There are a variety of natural oils which are excellent for supporting our overall health and especially the health of the hair and skin. Finding the right oils; however, can be difficult if you don’t know what to look for. The truth is, not all oils are created equally, some are highly beneficial, while others are best avoided.
One walk through a health food or grocery store and you will find a variety of different oils with terms such as “cold Pressed, unrefined, refined, virgin, and raw”. The question is then, which of these types of oils are best and what ones should be avoided?
Understanding Oil Extraction
The first thing to understand prior to selecting the right oil is to understand these terms. In order to get the valuable oil out of various plant foods, the plant has to be processed either in some way or another. The terms we mentioned earlier are there to define the type of extraction used to retrieve the oil from the plant.
With this in mind, let’s breakdown the various types of extraction methods:
• Virgin & Extra Virgin – The terms “virgin” and “extra-virgin” are the standard in the olive oil industry. They basically indicate the number of times an oil has been pressed. Extra virgin olive oil refers to an oil that was extracted from the first pressing – sometimes bottles specify this by labeling the bottle “first-pressed”. Virgin oils on the other hand are ones that have been extracted on the second pressing. Generally speaking, the less an oil has to be pressed, the better, considering the delicacy of oils, the more it is processed the more likely it is to be oxidized. Therefore, extra-virgin would be superior to virgin oil.
• Refined – Refined oils refer to oil that has been extracted with either a chemical process or high heat process. These processes are often used because they produce more oil than most other methods and therefore, refined oils are usually much cheaper. Refining also extends shelf life. The downsides of refining is that they often are bleached and deodorized, which can also potentially degrade the nutrient quality, specifically by removing phytonutrients and antioxidants.
• Unrefined – Unrefined oils are different from refined oils in that they are extracted with low heat methods and do not use any bleaching or deodorizing. Often times, refined oils are also labeled cold-pressed. But specifically, an unrefined oil does not involve the refining process of bleaching and deodorizing.
• Expeller Pressed – Expeller pressing is a method that is similar to cold pressing; however, it usually involves a little more heat that cold pressing. These oils are usually higher in quality than refined oils.
• Cold Pressed – Cold pressing is the superior extraction method of all the others. It is a process of extracting oil through pressing and grinding the substance very slowly. This results in the least amount of heat and oxidation. The temperature of cold-pressing strictly does not rise above 120°F (49°C), which is beneficial for many reasons. First, cold pressed oils retain their delicious aroma and flavor. Additionally, they keep their nutrients, antioxidants and other beneficial constituents. Lastly, the low temperature and delicacy of the pressing minimizes oxidation. When an oil becomes oxidized, it becomes toxic to the metabolic system when consumed. This is a major fault of polyunsaturated oils. Because these oils maintain so much of their integrity, they are delicate and should be stored in dark amber or miron glass and out of direct light and heat. While these oils come with a higher price tag, cold-pressed oils are worth the extra dollar. They are the most nutrient dense and the most beneficial for applying topically to skin care and for internal consumption.
Going beyond the extraction method, it is also wise to consider the quality of the oil prior to extraction. Organic oils are produced from plants that are grown without pesticides or potentially harmful chemicals. This is important because extraction concentrates the plant. If the raw product contains harmful toxins, they will be concentrated in the oil.
With this in mind, the best oils you can buy for your food, hair and skin will always be an organic, cold-pressed oil. It is as close to its natural form as possible. At Alitura Naturals, we only use cold-pressed organic oils to ensure maximum quality and nutritional superiority.