Cold pressed, refined oil confusion

A very frequent question often posed to me as a dietitian is “ which oil is better?”  The market is flooded with oils extracted practically from all kinds of food ingredients. Each oil is marketed to a certain target customer in mind like diabetics, heart problems, high cholesterol customers etc. But as the end user, it does get difficult to make a choice of what is good for the family.

Cold Pressed Oils, as the name has it, are the ones which used the simple technique of pressing to extract the oils. Once the extraction has taken place, the oil is ready to be used without any process of filtration or purification. This makes these oils natural, nutrient dense and flavourful and keeps the bioactive components of the oil intact. Most of you might be aware of this technique by the name of “Ghani” which uses a giant mortar and pestle with a bullock.

The refined oil used various mechanical, chemical and heating techniques for its extraction. The impurities and unwanted materials are removed by the process of chemical techniques and filtration processes. This leads to clear refined oil but without any taste of its own or any nutrients. The point I am making is, the company might claim that an “x” oil is good for diabetics because it is high in “n” nutrient but the truth is that the “x” oil has been made to pass so many processes and chemicals that it is very unlikely that the “n” nutrient is still present in it. They are like plastic fats that can stay without getting spoilt for years!

Because of the nutrient content retained in the cold pressed oils, they have various medicinal uses. While coconut retains lauric acid which is responsible for weight loss and various lifestyle ailments, groundnut and sesame oil retain various antioxidants and polyphenols that are a boon for people suffering from heart ailments.

Another aspect that is of concern is the smoking point. The only downside of a cold pressed oil is that one cannot use them for frying due to the low smoking point. But isn’t avoiding fried foods the way to stay healthy anyway?

To summarize the benefits of cold pressed oil:

  1. They are as natural as they can be, chemical free
  2. They do not contain harmful solvent residues.
  3. They contain natural antioxidants
  4. The natural flavour and smell of the product are retained.
  5. Ideal for medicinal uses.

God created various food ingredients, man learned to grow them, the food lobby learned to profit from them and the customers chose to take the product message by its face value and suffer from its ill effects. The final decision is for us to make whether we would like to use these unhealthy refined oils as a convenience and cheaper option or build our way to health by choosing the healthier alternatives.