Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Oily matters..........

The trouble with being a senior citizen reviewing a new oil, (Fortune Rice Bran Oil) is that you always tend to remember the old days.

Oil or Tel,  then, was of two types. It was either "Goda Tel"  (Goda ~ sweet),  or it was everything else which included coconut oil, oils used for machines, masssage etc.  It never occurred to me, as a child,  to ask folks at home, what the Goda Tel was made of.  Turned out it was groundnuts.  And the reason it was called Goda Tel, was not because it was sweet to taste, but because "food" was considered a "sweet" concept. That is, compared to oils that lubricated machines, skins and  say,  cricket bats.

Different regions of India have their own version of "Goda Tel"; like mustard oil in the north and coconut oil in the south.  However, the 21st century has literally foisted a plethora of oils and research on us. There is safflower oil, sunflower oil, grape seed oil, soy oil, olive oil, mustard oil, cottonseed oil, palm oil, canola oil, sesame oil , and now rice bran oil;   and many more. 

The Fortune Rice Bran folks  mention several benefits of their oil. Decreasing cholesterol, cardiac protection due to oryzanol in the rice bran, ability to keep blood vessels clean, anti cancer ingredients in the oil,  vitamin E content for good neurological control, presence of squalene for delaying aging of skin, ferulic acid to enhance hormonal performance, antioxidants to shore up your immune systems, and an inherent lightness of the oil, that doesn't allow it to stick to food and get absorbed into it. The best of all is that this oil has a high smoking point at 490 deg F, or 254 deg C. 

My concern with this oil is the  amount of Omega-6 and Omega 3 fatty acids it contains and their ratio. While for refined groundnut oil, this ration is 2:1, for Rice Bran oil, it is 21: 1.   Omega -6 fatty acids in abundance lead to inflammation in the human body.  And so we look for oils with a lower  Omega-6 to Omega-3  ration. Amidst all the oils available to us. 

I tried out this oil for a week,  in my normal daily cooking, which is basically about tadkas on vegetables and dals. I did use it for deep frying once , and was delighted to note that the meduwadas absorbed much less oil.  Significantly, since this oil has a very high smoking point, I didn't worry too much about leaving it on the stove a wee bit longer as I multitasked.  

I haven't tried using this oil in its raw form , say, as a salad dressing etc. It certainly does not have a typical smell. Food cooked in it tastes no different from that cooked in my traditional groundnut oil, as no one at home even noticed the difference in oil. 

And so my gut feeling about using this oil is, I would use this when I am deep frying stuff. Because I do not deep fry too often, I can reap the benefits of the lightness of the oil, and its ability to not be absorbed in to the foodstuff,  as a trade off  vis-a-vis the worrisome omega ratio.

I would still want to continue using my groundnut oil for my routine daily cooking. Which has a better ratio. 

Theoretically, there are other oils like macadamia nut oil , and even flaxseed oil which have exemplary ratios. But some are unstable and go rancid on keeping, and some, like Olive Oil , are prohibitively priced.  And if you ask me, not really suited for Indian cooking. 

Then there is a current school of thought that says don't get habituated to a single type of oil. Use different types.  

Yes , the price of Rice Bran oil at Rs 115/- a litre is much lesser that groundnut oil at 150/- a litre.   A  significant difference....

The interesting thing is, that if you reduce your oil consumption overall,  none of the above really become significant issues.   

I also investigated , what one may call the "non-Goda" aspects of this oil, by experimenting with it on my hair.  Warming the oil,  massaging it nicely into the hair, and then sitting in the sun for half an hour before washing it all off , yielded fairly acceptable results. And no, the hair did not smell.  (even when I was sitting in the sun).
I have often wondered why, in a rice consuming country like India, with all the southern states and the Kokan Belt of Maharashtra dedicated to rice,  Rice Bran Oil happened so late. We never heard of it when we were young.

Turns out that , it has come to us from Japan.   Ever since the old bullock driven oil mills, or "Ghanis" , the bells around the animal's neck tinkling as the oil press squeaked rhythmically into the sunset,  stopped being the method of oil extraction,  many advanced technologies now enable us to extract oil from the most unusual  raw material. 

In a smarter but possibly, ungraceful manner.

And just like today's children think milk comes from a carton and  the cow has nothing to do with it,  I think oil  has reached the similar stage. It comes in a carton, from a factory. 

I can hear the cow sighing......

I am reviewing healthy oil as a part of the BlogAdda's Product Review Program for Indian Bloggers.


  1. Well written post- have covered so many aspects.

  2. this is a good write up.

    Raksha's Kitchen

  3. just linked this article on my facebook account. it’s a very interesting article for all...

    Seo Services in Chennai

  4. I can hardly write or comment on cooking oils.
    But,under Drs advise,we use Olive oil

  5. Very well written review. Really glad that I came across your space :)

  6. Got slight rashes initially but disappeared on continuing usage. Nice post!

  7. We switched to olive oil a year back. Thanks to COstco (a big US warehouse), the price is not that bad and since we anyways use very little oil in our cooking, it made sense to us to get a healthy oil. Disclosure: when we do deep frying (rarely), we just use vegetable oil!)

  8. Olive oil supposedly loses its "good qualities" if it's heated too much, which we need to do for Indian cooking. So the trick is to use a little bit of regular oil for tadka purposes and then top it off with olive oil after.

    Anyways, interesting post.


  9. What an interesting post. I learned about cooking oil today!


  10. I should have included that when cooking Asian food I use Sesame oil. When cooking other food I use olive oil. I use regular vegetable safflower or canola oil for oiling fettucine pasta in the pot while it is cooking and as the oil for salads.


  11. I love the way you write! Well written post and I would like to add that rice bran oil when mixed with safflower oil makes the oil better and healthier. I have been using Saffola oil since more than a decade, and I still use Saffola Total oil. It has kept me fit, controlled my cholesterol and keeps my weight in check

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  14. This is really a very interesting article... I would like to recommend to another listing Rice Bran Oil for Health benefits..