Oil is an integral part of Indian cooking. Oil is widely used in traditional cooking and part of elaborate foods prepared for festivals. From seasoning of dals and curries to chapatis– oil is generously used in Indian cuisine and part of daily cooking as well. Many Indian families cannot imagine cooking without oil. Such is the central role played by oil. Hence, it matters to use the right kind of oil.
There are many types and brands of oils in the market with labels like – healthy, heart-healthy, double refined, refined, filtered, cold-pressed, virgin, etc. All these oil brands promise health. An uninformed customer can be easily carried away by the label like heart-healthy. Are all oils with labels “heart-healthy” or “healthy” really healthy? Which type of oil is actually healthy? Before we understand which oil is healthy, let’s understand how oil is made.
Most of the oils we buy in the market like refined oils or double refined oils are manufactured by using a chemical extraction process, which includes high temperatures, high pressures, multiple chemical solvents like hexane, bleaching, deodorization, etc. Below is the process followed to produce these oils.
1. The mechanical extractor presses the oilseeds like sesame, groundnut, sunflower, or coconut pieces to make a ‘cake.’
2. The ‘cake’ is exposed to high temperatures to start the oil extraction process.
3. Solvents such as hexane are used to extract oil from this ‘cake.’
4. The edible oil dissolves in the solvent passed through the ‘cake.’
5. Degumming/neutralization/washing procedures are applied on the oil and solvent mixture,
6. The obtained oil is bleached to attain uniformity in color.
7. It is finally deodorized to remove any odors.
This process is followed to produce oil for less price, make the oil look attractive like golden color and odor-free, and increase the shelf life. Oil extracted using this process is loaded with chemicals, loses nutrients, and is harmful to the body. Most of the oils in the market are manufactured using this process. Then what is the solution?
The solution is to go for cold-pressed oils. Cold-pressed oils are the oils that were used in good olden times before industrialization. There are only 2 steps involved in producing cold-pressed oils.
1. The oilseeds or coconut pieces are grounded or pressed without the application of heat, and oils are extracted. Hence the method is known as ‘cold pressing.’ In the olden days, cows were used to grind oil seeds. In current times, mechanical oil pressing machines are used.
2. The obtained oil is filtered and ready to use.
Below are the benefits of using cold-pressed oils.
9 benefits of using cold-pressed oils:
These oils are free of chemicals and exposure to high temperatures because of which harmful effects seen with refined oils are not seen in cold-pressed oils.
1. They retain healthy antioxidants.
2. They have a greater amount of nutritional value.
3. Most cold-pressed oils are rich in vitamin E, which has anti-inflammatory and healing properties.
4. They are rich in micronutrients.
5. They are also rich sources of oleic acid, which helps to boost the immune system.
6. They add great benefits when used for external applications like on skin and hair due to their inherent goodness.
7. They are completely free from trans-fat.
8. They retain vitamins, minerals, and nutrients of the seeds used for oil extraction.
Below are some points to consider while using oils.
1.Smoke point – This is the temperature at which an oil starts to burn and smoke. Each type of oil has a different smoke point. When oil is heated beyond its smoke point, it becomes harmful to health. Smoke points of some commonly used oils are as below.
|Cold-pressed coconut oil||177°C|
|Cold-pressed ground oil||160°C|
|Cold-pressed sesame oil||177°C|
2. An important thing to keep in mind is not to reheat the oil. After frying of a substance is completed, many times, some portion of the oil is left. To save the oil, people tend to reuse this left oil for the next round of cooking. This is called reheating of oil. This can save money, but reheating oil poses several health risks.
1. It increases bad cholesterol.
2. It generates harmful free radicals.
3. It releases harmful toxins.
4. Reheating increases the trans fatty acids, which are dangerous for health.
5. It becomes cancer-causing.
6. It invites several health issues in the long run.
So, when oil is left after cooking, it’s better to discard it than reuse it.
3. Cold-pressed oils are called by various other names like “virgin” or “kacchi ghani” or “filtered oil.” All these mean the same.
4. Cold-pressed oils have a shelf life of 6 months. They do not have a longer shelf life like refined oils. Hence, it’s best to buy them every month rather than stocking up.
5. Cold-pressed oils are priced higher than refined oils due to below reasons.
1. The refined oil extraction process yields a higher yield of oil compared to cold-pressed methods with the same amount of seeds.
2. High-quality seeds need to be used as the oil retains taste and odor, unlike refined oils.
3. Refined oils can be produced in large numbers due to their long shelf life, and cold-pressed oils need to be produced in small batches due to their less shelf life.
6. Each type of oil, like coconut oil or sesame oil or groundnut oil or olive oil has its own benefits. Use the oil which goes well with the kind of food you are preparing and the food recipe.
7. Virgin olive oil is nothing but cold-pressed olive oil. Olive oil is in no way superior or inferior to other oils like groundnut oil or sesame oil. Choose the oil that suits your taste.
8. Dalda or Vanaspati or hydrogenated vegetable oil is harmful for health as it forms trans fats.
9. Consuming deep-fried foods is not healthy. Deep frying is harmful to health and poses several health risks. It is carcinogenic. Avoid deep frying or minimize the consumption of deep-fried foods for better health.
10. Deep-fried foods sold in the market are loaded with trans fats due to reheating of oil, usage of dalda, and palm oil. Dalda and palm oil are heavily used in markets due to their lower price. They are unhealthy, and reheating makes them unhealthier. So, it’s recommended to prepare fried food at home rather than eating out.
11. Remember below points about the usage of oils whether you use olive oil or groundnut oil.
1. You can liberally use cold-pressed oils or ghee in your foods like in salads, smoothies, idlis, rice, etc. as long as you don’t heat them. Oils become less healthy once they are heated. So try to find creative ways of using oils without heating. For tempering, you can dry roast the ingredients and add these ingredients to dal or curry.
2. Though cold-pressed oils are healthier than refined oils, they need to be used in moderation when you are heating them in cooking.
3. Never use reheated oils.
4. Always go for cold-pressed oils or cow ghee for cooking.
5. Avoid deep-frying.
It’s best to use cold-pressed oils for daily cooking though they cost higher than refined oils. Refined oils bring various health issues. So, avoid using refined oils.
Choose cold-pressed oils and safeguard your health.