Soybean Oil Explained: Is Soybean Oil Healthy? Is Soybean Oil Safe?
You’ve probably cooked or fried foods with canola oil, olive oil or coconut oil before. But have you ever cooked with soybean oil? If you’re shaking your head, you may be in for a surprise. Ever heard of ‘vegetable oil’? Vegetable oil is a common household staple and refers to any plant-based oil. Believe it or not, often it includes soybean oil. This oil has many fans, but it also has many critics who wouldn’t go near it with a ten-foot-pole. so, should you introduce soybean oil into your diet? Or should you stay far away?
What Is Soybean Oil? How Is It Made?
Soybean oil comes from – wait for it – soybeans (shocker). After being cleaned, the beans are dehulled (shelled) and then heated to around 165-170 degrees Fahrenheit. This makes it easier to extract the oil. They are then cut into flakes, and solvent extracted (when a particular substance – in this case, the oil – is extracted from a mixture by a solvent – in this case, hexanes – which will dissolve the substance but won’t dissolve anything else.)
Once the flakes have given around 99% of their oil, they are taken out and the hexanes are removed through evaporation. The oil is then further refined and purified, before finding its way onto your supermarket shelf. Much of the time, soybean oil also undergoes an additional process known as hydrogenation. This is what makes the oil more stable and a better option for cooking. However, it also adds nasties like trans fats and saturated fats.
Is Soybean Oil Bad for You?
Well, that really depends on what kind of soybean oil you are referring too, and how it has been processed.
Organic soybean oil contains many nutrients, such as essential fatty acids and polyunsaturated fats. When used in moderation, this oil can definitely be part of a healthy diet and provide much-needed nutrients. However, the soybean oil you’re most likely to find is partially hydrogenated.
This type of “vegetable oil” is definitely not good for you. Soybean oil in its natural form is not stable enough to be heated to high temperatures and has a limited shelf life. Because of this, manufacturers put it through the process of hydrogenation in order to preserve it better. However, this process adds trans fats and saturated fats to the oil. It also breaks down the healthy nutrients, turning a previously beneficial food into an extremely unhealthy one.
Partially hydrogenated soybean oil is far worse than the fully hydrogenated version, which does not contain trans fat. Even if you’re using organic oil, keep in mind that consuming soy in excess amounts can be damaging to your health in it of itself. It has been linked to serious conditions such as breast cancer and infertility. To sum up: fully organic soybean oil can provide great nutrients, and definitely has a place in a healthy diet, but should be used in moderation.
Soybean Oil Nutrient Breakdown Explained
Aside from containing polyunsaturated fats (the healthy alternative to saturated and trans fats) and essential fatty acids (nutrients your body cannot produce and must, therefore, receive from your diet), soybean oil also contains other nutrients, such as (per tablespoon)
- Vitamin E (1.1 mg).
- Vitamin K (24.8 mcg).
- Iron and zinc (trace amounts).
- Alpha Lipoic Acid (0.9 g).
- Choline (43.7 mg).
There’s also no carbs or sodium in this oil.
Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil Explained
You’ve heard people bashing trans fats to the point that it’s probably coming out of your ears by now. If you’re one of those people who always check the label for trans fats, you probably rejoice when you see the words ‘Trans fats: 0g’ boldly advertised. What you may not know is that companies are only required to list trans fats if there is more than 0.5 g trans fat per serving. If there is even a drop less, they are legally allowed to write ‘0g trans-fat.’ This is how they get we, the customer, to unknowingly buy into their scheme (literally). One way to avoid this is to check if the serving size is a ridiculously tiny amount. If it is, it’s probably because the food has trans-fat but the company doesn’t want to say so.
Another way is to look for the words “partially hydrogenated oils”. This is a sure-fire way to know if the product you’re about to buy contains trans fats, as the process of partial hydrogenation adds trans fats to the oil.
As stated above, soybean oil can be either organic, partially hydrogenated or fully hydrogenated. Partially hydrogenated means that the oil has had hydrogen pumped into it in order to make it more stable. However, with more stability comes more danger to your health. The trans fats that partial hydrogenation breeds can cause numerous health concerns and diseases, such as obesity, asthma, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, compromised immune system, increased levels of LDL cholesterol and fertility issues.
The takeaway? If you’re going to use soybean oil, always stick to organic. Also, look out for trans fats on the products you purchase by checking the ingredients for partially hydrogenated soybean oil – and stay far away.
Small intestinal lactobacilli are protected from the toxicity of fatty acids in #soybean oil by the gut environment and their own capacity to evolve resistance https://t.co/pXqdy3LVEX #eLifeMicrobiome pic.twitter.com/bBG0avFecx
— eLife – the journal (@eLife) April 27, 2018
Soybean Oil Benefits for Skin Explained
The job of antioxidants is to fight against free radicals that are causing damage to your skin. It’s part of the process of ridding your skin of dead cells and forming new, healthy cells. This accelerates the healing of blemishes, scars and other skin imperfections. The phytoestrogens contained in the oil also help with your body’s estrogen production, which reduces symptoms of aging, like wrinkles and fine lines.
Soybean oil can also help protect your skin against the sun’s harmful rays (but you still need sunblock – yes, even in winter!). Of course, only organic soybean oil has these wonderful skin benefits – unfortunately, the easy-to-find commercial oils contain none of the magic.
Soybean Oil Benefits for Hair Explained
We can’t mention skin without mentioning its close cousin – our hair. And as you’ve probably guessed, organic soybean oil is also great for your hair. The vitamins and fatty acids in the oil keep moisture locked in your hair, and boost the effectiveness of your hair care products. The Vitamin E ensures that your scalp is kept healthy and prevents itching from dandruff or other scalp irritations.
You can add this oil to your conditioner or used on its own as an oil treatment. It’s commonly applied to help combat dryness, frizz and baldness, and also helps to seal split ends.
Is Soybean Oil Gluten Free?
If you have celiac disease (a gluten allergy), you probably know to avoid soy sauce. But is soybean oil also a no-no for the gluten intolerant?
Soy sauce is generally a problem for people who are allergic to gluten, but it isn’t because of the soy. It’s because soy sauce (unless it’s tamari soy sauce) contains flour. Soybean oil, however, is completely safe for those who are gluten-free.
Truthfully, there are healthier oil alternatives for cooking out there, and if you’re deciding between a bottle of soybean oil or coconut oil, go with the coconut oil. However, organic soybean oil does contain essential vitamins and nutrients, so it can be beneficial for you when used sparingly. It also has incredible beauty benefits for your skin and hair, so you can keep half the bottle in your kitchen and the other half in your bathroom to get the maximum advantages of this oil. Just make sure to avoid partially (and also fully) hydrogenated versions– organic is the only option!