I am sure you know that the choice you make for which food you buy and consume has a direct impact on your health, but did you know it also impacts your environment!!
Yes! Because we humans are a part of the ecosystem so what is harmful to our health is not good for the environment.
“Your diet is a bank account. Good food choices are good investments.” – Bethenny Frankel
Vegetable oils are commonly used in our daily life, from cooking to skincare products. However, there are two types of vegetable oils available in the market, refined and unrefined.
Despite their popularity because of their low prices and longer shelf life, refined vegetable oils come with potential health risks.
Refined oils are made from seeds, nuts, or fruits that are subjected to various processes to remove impurities and obtain a clear, odorless, and flavorless oil. Refined oils are popular because of their neutral taste and high smoke point, which makes them ideal for frying and deep-frying. However, the process of refining oils involves the use of chemicals and high heat, which can have harmful effects on health. In this blog, we will explore the harms of refined oils and their impact on human health.
Refining process of oils
Vegetable oils are often refined using a combination of mechanical and chemical processes. The exact process can vary depending on the type of oil and the manufacturer, but here are the general steps involved in refining vegetable oils.
The refining process of oils involves several stages, including degumming, neutralization, bleaching, and deodorization. During degumming, the oil is treated with water or acid to remove the impurities and proteins. Neutralization involves the addition of an alkaline substance to neutralize the free fatty acids present in the oil. Bleaching is done to remove the color pigments and other impurities, and deodorization involves heating the oil at high temperatures to remove the odor and flavor. All these processes as complicated as they sound use chemicals derived from petroleum!
What harm are we doing to our health by using refined oil?
Loss of nutrients: The refining process of oils involves the use of heat and chemicals, which can destroy the nutrients present in the oil. Essential nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants are lost during the refining process, making the oil nutritionally inferior.
Trans fats: The high heat used during the refining process can cause the formation of trans fats in the oil. Trans fats are known to increase LDL cholesterol levels and decrease HDL cholesterol levels, leading to an increased risk of heart disease.
Omega-6 fatty acids: Refined oils are high in omega-6 fatty acids, which are essential fatty acids that the body needs in small amounts. However, excessive consumption of omega-6 fatty acids can lead to inflammation in the body and increase the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and arthritis.
Chemical residue: The chemicals used during the refining process can leave residue in the oil, which can have harmful effects on health. Some of these chemicals include hexane, a solvent used to extract oil from seeds and nuts, and bleaching agents such as diatomaceous earth and activated carbon.
Increased risk of cancer: The high heat used during the refining process can cause the formation of acrylamide, a chemical that is known to increase the risk of cancer. Acrylamide is formed when carbohydrates are heated at high temperatures in the presence of amino acids. This is a major concern for those who consume a diet high in refined oils.
Oxidation: refined oils are highly susceptible to oxidation. Oxidation occurs when the oil is exposed to air, light, and heat, causing the oil to become rancid and produce harmful free radicals. Free radicals are known to cause cellular damage and increase the risk of chronic diseases.
Attention: Refined vegetable oils are widely used in processed foods due to their low cost and long shelf life. However, consuming processed foods that contain refined vegetable oils can be detrimental to your health. These foods are often high in saturated fats, calories, and sodium, contributing to weight gain, high blood pressure, and other health problems. It's best to avoid processed foods and opt for whole foods instead.
So what is the healthy option for cooking oils?
Alternatives to refined oils include organic cold-pressed oils & organic virgin oils. Using organic oils is important as these days oil-producing crops are heavily sprayed with pesticides and are mostly genetically modified!
Organic Cold-pressed oils: Cold-pressed oils are made by pressing seeds, nuts, or fruits at low temperatures without the use of heat or chemicals. These oils retain their natural flavor, aroma, and nutrients, making them a healthier alternative to refined oils.
Organic Virgin oils: Virgin oils are made by pressing seeds, nuts, or fruits without the use of heat or chemicals. These oils are minimally processed and retain their natural flavor, aroma, and nutrients.
Cold pressing is a method of extracting oil from seeds and nuts that involves crushing them at low temperatures to extract the oil without using heat or chemicals. The process is called "cold pressing" because it uses a hydraulic press that applies pressure to the seeds or nuts to extract the oil.
The seeds or nuts are cleaned and sorted to remove any debris or impurities.
They are then fed into a cold press machine, which uses a hydraulic press to crush the seeds or nuts and extract the oil.
The oil and the remaining solids are separated using a centrifuge, and the oil is collected in a container.
The oil is filtered to remove any remaining solids or impurities, resulting in pure, unrefined oil.
It's worth noting that different types of seeds and nuts require different methods of cold pressing to extract the oil. For example, some seeds or nuts may need to be preheated to help release the oil. Additionally, the quality of the oil can vary depending on the type of seeds or nuts used, as well as the specific cold pressing method used.
So you see, we are not losing on any nutrients and not adding any chemicals to this oil. So this explains why you should opt for organic cold-pressed oils rather than refined oils.
So paying a bit extra for such healthy oils is going to save you expensive hospital bills because of the inflammation caused due to these oils.
Hence, cooking is a skill all genders should know so even if you are located in places where you cannot get healthy food, you can opt to cook for yourself with healthy ingredients.
How is the refining process detrimental to our environment?
The refining of cooking oils can result in a number of environmental hazards, including:
Air pollution: The refining process can release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air, which can contribute to air pollution and harm human health.
Water pollution: The refining process can generate wastewater that contains harmful chemicals and pollutants, such as phosphorus, nitrogen, and heavy metals. If this wastewater is not properly treated, it can contaminate nearby waterways and harm aquatic life.
Solid waste: The refining process can also generate solid waste, such as filter cakes, which can contain high levels of pollutants and require special handling and disposal.
Energy consumption: The refining process requires significant amounts of energy, which can contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.
Deforestation: The production of cooking oils can contribute to deforestation if the land is cleared to make way for oil palm or other oil-producing crops. In many parts of the world, palm oil plantations are established by clearing tropical rainforests, which are some of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet. This can result in the loss of habitat for endangered species, such as orangutans, tigers, and elephants.
Soil degradation: Oil plantations often require the use of large amounts of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, which can lead to soil degradation and erosion.
Overall, the refining of cooking oils can have significant environmental impacts, and it is important to minimize these impacts through the use of sustainable production practices and proper waste management techniques.
Refined vegetable oils may be widely available with many flashy and false marketing tricks, but their potential health risks should not be ignored. It's best to opt for natural, unrefined oils which are easily available in your local communities. This way we can support the local organic farms, and small cooperatives who are working to bring you the convenience of availing healthy food options. Anyways oil should always be consumed in moderation for good health so opt for good quality organic virgin cold-pressed oils which are rich in nutrients.
By making simple changes to your diet, you can protect yourself from potential health risks and improve your overall well-being.
By choosing sustainably sourced organic cold-pressed oils you will also contribute to a clean planet :)
So now you know why is it that refined oils are considered unhealthy and why are they so cheap in price compared to Organic cold pressed or virgin oils found in the market! So make a good investment and reap high returns in the future by choosing the right oil for cooking your food!
Written & Compiled by Pallavi Santhapuram
Disclaimer: This blog is for information purposes only and is not intended to change anybody’s personal views. All the information provided in this blog is true to the best of my knowledge, but there may be omissions, errors, or mistakes. The blog should not be seen as advice of medical, legal, or any other type. I reserve the right to change or update the focus or content of my published or upcoming blogs at any time. The information within this article is researched and compiled from the references provided.