Today, more than ever, people are conscious of the food they consume and how it impacts their health. Many of us are trying to switch to organic fruits, vegetables and even beverages like tea and coffee. At the same time, we also try to keep a check on the amount of oil and fat used in our meals. However, how often do we care about the kind of oil we use to cook that healthy meal?
My guess? Not that much. (Full confession: I didn’t either.) With the variety that’s available in the market today, refined oils by and large seem to be our best bet. However, a little digging proved me wrong.
Why are refined oils unhealthy?
The fact that they are refined is precisely what is problematic with these oils. The entire process of refining, from heating and processing to adding preservatives and even storage, results in the release of toxic chemicals that are believed to cause cancer, heart diseases, dementia etc.
Producers of refined oils insist on obtaining the maximum extraction from oil seeds. To achieve this, oil seeds are heated up to a temperature of 230 degrees, before being exposed to hexane. Preservatives are then added increase their shelf life, before finally storing them in plastic containers or packages. This not only undermines the nutritional value of oil but also alters its properties in unfavorable ways.
In the recent years, cold-pressed oils have gained popularity as a healthier alternative. So, I decided to take a closer look.
How are cold-pressed oils different?
As suggested by their name, the production of cold-pressed oils doesn’t involve addition or generation of heat, so as to retain the nutritional properties of oil. The oil seeds or nuts are simply crushed in commercial cylinders using a rotating screw.
This technique is nothing but a large-scale revival of the traditional Indian technique that used a pestle mortar to produce oils. And like all things organic, it involves great efforts that result in a small but high quality produce, with a shorter shelf life.
Okay, but how does it benefit us?
These are among the immediate known advantages of switching to various types of cold-pressed oil:
- Cold pressed oils are rich in antioxidants which fight free radicals to boost our immune system and ensure overall well-being.
- Cold-pressed coconut oil is an excellent cell fuel that also keeps a check on cholesterol levels. It is also believed to have therapeutic effects on brain disorders.
- Olive oil is a natural source of Vitamin E and Oleic acid that gives it an anti inflammatory, healing essence.
- Cold-pressed filtered groundnut oil can help stabilize blood sugar.
Is cooking with them complicated?
Is it too much of a fuss to use cold-pressed oils in everyday cooking? This was one of the first questions on my mind as well.
Apart from the various health benefits, cold-pressed oils also add a rich flavor and aroma to your meal. However, you do need to be careful with the amount of heat used, since the very idea is to prevent them from overheating and retain their natural goodness. In a way, using cold-pressed oils will also allow you to rethink your cooking style and make a healthier shift towards more sautes and stir fries, as opposed to deep-frying and / or overcooking everything in hot oil.
In particular, oils containing unsaturated fats, such as sesame oil, tend to break down when heated. It is advisable to use them as a seasoning or a dip, alongside your main course. Saturated oils such as olive oil, on the other hand can be used while frying, grilling or sautéing because they have high smoke points.
Find out more about the correct use of cooking oils here. Tried cold-pressed oil already? Tell us what you love or hate about them!