Vegetable oils are extracted from plant sources. They play a vital role in providing nutrition by enhancing the flavour of food, improving the texture, and conducting heat while cooking. Some of the common vegetable oils available are sunflower oil, palm oil, safflower oil, soybean oil, peanut oil, and olive oil to name a few. Vegetable oils are known to have numerous health benefits; primarily it is the major source of energy and a carrier of essential nutrients which are vital for growth and metabolism, protecting brain cells, reducing the risk of heart diseases.
Besides enhancing the texture and flavour of food, vegetable oil has many other advantages and hence should be incorporated in our daily diet. The most common uses of vegetable oil include as shortening for baked goods, pastries and breads; to improve food texture; as a medium for cooking procedures such as frying; and as a base for flavored content.
Let’s look into the nutritional composition and health benefits of vegetable and fruit oils to understand this and break away certain popular myths.
Nutritional Value of Vegetable Oils. Various oils have different nutritional components that help us but there are common elements such as vitamin E (Tocopherol), omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, and saturated fats.
Some vegetable oils contain Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Vegetable oils, particularly flaxseed oil, Soyabean oil and canola oil, contain omega-3 fatty acids, an essential fatty acid that cannot be synthesized within the body. Omega-3 fatty acid plays an important role in the preservation of a healthy heart, brain function, normal growth and development of the body. Regular intake of omega-3 fatty acids for the prevention of cardiovascular diseases. Thus oils and fats form an integral part of any healthy and balanced diet.
Linoleic acid is an omega-6 fatty acid, commonly found in almonds and Alaskan salmon. Omega-6 plays an vital role in cell growth that triggers immune responses, and encourages brain and muscle development, which explains why it is a sought-after nutrient for top athletes and body builders. However, like overall vegetable oil consumption, it is only healthy in moderation.
Oils protect our brain cells. Some oils like Peanut oil, Almond oil and Wheat Germ oil are rich in vitamin E which is required in the body for cell protection cum development and the right function of the nervous system. This vitamin benefits our body, by improving the immune system. It acts as an anti-oxidant and protects the different body tissues such as skin, eyes.
Also, the presence of vitamin E in the oils helps in preventing heart diseases. Vitamin E is an anti-oxidant – controls free radicals, helps prevent blood clots and blockages in coronary arteries, thus helping in preventing cardiovascular ailments.
The intake of vegetable oil, particularly olive oil, may increase metabolism in obese people, olive oil contains phenolic compounds, substances that have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-blood clotting properties, which may possibly increase the body’s metabolic rate.
Naturally trans-fat free: Vegetable oils are naturally trans-fat free. Trans fats, which are commonly found in animal products puts you at a greater risk of coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke or death. Hence, oils like refined palm oil and other vegetable oils are used by the food industry as a replacement for hydrogenated vegetable fats which may contain unhealthy trans-fats.
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The regular use of olive oil and other vegetable oils may be beneficial in decreasing the risk for the development of breast cancer. People who use butter and margarine, on the other hand, have a higher risk of developing breast cancer than those who use vegetable oils.
Relieves menopausal symptoms. Reduction in symptoms of menopause like hot flushes in more than 90% of the women who consumed rice bran oil daily. So including vegetable oils like rice bran oil can help you to deal hormonal swings during menopause.
Softens cracked feet: Not just in diet, vegetable oils can also be applied on the skin and feet for its moisturising effect. We have all experienced rough feet at some point, and one of the best remedies suggested for it is vegetable oil. Before going to bed, rub cracked feet with vegetable oil like coconut oil and cover it with a pair of soft socks. This helps to nourish cracked heels and naturally smoothen the feet.
Oils like safflower, cottonseed, sunflower, almond, and wheat germ are all rich in vitamin E which is required in the body for cell protection and development. This vitamin has a long list of benefits for our body. From improving the immune system to stimulating the digestive system, it is vital. It protects body tissues such as skin, eyes, breasts, testes, and liver.
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Enhances the flavour: Edible cooking oils like peanut, olive and soybean oil are not only healthy but also enhance the flavour of food and hence they are extensively used for cooking. Peanut oil or groundnut oil, when used as filtered oil, is a favourite because of its aroma which can be used for dressing, for sautéing as well as cooking.
Healthiest Cooking Oils
Canola oil. Canola oil is what comes from extracting the seeds of a canola plant. It’s inexpensive and commonly used in processed foods as well as for commercial frying. Benefits – as with most liquid oils, canola contains plenty of omega-3 fats, which are the good fats also found in fish. These have anti-inflammatory properties and can help reduce blood cholesterol.
Olive oil. Almost a fad for healthy oil to substitute other vegetable oils, olive oil is fruit oil extracted from the fruit itself. Most non-vegetarians can get their omega-3 fatty acids from fish or fish oil, but vegetarians and vegans can receive it from olive oil. It is used for cooking, medicinal purposes, soaps and cosmetic products, for pharmaceutical supplements and sometimes as fuel. Different types can be purchased such as virgin, extra virgin (cold pressed), pure and lampante.
Soybean oil. This oil is extracted from soybeans and is rich in fatty acids. High mineral and vitamin content and the antioxidant properties make this oil a very healthy choice. Some of its health benefits are better immunity, healthier eyes and skin, and reduced risk of heart complications. It also aids in reducing the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
Sunflower oil. A non-volatile oil, it is extracted from sunflowers fairly easily. A good amount of fatty acids and vitamin E in this oil make it a healthy option. It helps in boosting energy, improving the health of skin and hair, preventing heart diseases, reducing the severity of arthritis and asthma, and promoting skin cell regeneration.
Safflower oil. Extracted from its seeds, this oil contains omega-6 fatty acids, oleic acid, and linoleic acid which help fight obesity, manage diabetes, prevent symptoms of pre-menstrual syndrome, boost immunity, and more.
Peanut oil. This popular cooking oil is extracted from peanuts. With a good balance of fatty acids, it is also rich in vitamins, minerals, and organic compounds. It aids in maintaining cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and overall heart health. It also delays the symptoms of aging such as wrinkles.
Sesame oil. One of the less popular oils, it is obtained from the seeds and is a healthy alternative for certain unhealthy vegetable oils. It is rich in minerals such as zinc, copper, calcium, magnesium; a wide range of polyunsaturated fats, and tyrosine (amino acid). It helps reduce inflammation, boosts dental health and metabolism, and reduces age spots.
Other types are corn oil, cottonseed oil, palm oil, flaxseed oil.
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