Food industry has come a far way in revolutionizing what we consume. Nevertheless we have been more concentrating on simplifying our cooking processes, with two aims. One, reducing the cooking efforts and second, in reducing the cooking time. Thus came the beginning of “processed food”. Our eatables are so easily and abundantly available now, such that we name it and can have it in matter of minutes.
One such processed danger in our households these days is, “refined oils”. Though there has been a little awareness these days about the same, let us go through some facts about the actual process of refinement involved.
Refined oils were relatively introduced only in the 1900s and have been in evolution since then. Oils for cooking are generally extracted from fruits, seeds or nuts. These oils are then subjected to a number of stages of processing. Let us have a small view about it.
1. The degumming process– Here oils are heated to between 188 and 206 degrees Fahrenheit (85 and 95 degrees Celsius), with steam and acids. The gums, mostly,phosphatides, precipitate out. Later oils are subjected to centrifuge.
2. The neutralization process– Some free acids in the oil are neutralized using alkalis.
3. The bleaching process– This is the stage of removing pigments and colors from the oil by filtering it through fuller’s earth, activated carbon or activated clays.
4. The deodorization process– As the word tells, this is the stage of removing natural smells from the oil. In this process, steam is passed over hot oil in a vacuum at between 440 and 485 degrees Fahrenheit (225 and 250 degrees Celsius), thus allowing the volatile taste and odor components to distill from the oil. This stage also involves treating the oils with citric acid to remove trace of metals. By this, chances of oxidation are lessened and the shelf life increased.
5. The de-waxing process/winterization process– Here, oils are rapidly cooled and filtered to remove waxes if any.
Pondering over the above stages, we need to really think how healthy the resultant oil which passes through these processes is.
What can Ayurveda says about this?
1. Repeated heating can harm basic properties of a food material. “Punaha paaka” of aahara is not recommended according to Ayurveda.
2.Treatment of oil with acid can change its properties to make it more teekshna.
3. After so many processing, the basic natural property of the oil which is essential to the body called as the “snigdha guna”,is lost.
Importance of fat for the normal functioning of our body has been ignored off late.
So, what is the solution to this?
It’s not sufficient to know the dangers involved in consuming refined oils. It’s important to know the solution and better substitutes too. A simple alternate to refined oils is cold-pressed filtered oils. The source of oil can be any according to the geographical areas we dwell in. Like for example, north Indians who are habituated to mustard oil, south Indians who are accustomed to groundnut oil, coastal cuisines which involve coconut oil are all safe and have immense health benefits too, provided their natural properties aren’t washed away by the refined process.
This seems to be a simple change but has immense health benefits in a long run. The main reason being, most of our body tissues require fat for their survival. The hormones, adipose tissues, for cell functioning and so on.
Now its upto you to decide what is your choice for good health. Let’s get committed for a better tomorrow and most importantly let’s get committed to teach healthy food choices for our next generation.