Why did we start consuming Refined oils? And why we should stop now!

Updated: Mar 31, 2021

Naturally, oil seeds can be pressed to extract oil (Like pressing juice from a fruit). Sesame seeds, Coconut, Groundnut/Peanut, Olive, etc are a few from which oil can be extracted by just pressing, which is a natural process. This natural process in known as Cold Pressed and this method has been used for 1000s of years around the world. Origins of Cold Pressed oil can be traced backed to the Indus Valley Civilization. Charred sesame seeds and oil-pressing machines were found in the ruins of Harappa and were dated to be 5000 years old.

But, refined oils are manufactured by using chemical extractions process that includes high temperatures, high pressures, multiple chemical solvents, etc. This yields in a “oil” which is unhealthy but very consistent in terms of colour, smell and shelf life.

So, the questions is – Why did refined oils come into the market? Why are oils extracted chemically when it can be extracted naturally?

  • Seeds such as rapeseed (canola), soybean, corn, sunflower, safflower, etc CANNOT yield oil through natural extraction techniques. To extract oil from these seeds, only chemical refining process works. Also, when manufacturers discovered chemical extraction techniques, they started using this even on oil seeds (groundnut, sesame, etc) from which oil can be extracted naturally using cold pressed method

  • Cold pressed oil extraction can be done only in small batches (quantity). Whereas, refining and chemical extraction can be done in large scale by setting up big machinery

  • Refined oil extraction has higher oil yield. For example, in cold pressed method we need 2.5kg of groundnuts to make 1 litre of groundnut oil. The refined process will extract 1 litre of oil from 2.2 kg of groundnuts

  • As refined oil is neutralized for taste, colour and odour, very low quality oil seeds are used. (Cold pressed oil has to use only good quality oil seeds; otherwise, a consumer will identify the lapse in quality)

  • This is the most shocking part. Palm oil constitutes nearly 45% of edible oil consumed in India. Palm oil is the most consumed oil. How? Nobody goes to the grocery store to buy Palm oil and there isn’t Palm oil in grocery store shelves, yet we consume so much palm oil. Cheap and neutral oils such as palm oil, cotton seed oil, etc. are mixed with other oils for profits. This is a widespread and accepted “Oil blending” practice in the oil industry. Google it, you will be shocked. Refined process allows this blending where consumers will not be able to find the difference. And FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India) allows blending of oils as blending is a very common practice

  • Refined oil has longer shelf life as it is chemically treated. There is nothing to be spoilt in it as there is no organic life in it

Palm oil is the most consumed oil in India. This is because refined oils are blended with Palm oil.

With business objectives to make more money, oil manufacturers ventured into chemically extracted refined oils. Chemical extraction allowed them to extract oil at low cost and with huge marketing budgets, they have changed our consumption patterns.

These days Refined oils are advertised as Vitamin +. Oil should be a natural product! What is added to make it Vitamin +?

With access to information, it is time that we as consumers make the right choice when it comes to oils and our health.

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