Vegetable oil is the essential ingredient of most any cooking method known to man. It is made from oils derived from plant sources like olives, peanuts, corn, sunflower seeds, safflowers, to name a few. They are used for frying, sautéing, marinades, baking, and sometimes for salad dressings.
The evidence of the practice of oil extraction seemed to start with the Chinese and Japanese where they extracted oil from soy bean at around 2000 BC. Early collection methods included heating the plant or seed by applying heat to eat either from the sun or through fire or oven. The plants will then release oil which will be collected.
In the regions of Mexico and North America, they mainly used peanuts and sunflower seeds as the base of their oil as far back as 3000 BC. They roasted these nuts and beat them into a paste, they were then boiled to separate the oil from the paste. These floating oils were then sifted and collected in a container. Africans gathered oil the same way but used coconut meat and palm kernels instead. Since then, quite a number of types of oil have appeared such as corn oil, grapeseed oil, and many others are being used as a basis for producing oil.
Mass Production Country
China, Egypt, Rome, and Greece were at the forefront of its mass production through the use of vertical and horizontal millstones, mortar and pestles, and even human feet to crush the vegetables. After being grinded, they will be placed on sieves, on top of another, and pressed together.
Since then, equipment for harnessing oil was refined century after century. A pivotal development was in 1856 where Deis of England obtained the first patent in using solvents like benzene to extract oil. Further improvements were developed over time. Solvent extraction allows manufacturers to extract almost oil of the oil as compared to the ancient way where only 10% of the oil was extracted.
Types of Vegetable Oil
According to organic.org, cooking oils can be categorized into:
- Expeller-pressed Oils – oils are extracted from pressing nuts, seeds, fruits, grains, or legumes under high pressures but without adding any chemical solvents.
- Cold-pressed Oils – oils are also extracted by pressing but more delicately such that their temperature does not go over 120 degrees during the whole process.
- Refined Oils – these oils undergo a more stringent process. After extraction, they are purified of particles, bleached, and even deodorized to ensure neutral colors and flavors. The only thing is the process may also strip it of most vitamins or nutrients.
- Unrefined Oils – these oils undergo a less stringent process compared to refined oils so they remain some particles and most of their natural taste and aroma. These are preferably used raw or very cooking at very low heat.
- Heat Extracted Oils – nuts are heated during the entire heating process to maximize the output.
- Chemical Extracted Oils – these oils are extracted by the addition of a solvent (such as hexane) to break down the walls of the plant which allows oil to be easily extracted.
Are Vegetable Oils Bad for you?
In general expeller-pressed or cold pressed oils like Avocado oils, Hemp oil, Grape seed oil, and Flaxseed oil are healthier than the other types. They retain most if not all of the flavor and nutrients of the grain or seed from which they are pressed. But these types of oils are not meant for cooking, they are made for drizzling, as an ingredient to homemade mayonnaise or as part of a salad dressing. They are also pretty hard to come by not to mention expensive.
Other refined oils like canola and olive oil are also healthier than vegetable oils commercially sold which are usually a combination of soybean oil, corn oil, safflower oil, canola oil, and peanut oil.
Health professionals recommend vegetable oils over other fats that may be rich in trans-fat like margarine, or hydrogenated vegetable oil. This is because they are typically low in saturated fats and high in polyunsaturated fats.
Polyunsaturated fats are also high in omega-3 polyunsaturated acids which are also good for the body. Studies also show that by substituting a saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat reduces the risk of heart problems by at least 17%.
Refined vegetable oils are not so good since they tend to be highly processed. Stick to pure oils like canola oil and olive oil.
Substitutes for Vegetable oil (Refined)
Healthy Vegetable Oils
Refined vegetable oil may not be the best oil for you since it is composed of a combination of oils that may not all be good for the body. Here are some healthier oils you can use:
- Canola oil
- Coconut oil
- Almond oil
- Avocado oil
- Olive oil
- Sesame oil
- Walnut oil
Make your own healthy vegetable oils
You can invest in an oil press and actually make your own expeller-pressed or cold pressed oils. Here how you can do it at home.
Go Half and Half
You can also opt to substitute half or part of the vegetable oil needed for your dish with these:
You can replace half of the vegetable oil required with butter instead. Although butter is high in fat, in moderation, it does have good stuff to offer the body. It is suggested that they are combined with healthy oils like olive oil.
You can replace half the vegetable oil needed by the recipe with mashed bananas, apple sauce, or baby food mashed pears. They have no fats but offer carbs and natural sugars which may even enhance the flavor of your end product.
Everything in Moderation
As they say, “everything in moderation”, we are not saying don’t use vegetable oils ever. You can use vegetable oil for frying and other healthier oils for sautéing or for your salads. It may be nice to try pressing your own oil for your recipes and maybe give them way to your friends as gifts!