Don’t Get Stuck in the Oil Aisle

Don’t Get Stuck in the Oil Aisle


olive oil and tomatoes
There are some different salad and cooking oils appearing on the grocery shelves before Pesach, ones that aren’t usually sold during the rest of the year (or at least not in abundance). They are available, primarily, for the benefit of Ashkenazi consumers whose custom is not to eat kitniyot  during Pesach (even though they are not chametz) since most regularly purchased vegetable and seed oils fall into the kitniyot category. Kosher for Pesach bottles of cottonseed (zar’ay cutna – זרעי כותנה), grape seed (zar’ay anavim  – שמן זרעי ענבים), walnut (egoz melech – אגוז מלך), and palm (dekel – דֶקֶל) oils are available to bridge the oil gap. There is no need, however, to get stuck in the oil aisle considering them and wondering which ones are the healthiest to buy. Here is the information you need to know to make an informed (and quick) decision:

Characteristics of Healthy Oils

  • Our bodies can recognize them as food and properly utilize them.
  • They confer health benefits.
  • They contain a combination of saturated (ravu’ee –  רָווּי), polyunsaturated (rav bilti ravu’ee – רב בלתי רווי), and/or monounsaturated (chad bilti ravu’ee – חד בלתי רווי) fats in the correct proportions that our bodies need.
  • They have been traditionally used by many cultures for centuries and are easily obtained. This means that the average person can produce these oils without the need for fancy machinery and toxic chemicals.
  • They are cold-pressed (k’visa kara – כבישה קרה) or expeller-pressed

Learn more about choosing healthy oils here.

Which oils are healthy?

Generally, oils falling into the healthy category for Pesach, are olive (zayit – זַיִת), coconut (kokus – קוֹקוּס), and palm oils. Walnut oil may fit the bill if cold pressed or expeller pressed and should not be used for cooking.

coconut palm
Coconut palm with coconuts

Olive oil, as we know, has been used since ancient times. To learn about its beneficial properties and how to choose quality olive oils, click here.

Tropical oils, known for their medium chain triglycerides, have many healthy properties as well. Populations living in warmer clients have used coconut and palm oils, in various forms, as a health-providing dietary staple. (Refined coconut and palm oil are acceptable.)

Virgin coconut and palm oils are both semi-solid in temperatures of up to 23.9° C (75° F).  Tropical oils are sometimes “fractionated” which means that the most saturated of the fatty acids is removed. That’s why you will sometimes see tropical oils that are liquid during cold weather – as is the case with much of the palm oil available for sale in Israel on Pesach. Some of the palm oil sold is a combination of fractionated and non-fractionated oil so that you will see white solids floated in the bottle. This is a good thing and not a cause for concern. Learn more about coconut oil here and palm oil here.

Find a list of companies selling healthy oils which are kosher for Pesach here.

For a more comprehensive listing of which oils are good to use and which to avoid year round click here.

Characteristics of unhealthy oils

  • They are manufactured oils that are not found in nature and our bodies cannot use since they have structures that do not conform to our biochemistry.
  • They have only come onto the market and into the food supply recently (within the last hundred+ years or so), that cannot be obtained without high heat, fancy equipment and a long processing that include toxic ingredients. They are generally polyunsaturated and unstable, becoming oxidized and rancid during the processing.
  • They lead to an imbalance of the fatty acids that our bodies need to function properly.
  • They are physically harmful.

Which oils are unhealthy?

Most of the vegetable and seed oils that we find on the supermarket shelves these days can be classified as unhealthy, including canola (canola – שמן קנולה), corn (teeras – תִירָס), and soy (soya – סויה) oils. For Pesach we should also steer clear of the cottonseed, grape seed, and refined walnut oils which have a greater amount of shelf space this time of year.

The oils which should be avoided at all costs are those that have been hydrogenated (shuman mukshe – שמן מוקשה) and contain trans-fats (shuman trans – שומן טראנס). They have been unnaturally saturated and while they can make their way into the cell walls, they are foreign substances that don’t belong there and destroy the integrity of the cell walls. They can be compared to a key which you can put into a lock but since it’s not the right key, you cannot turn it to open or close the lock and may even have a hard time removing it.

While we do need some polyunsaturated oil in our diet, most of the polyunsaturated oils sold are omega 6s, with which we have become overloaded, and we are very deficient in omega 3s. Our bodies need omega 6s and omega 3s in the right olive oil poured on cucumbersproportions to function properly.

Polyunsaturated oils are unstable, and if they have not been expeller or cold pressed, will oxidize and turn rancid during chemical processing.

Many of these oils also have their own associated health risks.

To learn more about which oils to avoid year round click here.

Which oils are the real bargains?

The bottom line is that manufactured and chemically processed oils are very detrimental to our health in a variety of ways while traditional food oils, properly extracted, have an important role in nourishing the body and providing many health and medicinal benefits.

In the end, those few shekels we save on the cheap oils are really no savings at all since we are ultimately paying for them, sooner or later, with our health. Sometimes, you really do get what you pay for.

Related articles:

Fats and their relationship to cell membrane  function
The Hidden Cause of Infertility–Cottonseed Poisons–And What You Can Do About It
Effects of gossypol and cottonseed products on reproduction of mammals
Dr. Mark Hyman: Why Vegetable Oils Should Not Be Part of Your Diet

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