A Glug of Oil

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Top 6 Different Types of Oil and How They’re Made

Different Types of Oil and How It’s Made

Cooking oil is a pantry staple used all over the world, but you might be surprised at how many varieties are available for purchase.

From olive oil to hemp oil, or even fusion oil varieties, your choices are endless.

Cooking oils in bottles

Next time you’re selecting ingredients or stocking up on kitchen essentials; take a minute to consider the benefits of each variety and how they’re made, to decide which option might be right for your family.

1. Polyphenol rich olive oil

Olive oil is one of the most commonly used cooking oils in the world and is a staple ingredient for always-popular Mediterranean food recipes. What you might not know is there are different kinds of olive oil - one being polyphenol-rich olive oil.

Polyphenols are compounds containing many phenolic groups, and they can be found in processed foods, along with various fruits, vegetables, and herbs.

Polyphenols have been tentatively linked to various health benefits, including inflammation reduction and combatting the effects of cancer and cardiovascular diseases, when combined with a nutritious diet and active lifestyle.

To create polyphenol rich olive oil, the oil is extracted from olives that are carefully selected to maximize the presence of the compounds.

Olive orchards at higher altitudes, with lower levels of water intake, tend to yield very high-quality polyphenol-rich olives, and the oil is released through tried and tested pressing methods to maintain quality. 

High polyphenol olive oil contains a minimum of 250 milligrams of polyphenols per kilo and could help you to experience the alleged benefits. 

2. Cold pressed olive oil

Another power player in the olive oil family is cold pressed olive oil. The video below is a good introduction to cold pressed olive oil. Let’s dig into some of its features.

Cold pressed olive oil has an exciting, fruity flavour, and allows polyphenols to be preserved by extracting the oil at temperatures below 27 degrees Celsius.

It is made by crushing olives into a paste and then using a mechanical press to extract the oil from the mixture.

This is done at low temperatures in an effort to help retain the nutritional value of the olives, as some valuable plant compounds can lose their integrity when exposed to high heat. 

In addition to being rich in vitamins E and K, studies have shown a link between diets high in cold pressed olive oil and healthy brain function.

A recent four-and-a-half-year study of 923 individuals reported a reduction of 53% in the rate of Alzheimer's disease among participants who closely followed the MIND diet. 

The MIND diet stands for the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, and promotes cooking traditional Mediterranean food, primarily with olive oil.

3. Sunflower oil

Sunflower oil is one of the more commonly known alternatives to traditional olive oil, and is a great source of vitamins E & K. 

With 14 grams of fat per tablespoon, sunflower oil is low in saturated fat and high in both polyunsaturated fatty acids and monounsaturated fatty acids, making it a potentially healthier option.

Omega-3 and omega-6, which can be found in polyunsaturated fatty acids, have been reported to reduce cholesterol and monounsaturated fatty acids may reduce heart disease. 

There are two main methods of making sunflower oil: cold pressing and chemical extraction.

Cold pressed sunflower oil (also referred to as ‘unrefined sunflower seed oil’) is made by compressing sunflower seed kernels until the oil within is released. There is no heat applied during the cold pressing process.

Cold pressed sunflower oil is not suitable for any recipes which expose it to high temperatures but is a great option for low heat cooking, or more ideally, for use in salad dressings or in dishes after they’ve been cooked. 

The most common method of sunflower oil creation is chemical extraction.

During chemical extraction, different chemical compounds are used to release the oil from within the sunflower seed kernels, which is then referred to as ‘refined sunflower seed oil’.

Chemically extracted sunflower oil is ideal for most cooking uses and is much more stable than its cold pressed counterpart when exposed to high temperatures. 

Pouring oil

4. Hemp oil

Hemp oil is a relative newcomer to the foodie scene and is rapidly gaining popularity. It’s important to distinguish between hemp oil and CBD oil, as the two are commonly confused with one another.

CBD oil is generally applied to the skin, and some claim that it could potentially be used as a stress relief tool, or to promote better quality sleep. 

Cannabinoids are the chemicals contained in cannabis plants that provide the theorized medical effects of CBD oil and they are found in the leaves and body of the cannabis plant. 

Hemp oil, by comparison, does not generally contain cannabinoids and is made up of a blend of nutrients, vitamin E, and polyunsaturated acids.

To manufacture hemp oil, suppliers use the seeds of the cannabis plant, and cold press these to extract the oil itself. 

Hemp oil has been linked to a range of alleged health benefits, including reducing inflammation and combating the effects of PMS, although more research is required for conclusive results. It may be applied to the skin, but it’s also gaining popularity in food preparation.

Hemp oil is best used at low temperatures and can be included in smoothie recipes, in various hemp oil salad dressing recipes, or added to foods such as hummus. 

5. Vegetable oil

Vegetable oil is a versatile cooking option, used for various sauces and kinds of margarine in addition to most common home cooked recipes.

It contains fatty acids and glycerol, and has been linked to an array of potential health benefits, with a study published in the October 2010 Nutrition Journal advising that the intake of vegetable oil may increase metabolism in obese people. 

A study published by The Journal of the American Medical Association observed the normalization of blood sugar levels and blood pressure in participants who added vegetable oil to their regular diet, suggesting a possible reduction in the risk of cardiovascular diseases. 

Vegetable oil can be extracted from many various plants, such as coconuts, corn, linseed, canola, and sesame, and it’s characterized by the presence of multiple plant sources in its ingredients (as opposed to pure oils from similar ingredients, such as olive or palm oil).

It is made using either chemical or mechanical extraction methods, similar to other types of cooking oil manufacturing.

Once the oil has been extracted from the sources, it is purified and chemically altered to provide a smooth texture and a satisfying taste for consumers. 

One benefit of vegetable oil is that some formulas have been hydrogenated, a process that turns liquids into solids when kept at room temperature. 

If you’re purchasing hydrogenated vegetable oil, you’ll find that it has a longer shelf life than your average store-bought cooking oil, without significant compromise on taste or texture. 

6. Coconut oil

Coconut oil is a cult favourite among beauty aficionados, who use it to make their hair and skin glow, but did you know that it can also be used in your kitchen? It is often used as an alternative to butter and vegetable oils and is popular in smoothies, desserts, and even to grease pans before you cook.

Despite how popular coconut oil is becoming (a 2016 survey showed that 72% of US adults believe coconut oil is a healthy option), it’s not without its controversies.

Only 37% of nutritionists agree that it’s a healthy choice, with concerns being raised over the high caloric content of the product.

Coconut oil contains more than 80% saturated fat, which rings warning bells for some experts, given the link between saturated fat and detrimental effects on cardiovascular health. 

Although coconut oil has also been linked to positive health benefits, such as helping to control blood sugar levels and boosting good cholesterol, the results of applied studies have varied wildly, leaving researchers unable to confirm the alleged health benefits.

To make coconut oil, the kernel (the white layer inside the coconut) is removed and dried, at which point it is referred to as the ‘copra’.

Oil is extracted from the copra, usually using a mechanical press, and is then filtered, resulting in a smooth oil product free of debris. This is called refined coconut oil.

Unrefined coconut oil is also available; this is oil that’s been extracted from fresh coconut kernels, which have not been dried or exposed to heat.

Unrefined coconut oil tends to retain a stronger flavour, although refined coconut oil is more stable when exposed to high temperatures, making it the better choice for any recipes involving heat. 

Takeaway

Whatever you’re cooking up in the kitchen, you’re spoiled for choice with the various oils available today. 

For a sweeter touch in your baking or smoothies, consider trying coconut oil next time you’re whipping up a treat, and be sure to have a heat-tolerant oil at-hand whenever you reach for a frying pan.

By educating yourself on all the kinds of oil available, and how they’re made, you can ensure that you’re making an informed choice next time you go grocery shopping.

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