For thousands of years, fats and oils have been important in food preparation in India. Metal frying pans that are remarkably similar in design to those used today have been found in archaeological excavations of the Harappan civilization of circa 2000 BC. A number of oleaginous materials such as sesame, rape and mustard seeds and coconut were known sources of oil. In addition, a variety of animal fats were used. However, the exact way that oil was obtained from oilseeds is uncertain.
Indian choices of edible cooking oils are region-specific. Gujarat prefers groundnut oil; south India is used to coconut oil, sesame oil and groundnut oil. Rajasthan prefers sesame oil and mustard oil is preferred in eastern and northern regions of India.
In Sanskrit literature of about 500 BC there is a specific reference to an oil-press, although it was never described (Monier-Williams, 1899). Juices were extracted from vegetable materials as early as 1500 BC using either a mortar and pestle or a grinding stone working on a flat stone. Linguistic evidence suggests that it is from these two crushing systems that presses for both oilseeds and sugar cane developed in the form of a mortar-and-pestle arrangement powered by animals. This Cold Pressed Oil extraction system is commonly called the ghani, or the kolhu or chekku.
Cold Pressed Oil extraction method using the ghani or the chekku has been noted in Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Myanmar, which had cultural ties with India. The device is widely used in the Sudan to crush sesame seeds, though its antiquity there has not been documented.
What are cold pressed oils?
Cold pressing is a mechanical process in which oil is extracted from oil seeds or nuts through sheer pressure without any chemical intervention at a temperature not exceeding 35 degree celcius.
The large traditional granite ghanis of southern India have a capacity of 35 to 40 kg, requiring two animals (Usually Bulls) yoked side by side and two operators, one for the animals and the other near the mortar.
This method of extraction leaves the nutrients intact without losing the natural aroma and flavour of the oil.
How does refining affect the quality of the oil?
Refining is a process of purification of oils. In this process, oils are robbed of naturally occurring gums, proteins, phospholipids, fine seed particles etc. This makes the oil light. Oils are also neutralized (acidity balanced), bleached (stripped of color) and deodorized (devoid of its natural aroma).
In a nutshell, modern refined cooking oils are devoid of nutrients and provide nothing but pure empty calories.
So why is refined oil common ?
- High Yield
- Longer Shelf Life
- Low Production Cost
Why should you switch to cold pressed oil?
Nutritionally Rich: Be it traditional lakdi ghana / kachchi ghani / chekku ennai or commercially prepared cold pressed oils, they retain most of the available proteins, vitamins, antioxidants, lecithin etc. And obtaining these essential nutrients from an all natural source is a much wiser and holistic choice than getting them from multivitamin pills.
Chemical Free: During refining, the regular refined oil available in the market are exposed to cancer inducing chemicals like Hexane, Sodium Hydroxide, Sodium Bicarbonate (baking soda), Bleaching Agents etc are. And on top of that chemicals like Propyl Gallate, BHA, BHT are introduced as preservatives! Now if you are someone who is conscious about staying away from chemicals, you should consider switching back to cold pressed!
Health Benefits of Cold Pressed Oil:
- Cold Pressed Oil are a good source of vitamin E
- Loaded with anti-oxidants
- Good source of vitamin c that promotes younger looking skin.
- High in oleic acid that boosts immune system
- Anti-Bacterial & Anti-inflammatory
- Contains heart healthy fatty acids
- Versatile: Flavours go well along any cuisine.
Few things to remember:
Cold pressed oils have a limited shelf life of max 4 to 5 months. You can always maximize the shelf life by storing it in the cold and dark places in non-transparent bottles, although it is always advisable to use them up as soon as possible to reap their full nutritional benefits.
Once opened, its suggested that you use up the oil within 45 days.
Agricultural practices are closely related to our health and the choice of processed food directly relates to our well being.
Switch to cold pressed oils and take a step towards a healthy lifestyle!