Body Wisdom

Do You Need To Eat Oil To Get Oil?

Are refined oils like sunflower, rice bran oils etc actually as healthy as advertised? Refining of oils is a chemical process which makes the oils unhealthy and can cause many diseases like high blood pressure, heart disease etc. You can still cook your favourite dishes oil free while keeping the flavor and your health intact. Learn more about the different kinds of oil and how to get healthy fat in your diet.

The oil we use for everyday cooking in our home is extracted from seeds & nuts. Sunflower oil from sunflower seeds, mustard oil from mustard seeds, groundnut oil from peanuts, almond oil from almonds, til oil from sesame seeds, so on & so forth.

These nuts & seeds in their natural form are rich in nutrition – fats, protein, fibre, vitamins & minerals. But how much of these nutrients we get from their oil depends on the way in which the oil is extracted.

Refined oil

Refined oil is the commonly used in our day-to-day cooking. It is made by applying a lot of heat to the oilseeds for extracting oil. The oilseed is crushed & the pulp is heated under pressure. As a result, almost all the oil is extracted from the oilseed. However,

  • The high temperature often leads to loss of nutritive value as enzymes in food items are very sensitive to heat.
  • High heat of the refining process often alters the properties of oil molecules in unfavourable ways such that they can become carcinogenic.
  • Artificial agents are added to the oil. For eg:
    • For optimum extraction of oil, solvents are often added during the refining process.
    • Some artificial flavour may be added to make up for the loss of natural flavour & taste due to high heat.
    • After subjecting the oil to such high temperatures, preservatives are added to prevent the oil from becoming unstable.
    • Bleaching agents are added to remove impurities.
    • Deodorizing agents are added to remove odour & taste of oil.

Refined oil is the most processed form of oil, hence it is toxic for the human body. It is common knowledge that people with problems of cholesterol, BP, heart issues and cancer are specifically advised to have less refined oil.

Eat whole foods for oil

It is commonly believed that we need refined oil to keep our joints lubricated. This would have been true if the oil we ate went straight to our joints!! But that's not the case, everything we eat has to be digested and assimilated well in our stomach. Our bodies are designed to absorb foods in natural and whole forms. Refining makes foods hugely dense & concentrated, overtaxing our system to deal with such foods.

Nuts & seeds are nutrition rich. Oil is not the only way to get these nutrients, infact refined oil loses a lot of nutritive value due to the high heat refining process. We don't need to eat oil to give oil to our body. Eating 'whole' nuts & seeds, i.e. in the form found in nature, is the best way to get its nutrients. If we want those essential oils, we should consume the nuts & seeds directly.

There is a variety of nuts & seeds one can choose to eat - coconut, seasame (til), peanuts, almonds, walnuts, cashews, flax seeds, sabja seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, watermelon seeds.

There are many ways in which one can include nuts & seeds in their food:

  1. Eat them whole, as-is
  2. Make nut powders & pastes & add in curries & soups, this is a good way of incorporating nuts & seeds in kid’s food
  3. Add a handful on your salads - grate, roast, crush, add whole – each variety adds a different taste
  4. Make nut milks

Cooking oil-free

In the above backdrop, cooking without refined oil is definitely a healthier & do-able option. Initially one may feel unequipped without oil in the kitchen, but start slow and steady. Break the habit by designating a few days in the week as oil-free days.

For cooking Indian dishes without oil, all you need to do is remove the step of putting oil in your cooking vessel. Rest of the process remains exactly the same. You can sprinkle water if you feel the need, but mostly if your masala includes tomato, you will not feel the need to add water.

Incorporate seeds and nuts in cooking. Adding their paste does wonders to taste and acts as oils for the cooking process.

Baking can also be done without oil by using seed butters.

If you still feel the need for using oil in cooking, you can explore cold pressed oils instead of refined oils.

Cold pressed oils

To get oil out of a nut or seed, it has to be processed either mechanically (output is cold-pressed oil) or with chemicals and heat (output is refined oil).

Cold pressed oils - In olden times, a long cylindrical contraption called a “ghani” was used to extract oil. The oilseeds were placed inside & ground with a pestle until the oil came out. This method didn’t involve applying a lot of heat. Today’s cold-pressed methods of extraction are machine based where the nuts & seeds are crushed to extract oil, but this is done in a controlled temperature. Also, no chemicals are added in this process.

Cold pressed oils retain nutrients otherwise destroyed by high heat extraction process of refined oils. Hence, they are nutritionally superior to refined oils. They also retain the colour & flavour of the nuts & seeds, hence don’t need adding of artificial agents. They are more natural, less processed.It is better to use a little oil to flavor your dish rather than pour it liberally even if it is cold pressed.

Even if an oil is cold pressed, heating it to high temperature for frying destroys all its nutrient properties.

“Kachchi ghaani sarson ka tel” is a commonly available cold pressed oil. Other varieties include til (sesame), coconut & groundnut oil.


We don’t need to eat oil to get oil. We should eat nuts & seeds, which are used to make oils, in their whole form. Body is best able to assimilate the nutrients as available in whole nuts & seeds.

Oils are very dense & concentrated in nature, it is difficult for body to deal with such foods & that’s why oil is often correlated with health issues.

While many of us are habituated to cooking with oil, oil-free cooking is healthier & do-able. One must take small steps to begin in this direction.

If we still to choose to eat oils, we should minimise their use. And don’t use refined oils as they are highly processed, hence depleted of nutrition & loaded with artificial agents. Look for lesser processed & natural varieties of oil such as cold pressed oils.

Recommended read:

  1. Processing and refining edible oils -
  3. No oil, no taste -
  4. – Tempering without oil
  5. – Frying onions without oil

Disclaimer: The health journeys, blogs, videos and all other content on Wellcure is for educational purposes only and is not to be considered a ‘medical advice’ ‘prescription’ or a ‘cure’ for diseases. Any specific changes by users, in medication, food & lifestyle, must be done under the guidance of licensed health practitioners. The views expressed by the users are their personal views and Wellcure claims no responsibility for them.

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