The truth of cooking oil

Technology is a positive enabler, well most times, but there are exceptions. Food being one of them. A few celebrity nutritionists are seen professing that eat what your grandmother ate, be it sweets of fried goodies. But grandmother didn’t prepare her goodies using refined material, be it oil or sugar. She stuck to traditional ghee, wood pressed oil and jaggery.

Cooking oil has undergone a major transition over the past couple of decades. The consumer has chosen vanity over tradition, rather unknowingly. Cooklite oils, Oils with added minerals, Olive oil, Rice bran oils and many more aided with advertisement blitzkrieg have succeeded in making the society think that every new technology in the oil industry is beneficial for the human body. In this bargain, the number of cases with hypothyroid, cardiac arrest, irregular blood pressure, arthritis are continuously on the rise and outshining the historical ratio of these diseases.

As a part of this narrative, the society is slowly trained to look at oils as the culprit for all health diseases and its been made to think that colourless and odourless oils are much healthier. Nothing can be farther from the truth. The perception towards cooking oil is heavily manipulated by the giants in the industry who are using family health and heart patients as props in media advertisements to drive home their point .The truth is oil is an essential ingredient to the body by acting as a lubricant for bones and joints, a facilitator for bowel movement, as a carrier for fat soluble vitamins, insulator for body for changing climate and nourishes the skin. As refined oils are completely synthetic in nature they fail to perform any of these activities and add on to the bad cholesterol levels in the body, giving rise to heart diseases and irregular blood pressure. The challenge is in choosing the right oil.

Let us use the sieve of truth. These commercially produced “REFINED” oils are extremely harmful as the extraction process includes introduction of industrial chemicals to get the most out of the oilseeds. Refined oils are mass produced by treating cheaply available rejected rancid oilseeds with solvents, deodoriser, decolourizer at high temperatures. Such harsh processes destroy the nutrient content of oil and makes it devoid of any natural flavour or nourishment. It is also mixed with palm oil and abundantly available edible mineral oil to make their margins higher. Refined oil enters the supply chain at about Rs.30/ltr from the refineries and is sold at MRP of Rs.120/ltr to the consumers. Most often, large distributors sell refined oils at Rs.90/ltr as the retail margin of refined oils is almost 30-50%. The intent is not to point out the high margin industry of refined oils but, towards the cheap harmful ingredients introduced in the food chain, leading to health diseases.

A healthy option for cooking is Cold Pressed Oil. It is produced just by crushing oilseeds and squeezing the oil out of them . A trustworthy cold pressed oil will be free from any preservatives or chemicals. As the oil is extracted physically in wooden churners, the nutrient levels remain intact and its natural composition helps the body to assimilate the nutrients effectively. It is prudent to consume cold pressed oils of local oilseeds, as these crops have evolved as per the climatic conditions of the ecosystem. Cold Pressed Olive Oil may be great when used as seasoning but may not be conducive to Indian cuisine owing to low smoking point.

In India, cold pressed oils (ghaani ka tel, kolhu ka tel) of groundnut, sesame, safflower, mustard and coconut have been used since centuries. It is a myth that cold pressed oil is prohibitively expensive. If a family consumes 5 ltrs of refined oil (Rs. 120 per ltr x 5 = Rs.600) per month, it would only need 3 ltrs of cold pressed oil(Rs. 300 per ltr x 3 = Rs.900). At a difference of Rs.900-600 = Rs. 300 per month, a family can economically avoid harmful chemicals on their plate. The challenge lies in mass producing these oils so that it reaches every household. In earlier days, every village used its own Cold Pressed Oil . On these lines multiple small scale oil mills run by enthusiastic entrepreneurs are trying to usher in the healthy change. They must be encouraged and the power of internet / social media must be harnessed to create an awareness in the society. Such initiative will help to tilt back he scale in favour of healthier options and allow the new generation to stay away from refined foods.

It is of paramount importance to switch from harmful refined oils to cold pressed oils. These small changes in the diet will make our society healthier and the progeny stronger. Say no to refined food.

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