As health consciousness grows among Indians, a large number of people are now reinventing the time-tested goodness of mustard oil in helping people stay fit.
While our “nana-nanis” and “dada-dadis” always seemed to know about the healing properties of “kachchi ghani” mustard oil, new research by scientists has helped shed light on the exact nature of these properties.
A landmark study conducted by the Harvard School of Medicine with All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, and St John Hospital, Bengaluru, revealed that consuming mustard oil as one’s primary cooking and deep-frying oil could reduce the risks associated with coronary heart disease by more than 70 per cent.
Today, many eminent cardiologists like Dr S.C. Manchanda unequivocally recommend cold-pressed (also known as Kachchi Ghani) mustard oil for a healthy heart and vascular system – and nutritionists and dieticians too are unanimous in their belief that mustard oil is among the healthiest cooking oils you can find in the market.
Kavita Devgan, a leading nutritionist, dietician and weight management consultant feels that among the plethora of cooking oils available today, it is better to choose natural cold-pressed oils like mustard oil that are rich in Monounsaturated Fatty Acids (MUFA) and Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFA) but low in Saturated Fatty Acids (SFA).
Umesh Verma, General Manager (Marcom) at Puri Oil Mills Limited (the makers of P Mark Mustard Oil) says: “Speaking at a webinar organized by our company, Ms Devgan had pointed out that cold-pressed mustard oil is, in many ways, a perfect cooking medium in its composition. It has all the right fatty acids in the ideal ratio and is packed with natural vitamins and antioxidants. In our manufacturing processes, we try to keep this natural composition of mustard oil totally intact so that our consumers can enjoy all the nutrients and health benefits that cold-pressed mustard oil promises.”
Mustard oil, especially, has zero trans fatty acids (TFA) and that is a vital parameter for health and fitness-conscious consumers.
The major advantage of cold-pressed mustard oil, according to Kavita, is the fact that it has an ideal ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3.
Contemporary diets and food habits have created a major imbalance in the Omega 6-Omega 3 ratio and mustard oil could play a key role in rectifying this.
According to Kavita, this benefit alone is reason enough for making mustard oil your primary cooking oil.
Neha Patodia, nutritionist and diet consultant, agrees wholeheartedly with Kavita Devgan and points out that the WHO has recommended a ratio of 5:4 (Omega-6 to Omega-3). Cold-pressed mustard oil comes closest to this benchmark with a ratio of 1:1.
Rujuta Diwekar, a prominent nutritionist and fitness expert strongly recommends cold-pressed traditional oils like mustard oil.
She believes if an oil has been used in a particular region across thousands of years for preparing local cuisines, it means that the oil has become “fine-tuned” to the health and dietary needs of that region.
One can discern this aspect in oil consumption patterns even today. Across north India and some eastern regions, mustard oil is the dominant oil.
In southern states, the dominant oil has traditionally been coconut oil.
According to nutritionist and dietician Vijaya Agrawal, oils extracted from vegetable sources are vital for proper nutrition because they contain certain essential fatty acids like Omega-3 which cannot be synthesised by the human body.
Plant-based oils like mustard oil contain phytosterols which block bad cholesterol (LDL) from being absorbed in the body. One such phytosterol is Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA) which significantly reduces the risk of heart disease, hypertension and atherosclerosis.
Dr Manjari Chandra who specialises in Therapeutic Nutrition and Clinical Dietetics views cold-pressed mustard oil as a powerful detoxifying agent, more so when it is combined with the right foods — especially vegetables loaded with healthy phytochemicals like beta carotene, lycopene, flavonoids, isothiocyanates, etc.
Dr Simran Saini is a nutritionist and weight loss consultant who, on a daily basis, comes face to face with lifestyle-related health issues like elevated cholesterol levels, hypertension and heart disease.
She recommends a daily intake of mustard oil because it is rich in Monounsaturated Fatty Acids (MUFA) which helps in maintaining a healthy cholesterol balance. And as pointed out by Vijaya Agrawal earlier, it also contains Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA) that keeps the heart and the blood vessels healthy.
Nupur Arya is a dietician and also a certified vegan chef — so she is able to look at mustard oil from both a health perspective as well as a cooking point of view.
The healthiest thing about cold-pressed mustard oil, she says, is that it is minimally processed; that is why it retains all its natural nutrients.
As a cooking medium, mustard oil with its high smoking point (around 250 degree C) is ideal for Indian cooking which requires high-flame heating over prolonged periods of time. Even at high temperatures, all the nutrients remain stable and intact.
The verdict from leading nutritionists is in — and it is quite decisive. In their collective opinion cold-pressed mustard oil is one of the healthiest cooking oils you can choose.