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Soybean oil

Health benefits, uses, and downsides

Soybean oil is an incredibly popular and versatile cooking oil linked to several health benefits. Here are six benefits and uses of soybean oil.

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Soybean oil: Health benefits, uses, and downsides
Last updated on November 6, 2023, and last reviewed by an expert on February 24, 2023.

Soybean oil is a vegetable oil extracted from the soybean plant’s seeds.

Soybean oil: Health benefits, uses, and downsides

Between 2018 and 2019, around 62 million tons (56 million metric tons) of soybean oil were produced around the globe, making it one of the most common cooking oils available.

It’s also incredibly versatile and can be used in a variety of cooking methods, including:

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Plus, it’s been linked to several health benefits, especially regarding your heart, skin, and bones.

However, soybean oil is a highly refined oil rich in omega-6 fats, and some studies suggest that its consumption may be associated with several negative health effects.

This article covers six potential health benefits of soybean oil, plus possible downsides.

1. Soybean oil has a high smoke point

The smoke point of an oil is the temperature at which fats start to break down and oxidize. This results in the formation of harmful, disease-causing compounds called free radicals, which can cause oxidative stress in the body.

Soybean oil has a relatively high smoke point of about 450°F (230°C).

For reference, unrefined extra-virgin olive oil has a smoke point of about 375°F (191°C), while canola oil has a smoke point of 428–450°F (220–230°C).

This makes soybean oil a good option for high-heat cooking methods like roasting, baking, frying, and sautéing, as it can withstand high temperatures without breaking down.

Summary: Soybean oil has a relatively high smoke point, which makes it a good option for high-heat cooking.

2. Soybean oil is rich in heart-healthy fats

Soybean oil mostly consists of polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are heart-healthy fat types associated with several benefits.

Studies show that swapping saturated fats for polyunsaturated fats could be linked to a lower risk for heart disease.

One large review of 8 studies showed that when participants replaced 5% of their total daily calories from saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat, they had a 10% lower risk for heart disease.

Trading saturated fats for polyunsaturated fats may also reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, a major risk factor for heart disease.

Summary: Soybean oil mostly consists of polyunsaturated fats linked to lower cholesterol levels and a reduced risk of heart disease.

3. Soybean oil may support bone health

Just one tablespoon (15 mL) of soybean oil packs 25 mcg of vitamin K, knocking out around 20% of the recommended daily value in a single serving.

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While vitamin K is perhaps best known for its effect on blood clotting, it also plays a vital role in regulating bone metabolism.

Research shows that vitamin K is necessary for synthesizing specific proteins crucial for maintaining bone mass, such as osteocalcin.

Some research suggests that diets rich in polyunsaturated fats may help protect against age-related bone loss. However, research is limited, and more studies are needed to confirm this potential effect.

Another 2-year study in 440 women found that taking 5 mg of vitamin K daily was linked to a lower risk of bone fractures.

Moreover, one animal study showed that giving soybean oil to rats for two months reduced markers of inflammation and helped balance mineral levels in the blood and bones, suggesting that it may help prevent bone loss.

However, additional large, high-quality studies are needed to evaluate the effects of soybean oil on bone health in humans.

Summary: Soybean oil is rich in vitamin K, which may help maintain bone strength and reduce the risk of fractures. One animal study also found that the oil may help prevent bone loss.

4. Soybean oil contains omega-3 fatty acids

Soybean oil contains a good amount of omega-3 fatty acids in each serving.

Omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to several health benefits and play an integral role in heart health, fetal development, brain function, and immunity.

Upping your intake of omega-3 fatty acids can also help reduce inflammation, which is thought to be involved in developing chronic conditions like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

Although soybean oil contains the omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), converting ALA to the essential fatty acids DHA and EPA is extremely inefficient.

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Research shows that only <0.1–7.9 % of ALA is converted to EPA, and <0.1–3.8 % of ALA is converted to DHA.

For this reason, soybean oil is not a reliable source of DHA and EPA, essential fats needed for cellular function.

Plus, although soybean oil contains some omega-3 fats, it’s much higher in omega-6 fatty acids.

While you need both types, most people get too much omega-6 fatty acids and not enough omega-3s. This can contribute to inflammation and chronic disease.

For this reason, it’s best to pair soybean oil with a variety of other foods that also contain omega-3 fatty acids, such as:

Summary: Soybean oil contains omega-3 fatty acids, which are key in promoting health and preventing chronic disease.

5. Soybean oil promotes skin health

Soybean oil can often be spotted on the ingredient lists of skin care serums, gels, and lotions — for good reason.

Some research shows that soybean oil may benefit skin health.

For instance, one study involving six people showed that applying this oil to their skin enhanced its natural barrier to help retain moisture.

Another study found that topically applying soybean oil helped protect against skin inflammation caused by ultraviolet radiation.

Soybean oil is also rich in vitamin E, an anti-inflammatory nutrient that can support skin health.

Studies show that vitamin E may protect against skin damage and help treat certain skin conditions, such as acne and atopic dermatitis.

Summary: Soybean oil is rich in vitamin E, a nutrient that can help promote skin health. Applying it topically may protect against inflammation and help the skin retain moisture.

6. Soybean oil is versatile and easy to use

Soybean oil has a mild, neutral taste that seamlessly fits into nearly any recipe that calls for cooking oil.

It works especially well paired with vinegar and a dash of salt and pepper to make an easy salad dressing.

Thanks to its high smoke point, it can be used in place of other cooking oils for high-heat cooking methods like:

Use it instead of other ingredients, such as canola or vegetable oil, in your favorite recipes.

Apart from cooking with soybean oil, you can apply it to your hair or skin as a natural moisturizer.

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Furthermore, some people use it as a carrier oil to dilute essential oils before applying them to the skin.

Summary: Soybean oil can be used in nearly any recipe instead of other cooking oils. It can also be applied to the hair and skin or combined with essential oils.

Potential downsides of soybean oil

Although soybean oil has some health benefits, consuming soybean oil regularly may negatively affect overall health.

Soybean oil contains a high ratio of omega-6 fats.

Although omega-6 and omega-3 fats are needed in the diet, most people consume far too many foods rich in omega-6 and far too few omega-3 fats. This is because many processed foods are high in omega-6 fats.

This imbalance can lead to chronic inflammation associated with several conditions, from obesity to cognitive decline.

Therefore, making dietary changes to reduce your intake of omega-6-rich foods, including fast food and refined oils, and increasing consumption of omega-3-rich foods like fatty fish is best for overall health.

Some studies have specifically linked soybean oil to negative health outcomes. However, most research exploring soybean oil’s potentially negative effects on health has been conducted in animals.

For example, a study in mice demonstrated that a diet high in soybean oil led to adverse metabolic changes, including increased body fat, high blood sugar, and fatty liver, compared to diets high in coconut oil or fructose sugar.

Animal studies have also shown that interesterified soybean oil, used in products like margarine, impairs blood sugar management and leads to abdominal fat accumulation.

Other studies suggest that ingesting heated soybean oil increases inflammation and oxidative stress markers in rodents.

Although high-quality human research is needed to study the long-term health effects of soybean-rich diets, limiting your intake of omega-6-rich oils like soybean oil and not relying on soybean oil as your only fat source is best.

Summary: Soybean oil is high in omega-6 fats, which can negatively affect health when consumed in excess. For this reason, it’s best to limit your soybean oil intake and instead consume various healthy fats daily.

Summary

Soybean oil is a common type of cooking oil that’s been associated with several health benefits.

In particular, it may help:

Moreover, it has a high smoke point and neutral flavor, making it easy to incorporate into various recipes as part of a healthy diet.

However, remember that soybean oil is high in omega-6 fats and may negatively affect health when consumed in large amounts.

For this reason, it’s best not to rely on soybean oil as your only source of fat. Instead, include a variety of healthy fats in your diet, including fatty fish, nuts, seeds, avocado, and coconut, for the right balance.

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