oven-roasting, and in dressings and marinades 

Rice bran oil 

Where it comes from: Pressed from the protective layers surrounding the rice kernel

Why ours is better: It’s expeller-pressed (without chemical solvents), non-GMO, and organic, and it’s high in lipids and other nutrients from rice bran 

Smoke point: 450 degrees Fahrenheit

How to use it: For high-heat cooking, like stir-frying or deep frying  

This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before changing your diet or healthcare regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

This article is related to:

Health Tips, Oil

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Amy Roberts

Amy Roberts is Thrive Market's Senior Editorial Writer. She is based in Los Angeles via Pittsburgh, PA.

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