The Unrefined Truth About Refined Oils
There is an open secret about refined oils that many of us still don’t know. It is the process oilseeds undergo to acquire the state of odourless, colourless ‘refinedom’. To begin with, all sorts of seeds are used in refined oils – good, bad and even spoilt. When you do a quick internet search of the refining process of cooking oil the results throw up words like extraction, neutralizing, bleaching, deodorising etc. Intuitively, you know there is something wrong when they are neutralising, bleaching and deodourising your cooking oil. Dig a little deeper and your doubts are confirmed.
Bathed in petroleum solvent
While the term extraction seems harmless, seed pulp is bathed in a petroleum based solvent called hexane, to pull out the maximum amount of oil possible. (Is that a safe thing to do, is a logical question that comes into our minds.) Okay, so they use food grade hexane, but traces of it are likely to remain in the oil. Many studies including one conducted by the Royal Society of Chemistry of UK have confirmed this. Nausea, headache, blurred vision, muscle weakness and numbness of the extremities are some of the side effects of ingesting even trace amounts of hexane.
Very high temperatures (upto 180 degree C) are used in the refining process to remove colour, odour and bitterness, causing the molecules to become unstable, more prone to oxidation and creation of free radicals – the root cause of a host of diseases including cancer, Alzheimer and Parkinson. Along the way the oilseeds are stripped of all the natural fatty goodness – vitamin E and minerals and antioxidants.
Neutralising is done to remove any impurities in the oil by adding caustic soda and soda ash (Don’t we shun the cooking soda to soften the dal because it will kill all the nutrients).It is then purified and bleached to improve the colour. (The only thing we associated bleach with was sanitation and laundry.) The oil is also deodourised to get rid of ‘unusual’ or chemical smells. (I thought only bathrooms need deodourising.) At the end, they add some preservatives to improve shelf life.
That’s a complete cocktail of chemicals that the oilseeds have been processed with. The refining process leaves behind a trail of chemicals which get into our body and cause untold damage to the internal organs.
A dash of GMO
It is also a common practice among oil manufacturers to add cottonseed oilseed in most vegetable oils for volume. These seeds come from BT cotton which is a GMO seed (and the consumers will never know). Recent research reports in respected medical journals in the Indian Heart Journal (IHJ), the official peer reviewed open access journal of Cardiological Society of India (CSI) and the Journal for Preventive Cardiology have carried reports on cooking oils and recommend unrefined oils for the presence of bioactive compounds flavours and Vit E content.
This only adds momentum to the ‘ditch-the-processed-food movement’ and substantiates the fact that our ancestors knew better and enjoyed better health as they were consuming oil extracted by the bullock driven mill.
Keep watching this space for more on topics like this and others.