Cold pressed/extra virgin oils are not some new kids on the block! They have been around since the ancient times, they just got sidelined for a few decades by industrial revolution and it’s horrid byproduct, the refined oils.
What are Cold Pressed oils?
Valid question. They are simply the oils extracted from seeds like groundnut, soy beans, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, olives, coconut etc. The seeds, as the term suggest, are literally pressed to squeeze the oils out. The process of cold pressing is simple yet fun to watch. Watch this Lakdi Ghana video 👇
Is this the same oil that we get at the grocery store?
If you are careful enough you will see different kinds of labels on your oil packaging
To be truthful, most of us don’t really understand what it means except for the fact that it sounds “Fancy” and it is “Expensive” which means it has to be “Healthy”, right?
But what those words really mean is “our oil has gone through ****ton of chemical processes and is stripped of all it’s natural nutrients!”
Trust me, I do not believe in fear mongering… fear of chemicals, fear of unknown, or fear of disease.. No! That is not what we will do here, and why? Because we are people of science and we will dissect this “oil refining” issue very scientifically!
What is Oil Refining?
Refining is a process of purification of oils. In this process, oils are robbed of naturally occurring gums, proteins, phospholipids, fine seed particles etc. This makes the oil “light/losorb”. Oils are also neutralized (acidity balanced!), bleached (stripped of color) and deodorized (devoid of it’s natural aroma). And to achieve all these the oil is heated at high temperatures and is treated with chemicals etc.
What they take out during refining is not essentially bad or toxic; on the contrary these substances are quite important for our health!
Phospholipids: Are essential component of cell membrane (remember the fluid mosaic model?). Thus dietary phospholipids are extremely essential for integrity of every single body cell and for our overall well-being.
Proteins: Need I explain the importance of dietary proteins?
Vitamins : most plant based oils are rich in beta carotene which is a precursor of vitamin A. Not just that, certain oils are a great source of Vitamin E as well(Sunflower, Safflower, Almond etc.). And these are well preserved during cold pressing. Whereas refinement strips all of them away, so much so that oil companies have to add it back and enrich the cooking oils with these lost vitamins!
Antioxidants: Carotenoids and chlorophyll (remember photosynthesis?) are plant pigments with antioxidant properties. And these are preserved during cold pressing.
Lecithin: In the figure above, see that very first step of “Degumming”? During that process Lecithin is extracted. Lecithin is a source of Choline, an essential vitamin like substance that is a precursor of neurotransmitter acetylcholine! Lecithin is important people, so much so that it is sold in the form of dietary supplements.
Now those were just some major nutrients we were talking about, other than those there are numerous trace minerals and essential fatty acids that are also lost during the refining process!
In a nutshell, modern refined cooking oils provide nothing but pure empty calories (devoid of all nutrients but fats!)
Now you would ask if refining is sooo…NOT GOOD, then why do oil companies opt for it?
Well they have their own reasons, like-
- It increases the shelf life: Most refined oils stay good for up to 2 years whereas virgin oils are prone to rapid rancidification, oxidation, and go bad if not used within 3–4 months of manufacturing!
- Total yield: Cold pressing is not the most effective technique of extracting the oils! In cold pressing, oil yield is almost 5–6lit/10kg of seeds, which means weight by weight yield is only ~50%. Whereas in industrial refining hydraulic pressure is used for pressing, and not just that, solvents like hexane are used to extract as much oil as possible. In refined oil production, almost 100% of oil is extracted from the seeds!
- Modern Cooking: Refining by eliminating the signature taste and smell of any oil, renders it a neutral flavor and appearance that can go with almost all cooking styles and all flavors!
Here are 5 reasons why you should make the switched to cold pressed oils TODAY!
- Nutritionally Rich: Be it traditional lakdi ghana/kachchi ghani/chekku ennai or commercially prepared extra virgin oils (made using temperature controlled expeller pressing method), cold pressed oils retain most of proteins, vitamins, phosholipids, antioxidants, lecithin etc. And obtaining these essential nutrients from an all natural source is a much wiser and holistic choice than getting them from multivitamin pills, don’t you think so?
What would you rather do, spend extra ₹15/liter for kachchi ghani oil or spend ₹1899 for that colorful chemical pallet of multivitamins?
- Chemical Free: During refining, various chemicals are used like Hexane, Sodium Hydroxide, Sodium Bicarbonate (baking soda), Bleaching Agents etc. And on top of that chemicals like Propyl Gallate, BHA, BHT are introduced as preservatives! Now not all of these are exactly toxic or carcinogenic , but if you are someone who is conscious about living organically and staying away from chemicals, you should consider switching back to cold pressed!
- Delectable Flavors: Have you tasted the fish cooked in virgin সরিষা তেল, or prawn curry cooked in virgin വെളിച്ചെണ്ണ… or how about stuffed brinjal fried in घान्याचे शेंगदाण्याचे तेल? Now incidentally I have tried all three of these and let me tell you how flavorful those delicacies came out to be! Virgin oils, their flavor and aroma, compliments ethnic food and the spices so well, I just can not explain it in the words, you will have to try and taste it for yourself…
- Environmental Impact: If you are someone who is conscious about your carbon footprint and believe in consuming least processed things, switch back to cold pressed today!
- Way of Life: Cooking with cold pressed oils has been a tradition not only in India but across the world! It’s not just about saving and cherishing traditions, but also about encouraging the dieing trade and conserving the art of cold pressing.
Few Things to Consider Before Making the Switch
- Storage: Cold pressed oils have a limited shelf life (max 3–4 months). You can always maximize the shelf life by storing it in the cold (think refrigeration) and dark (think non transparent bottles) places, although it is always advisable to use them up as soon as possible to reap their full nutritional benefits.
- The switch itself: Be considerate of your family member’s taste buds and olfactory senses! Since they have grown up eating refined junk, they might find the aroma or earthy taste of cold pressed oils little to strong. What you can do is switch slowly and gradually (my mother in law once told me that her kids refused to eat every time she tried to cook with kachchi ghani oil because of the smell! But its been 2 full months since I started using cold pressed oils and my husband has no idea what so ever 😛! The trick is, I started slowly just by using it for daal tadka first, then for curries, and now for almost everything…) So, no rushing, ease them into it…😉
Call To Action
Be aware of tags/claims like refined/physically refined, and always look for tags like Extra Virgin/Cold Pressed/Kachchi Ghani (if you can find organic, that’s even better!) You can Find good quality cold pressed oils at most health food stores, but those tend to be super expensive. Thus here are few other affordable options (no affiliations or endorsements, just a genuine effort to make resources known)
- Lakdi Ghana (Pune). They have been in the business of producing pure and 100% traditionally cold pressed oils since 1949. Many in Pune know of them, and they do ship products to rest of Maharashtra as well. For more information, visit http://woodenchurner.com/
- Gulmohur Homestay (Nashik). They provide variety of hand pressed (traditionally cold pressed) oils. For contact information visit, http://www.gulmohurhomestay.com/
- Ask Around: Most Kirana stores still keep cold pressed oils or they know where in town you can get the authentic product. OR ask your elders who are living at native village and they will have an answer for you for sure 🙂
- If YOU know of any such resource, do share them with rest of us down below in the comment section 👇.
She is a Registered Dietitian who does not believe in dieting; She has a Master’s Degree in Nutrition but she is not your “I know it all Nutrition Guru!”; She loves food but loves talking about food even more. Her articles are a direct reflection of her personal quest where nutrition science meets real life! Oh, and she is owned by a 3 m.o. naughty kitten 🙂