In the past century, the consumption of vegetable oils has increased exponentially. They are considered healthy by most of the mainstream health professionals, but these oils also come with a set of health problems that may arise out of continuous consumption. The impact on health varies for different types of oils and depends on many factors like the type of fatty acids they contain, their source, and how they are extracted.
Refined oils are the latest addition in the list and were not available until the 20th century. They are extracted from plants and seeds using chemicals or oil mills. Refined oils are purified, refined, and sometimes chemically altered. Due to this the oil that is produced is free of flavor, has an extended shelf life, and a light color. The process of refining oils also includes bleaching, steam distillation, and hydrogenation which can strip the oils of its nutrition-rich components such as sterols and tocopherols. Besides, these processes also lead to the formation of trans fatty acids that are notorious for cardio-vascular diseases.
So why are refined oils consumed despite them being potentially harmful to health?
- Their odor and color are consistent
- Process of extraction is very cost-effective
- Their shell life is longer
- They are advertised, without mentioning the risks involved
- They are great for deep frying and high-heat cooking
Now that we are aware of the downsides of using refined oils, what do we use to cook our delicious meals? The healthy alternatives are:
In our daily life, we come across the terms “Extra Virgin” and “Virgin” oils. These are nothing but pure oils that are extracted by pressing the source (e.g. olives) without using heat or chemicals. This is an ancient method for the extraction of oils as chemicals were only introduced after the 20th century. Due to natural extraction, these oils do not lose any of their beneficial nutrients which are high in polyphenols and antioxidants which have many health benefits.
The difference between virgin and extra virgin oils is that the latter is extracted in a purely natural way without chemicals or heat, while virgin oils have some quantity of processed oils added to them. Even though both are beneficial, extra virgin oils are always preferred to virgin oils.
Extra virgin oils have many benefits when it comes to healthy living, as mentioned below:
- They are excellent sources of antioxidants and healthy fats. Due to them being naturally extracted, they retain all the nutrients.
- These oils contain over 30 types of phenolic compounds that help the body fight against free radicals.
- They could reduce your risk of heart diseases as they have powerful cardio-protective properties. These oils help lower blood pressure and prevents the hardening of arteries(atherosclerosis).
- Extra virgin oils may help in lowering the risk of Type 2 Diabetes as the presence of phenolic compounds aid in glucose metabolism and improve the effectiveness and sensitivity of insulin.
Cold-pressed oils are obtained using oil seeds that are not precooked, these seeds are pressed using a steel press, these high-pressure steel presses make sure that every drop of oil is squeezed. Cold-pressed oils retain their aroma and flavor along with all the nutritional value that comes with it. This makes them great for cooking and skincare too. They do not contain any trans fatty acids and are cholesterol-free.
- Cold-pressed oils are rich in antioxidants as they are not damaged due to heat, unlike other oils.
- These oils are also rich in vitamin E, which has healing and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Cold-pressed oils are rich in oleic acid that helps boost the immune system.
- These oils are great for cooking.
It is never too late to change to a healthier alternative for refined oil, this blog shall help you make a calculated decision in that.