Recently, on a trip to the grocery store to stock up on monthly groceries, my friend stood in amazement, gazing at the oil section and pondering over which oil to buy. Since there were a plethora of oils ranging from refined oils like sunflower, safflower, and rice bran to cold, pressed oils like coconut, sesame, olive oils, etc. Which one to buy was her question since she was understandably confused.
When she mentioned this to me, I realized anybody could fall for fancy oil bottles available in the stores, but do they know the nutritional value, or rather, the difference between refined and cold-pressed oils? Read on for some in-depth information that could provide clarity.
Refined Oils, as the name suggests, are free from impurities. They undergo the process of bleaching, distillation, steaming, purification, and hydrogenation, which result in an odourless and pure product. In this process, they undergo extensive refining, which results in the loss of nutrients. This process makes it fit for consumption and even frying since cold-pressed oils cannot be used for frying.
Refined oils are obtained from seeds like soya beans, sunflower, canola, etc. According to a survey conducted, some varieties of refined oils available in the Indian market have trans-fat content. Some doctors claim that there is no minimum limit for trans-fat content but, it has a harmful effect if consumed in small quantities. It could lead to many health problems like increased bad cholesterol, low HDL levels, increased blood sugar levels, obesity, cancer, etc.
Cold Press Oil
On the other hand, cold-pressed oils are extracted from oilseeds by natural methods. There is no or very minimal application of heat required, hence retaining most of the nutrients. Some of the best examples are sesame, coconut and peanut oil.
Cold Pressed Oil v/s Refined Oil
If we compare the nutritional value of both, cold-pressed oils are the winners! What makes them stand out are:
Cold Pressed oils retains the nutrients even after the extraction process and are rich in antioxidants and vitamins. While Refined oils are very low in nutritional value, as the manufacturing techniques reduces the nutrition content during processing.
These oils are extremely high in Vitamin E and naturally contain antioxidant-rich compounds, which prevent free radical formations and cell damage. Refined oils, on the other hand, aggravate the inflammation process and lead to many health problems like high cholesterol levels.
- No Harmful Chemicals
When the oil is extracted from the seed during refining, a lot of chemicals are used to remove the impurities, so the end product is odourless and colourless. However, cold-pressed oils are chemical-free as no chemicals are used during the extraction process.
In the refining stage, a lot of important nutrients like vitamins, carotenoids and sterols are lost, while for cold-pressed oils they are retained. To extend its shelf-life, refined oils are Hydrogenated, which forms trans-fats, which are highly dangerous for health.
- Improves Digestion
It is believed that food cooked in cold-pressed oil is easy to digest, so in a way, it helps in maintaining a healthy system. It also improves the skin. These oils are free from preservatives and chemicals. However, if refined oils are applied directly to the skin, it may cause irritation or allergies due to the chemical processing.
Let us also understand how refined oils work in our body:
- Effects of Consuming Refined oils
Many chemicals are used during the distillation and bleaching process of these oils. These chemicals can be dangerous for human health if consumed over a longer period. Their consumption can be carcinogenic, leading to different types of cancers, as well as involving the respiratory system.
- Problems involving Digestion
Various chemicals used during the refining process could hurt the digestive system. At the same time, preservatives that are added to improve shelf-life can lead to gastroenteritis.
- Respiratory Problems
The deodorizing and bleaching techniques may give us a clear end-product but eventually increase the chances of turning the oil rancid, and increase the oxidation process. It can affect our lungs in the long run. You may experience shortness of breath and lung damage.
- Cardiovascular Problems
Oil is the main concern in our diet, involving our heart health. People with diabetes and altered cholesterol levels are keen on consuming less oil. But do we know what oil does to our hearts? Are we consuming the right oil? These are important questions to address.
As mentioned, refined oils undergo heat application, eliminating all the natural substances in them. As a result, trans-fat increases, which is highly dangerous for heart health, and responsible for coronary heart diseases leading to blockages, and then heart failure. Daily use of these oils can be just like slow poison.
Not only heart diseases, but many ailments occur with prolonged consumption of oil, like diabetes, ulcers, renal issues, allergies, hypoglycemia, arthritis, and premature ageing.
Extensive and prolonged use of refined oils is the common gateway to health problems. Let’s switch to a healthier version of oil and start using cold-pressed oils for our health, and better and disease-free living. Let’s make a combined effort to educate ourselves and others to promote healthy living and a healthy lifestyle by eliminating these products even though they may be cheaper than cold-pressed oils.
We need to bring about a conscious change so that the next time we go grocery shopping, we are very clear about our health goals and know about the pros and cons of using these oils.
Cold Press is the traditional way of extracting the oil from seeds, which helps retain the nutrient content, thereby providing health benefits. Consuming these oils helps in maintaining gut health, improving digestion, and keeping diseases at bay. It is a boon for our health and is better than refined oils.