Vegetable Oil

Any oil that is extracted from plants or various plant parts, such as seeds, fruits, grains and nuts are known as vegetable oils. For this purpose, the fruits, seeds, grains and nuts are also considered as vegetables. Vegetable oils that are most popular include coconut oil, cottonseed oil, olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, palm-kernel oil, palm oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil and soybean oil. Vegetable oils are generally used for culinary purposes - cook food, and add flavour as well as texture to foods.

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These oils are hauled out of vegetable seeds and fruits containing oil and presently they have become somewhat important for people who take healthy diets. In fact, all people consume some variety of vegetable oil. Vegetable oils are an excellent source of healthy/ beneficial fats irrespective of whether you used them in the form of a cooking medium to fry foods, use them as salad dressing or use them in the form of a shortening agent in baking products. In general, vegetable oils offer us a overabundance of health benefits like diminishing the chances of developing cardiovascular diseases, improve digestion, help in metabolism and supply our body with the much needed omega-3 fatty acids.

A number of vegetable oils, for instance virgin olive oil, are obtained through cold pressed process. Cold pressed is an extremely uncomplicated process. It is as simple as pressing the olives to obtain the oil contained by them. Subsequently, you filter the oil and start using it. However, most vegetable oils are obtained via much more complicated processes.

To extract the oils, first you need to crush the vegetables. Subsequently, the crushed mixture is heated and blended with hexane - a chemical that assists in hauling out the remaining oil from the vegetables. After this, you need to get rid of the solids and use them as animal feed. The hexane is also removed from the crude oil by means of distillation. It is worth mentioning here that while some vegetables are just crushed to extract their oils, there are others that are flattened and only after this it is possible to haul out the oils with hexane.

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The oil extracted from vegetables is crude and, hence, it needs to undergo refining process with a view to get rid of the impurities that have an effect on the color, odour and flavour of the oil. The refining process involves three main steps - refining, bleaching and finally deodorizing (also known as RBD). Below is a brief description of the three steps involved in RBD:

Refining: The oil extracted from vegetables is first treated using phosphoric acid, which helps to separate the gums from the oil. Separating the gums from the oil helps to filter the oil properly. Subsequently, the oil is again treated with caustic soda. In this phase, caustic soda reacts with the useless free fatty acids (FFA), which is turned into soap. Finally, this soap is also separated from the oil.

Bleaching: In this phase, the refined oil is heated and blended with filter aids like clay and diatomaceous earth. Mixing filter aids helps to soak up the coloring and various other contaminations in the oil. Subsequently, the oil is again filtered to get rid of the filter aids along with all impurities.

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Deodorizing: In this final step, the oil is heated again to about 480° Fahrenheit under vacuum. When the oil is heated to such high temperatures steam bubbles throughout it, resulting in the elimination of whatever free fatty acids (FFA) and impurities that might have been left behind during the refining.

On the completion of these three processes the oil is completely refined and fit for use.

Health benefits

Vegetable oils such as almond, cottonseed, sunflower, safflower and wheat germ are all loaded with vitamin E, which is an essential nutrient for the protection as well as development of the cells in our body. This particular vitamin offers us a plethora of health benefits. It plays a vital role in many bodily functions like boosting the immune system to invigorating the digestive system. At the same time, vitamin E helps to protect the body tissues like eyes, skin, liver, breasts and testes.

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The most common types of fats present in vegetable oils include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. It has been established that intake of polyunsaturated fats assist in lowering low density lipo-protein (LDL) or "bad cholesterol" levels in the blood stream, thereby lowering the chances of developing cardiovascular diseases. Moreover, the presence of vitamin E in vegetable oils helps to put off heart diseases and also to get rid of blood clots that are a primary reason for developing various heart diseases.

Fatty acids are essential for our body to carry out various functions normally and the different vegetable oils supply us with this nutrient in abundance. Fatty acids are of two varieties - omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids. These are not produced naturally by our body and, hence, it is necessary to take them through our diet.

An important variety of omega-3 fatty acids, alpha-linolenic acid is present in canola oil, soybean oil and flaxseed oil. Alpha-linolenic acid is very akin to the fatty acids present in fish.

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It is widely known that omega-3 fatty acids possess anti-inflammatory properties and this is the reason why physicians recommend them highly for people enduring chronic heart disease, skin problems and digestive disorders. On the contrary, omega-6 fatty acids are pro-inflammatory. Nevertheless, omega-6 fatty acids are also essential for our body. However, here is a word of caution: using them for a prolonged period may cause more harm to a person than help him or her. Ideally, the ratio of omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids is 1:1, as this not only helps to maintain optimal health, but also puts off complications. It is unfortunate that many people consume omega-3 fatty acids in excess, often in a ratio of 16:1. This is harmful as such unbalance between omega-6 fatty acids and omega-3 fatty acids often result in various ailments, including chronic diseases, autoimmune diseases and inflammatory conditions.

According to the findings of a study undertaken in the State University of New York and carried in the February 1990 edition of “"he Journal of the American Medical Association", consuming vegetable oils may help in reducing the risks of developing heart diseases. Researchers who undertook the study observed that people who consumed vegetable oils on a regular basis had normal blood pressure, blood sugar level, and balanced serum cholesterol. Any increase in these factors often resulted in development of cardiovascular diseases.

Findings of another study undertaken in by researchers at Italy's Universita di Milano and carried in the journal "Cancer Causes and Control" (November 1995 edition) hinted that people who regularly used vegetable oils like olive oil may find them beneficial as they may help in reducing the chances of developing breast cancer compared to people who mostly consumed margarine and butter.

Aside from other health benefits, consumption of vegetable oils is helpful in perking up the immune system. It is worth mentioning here that vegetable oils such as coconut oil enclose lauric acid (monolaurin), a compound that is said to reduce Candida, combat bacteria and also generate an environment that is hostile for survival of viruses.

Findings of a study undertaken by researchers at Brazil's Sao Paulo State University and carried in the "Nutrition Journal" (October 2010 edition) suggests that consuming vegetable oil, especially olive oil, may help in promoting metabolism in people who are obese. This quality of olive oil or for that matter any vegetable oil is attributed to the phenolic compounds contained by them. These phenolic compounds possess anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-coagulant properties that are likely to enhance the metabolic rate of the body.

In addition to the above mentioned benefits of vegetable oils, they also assist in reducing depression and anxiety. Sesame oil contains an amino acid tyrosine, which has been directly linked to the activity and release of serotonin in the brain. As a result, it can help to boost mood by inundating the body with hormones and enzymes that generates a happy feeling.

Similarly, olive oil is loaded with hydroxytyrosol and oleic acid. These two compounds play a vital role in preventing the development of acute pancreatitis (a condition wherein there is sudden inflammation of the pancreas). Various studies have shown that compounds contained in extra virgin olive oil possess the potential to protect us from developing acute pancreatitis.

In addition, olive oil encloses several other nutrients that are capable of inhibiting or eliminating the detrimental bacteria. Findings of some studies have revealed that extra virgin oil is effectual in combating eight strains of bacteria. Of these, three strains have been found to be antibiotic resistant.

Coconut oil also contains elevated levels of various antioxidants that assist in combating the detrimental free radicals. In fact, using coconut oil is a natural cure for conditions like osteoporosis. Studies undertaken on osteoporosis have discovered that using coconut oil regularly helped to enhance bone volume as well as structure in the subjects of the study. At the same time, this vegetable oil reduced bone loss owing to osteoporosis significantly.

Intake of coconut oil also helps to perk up digestion since this oil assists the body to take up fat-soluble vitamins from ingested foods. It also helps the body to absorb calcium and magnesium, thereby helping to prevent or cure conditions like stomach ulcers as well as ulcerative colitis. Moreover, coconut oil has the potential to improve good bacteria as well as gut health by eliminating bad bacteria, in addition to destroying Candida.

A number of vegetable oils such as almond oil, peanut oil and wheat germ oil are loaded with vitamin E, which is extremely beneficial for our body. This vitamin is essential to boost our immune system. Moreover, it also works like an antioxidant and shields the various body issues like the skin and eyes, while preventing heart diseases from developing. In fact, vitamin E is an antioxidant that counteracts the harmful free radicals, remove blockages in the coronary arteries, and puts off coagulation of blood in the vessels, thereby assisting our body to thwart cardiovascular diseases.

Massaging your feet with vegetable oil makes them smoother. Ideally, you should rub vegetable oil on your feet and wear a pair of socks before going to bed. When you wake up on the following morning, you will find that your tootsies are soft and silky smooth.

It may seem to be incredible, but it has been found that vegetable oils can be helpful in removing a splinter. Usually, the obstinate splinter will not come out of your finger easily no matter how many times you poke it. However, when you soften your skin using vegetable oil, it may be easier to pull out the splinter using tweezers.

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