As natural wellness professionals, we are regularly asked questions about which oil is best for our health. With the range of vegetable oils for cooking on the market, it is normal for clients to be confused on this topic. Since the nutritional and therapeutic richness of an oil depends on the method of extraction, it is worthwhile to
Since the nutritional and therapeutic richness of an oil depends on the method of extraction, it is worthwhile to take stock of cold-pressed vegetable oils because a good supply of essential fatty acids is the basis of any dietary reform.
Indeed, vegetable oils naturally have a high vitamin F content. This vitamin is composed of a mixture of two essential fatty acids: linoleic acid (LA) and alpha-linoleic acid (LNA), plus arachidonic acid. These acids are called essential because they cannot be synthesized by the body as is the case for as is the case for saturated fatty acids. This means that their intake must be absolutely through the diet. The main and almost unique source are the oilseeds and its cold-pressed oils.
Unfortunately, the majority of the population is deficient because most people only use refined oils – hot pressed -. This method of pressing uses high temperatures and solvents, which oxidizes the fatty acids. As a result, the resulting vegetable oils no longer contain the essential fatty acids, antioxidants and vitamin E that are naturally present. Refined oils are devitalized foods, dead, devoid of the factors necessary for the proper functioning of our body.
On the contrary, first cold pressing means that the seeds used to make the oil are pressed only once by mechanical methods, without adding heat. This method allows us to have oils of a superior quality because they keep their properties almost intact. We can therefore enjoy the benefits of essential fatty acids, antioxidants and vitamin E.
In order to benefit from all the advantages of vegetable oils, they must be:
Preserved in opaque glass containers that do not let light through
Be consumed raw as much as possible
The main and almost unique source of essential fatty acids are oilseeds and their cold pressed oils. Of all the types, flaxseed oil has the highest content of linolenic acid, a precursor of PEG3-type prostaglandins (anti-inflammatory).
The roles of essential fatty acids for health
On the one hand, they have a crucial role in the sealing of the intestinal barrier (DongHua, 2021). Indeed, the mucous membranes of the intestinal walls must be well supplied with essential fatty acids so that this barrier functions as a filter to allow only substances useful to the organism (nutrients) to pass through, while preventing the passage of undesirable substances (additives, large molecules that are poorly digested, waste from intestinal putrefaction, bad bacteria, etc.)
In other words, it is partly essential fatty acids that depend on the possibility or impossibility for toxins and poisons to penetrate our body. They are therefore essential to the immune system as a first line of defense.
On the other hand, essential fatty acids have a fundamental role in the mechanisms of inflammation in the body (Johansson, 2019). It is thanks to them that our organism produces substances necessary for the defense of the body: prostaglandins. First, ‘pro-inflammatory’ prostaglandins (PGE 2) cause inflammation as the first line of defense against pathogens by creating a hostile terrain. Moreover, this is what allows the action of lymphocytes, antibodies etc.
Then, when the defenses have neutralized the aggressors, the immune system must restore normal conditions thanks to ‘anti-inflammatory’ prostaglandins (PGE 1 and PEG 3). Without these types of prostaglandins, inflammation continues until it results in problems caused by excess inflammation (arthritis, allergies, chronic inflammatory bowel disease, etc.). When inflammation becomes chronic, it creates a breeding ground for autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes and Crohn’s disease. This is because the immune system’s attack on certain components of the body triggers inappropriate immune and inflammatory responses.
In addition to these two fundamental roles, essential fatty acids (vitamin F):
Strengthen the resistance of the skin and mucous membranes in general, which reduces their sensitivity to allergens. Moreover, thanks to their anti-inflammatory effects, they reduce the body’s allergic reactions.
Support the proper functioning of the cardiovascular system (Poli, 2020) because on the one hand they prevent cholesterol and saturated fats from accumulating and depositing on the walls of the vessels and on the other hand, thanks to its fluidifying and anti-platelet aggregation effect, they reduce the risk of cardiovascular disorders.
By reinforcing the resistance and filtering capacities of the mucous membranes, they decrease the aggression of the cells, the myelin sheaths and the joints, which would have a beneficial impact in autoimmune disorders.
These fatty acids are of crucial importance for the health of the skin, especially in cases of dryness, eczema, psoriasis, etc.
Pro-inflammatory prostaglandins are never in short supply because they are produced from arachidonic acid, which is also found in animal fats, and from the omega-6s that are abundant in the modern diet (especially in refined vegetable oils.) Anti-inflammatory prostaglandins, on the other hand, are only produced from the unsaturated fatty acids of cold-pressed vegetable oils.
This is why it is important to make sure that the vegetable oils you buy are always cold-pressed. How to know if they are? On the label it should say “Cold pressed” or “First cold pressed”. Rather than a luxury or a fad, this is a factor that could have a major impact on improving the well-being of customers in a host of health issues.
It is therefore very important to have the question on the first meeting questionnaire and take the time to educate clients on the importance of replacing conventional -refined- vegetable oils with cold pressed oils. It is also important to remind them to eat at least part of their daily vegetable oil consumption raw.
One of the first suggestions I make to clients is to add 1 to 2 teaspoons of flaxseed oil to smoothies, yogurts, soups (just before serving), salads, etc. It contains a large amount of vitamins and minerals. It contains a large amount of alpha linolenic acid (ALA) and because of its delicate taste, it is an excellent way to increase the intake of essential fatty acids.
Article written by Irazu Sanchez, graduate in Nutritherapy with AMCC and member ND-2034 of the ANPQ. She works as a naturopath at Alimentex in Quebec City. She is also a facilitator of healthy cooking workshops and author of the blog Vitalis (www.vitalissantenaturelle.com)
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Poli, F.V. (2020, December 30) Fatty Acids and Cardiovascular Risk. Evidence, Lack of Evidence, and Diligence. National Library of Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7764656/
Johansson, M.E. (2019, October 11) Effects of Omega-3 Fatty Acids on Immune Cells. National Library of Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6834330/
DongHua, L (2021, January 11) Associations among Dietary Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids, the Gut Microbiota, and Intestinal Immunity. National Library of Medicine.
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