What is Cold Pressed Oil?

Spoon and bowl of coconut oil - what is cold pressed oil

It’s possible that you know about refined, unrefined, and extra virgin cooking oils, but have you ever learned about cold-pressed oils? Cold-pressed unrefined oils are made using a different process than expeller-pressed oils. They can be a healthy and delicious flavor enhancer to foods, since cold-pressed oils are high-quality, with a better flavor profile than other cooking oils.

Here’s what you need to know about cold-pressed oils and how they can be beneficial for your health. 

What is Cold Pressed Oil? 

Cold-pressed oil refers to an ingredient that’s ground to a paste, then pressed by an oil stone, separating the oil from the ingredient. Cold-pressed oils can be made out of many different fruits, vegetables, and seeds. 

To be considered cold-pressed, the ingredient must not be heated above 120 degrees Fahrenheit according to Penn State University. In Europe, the standards are even higher - temperatures may not exceed 80 degrees Fahrenheit (or 27 Celsius). 

Cold-pressed oils tend to have a more enjoyable flavor while retaining strong nutritional properties, like vitamin E, vitamin K, and unsaturated fats (ie: healthy fats). It makes sense that they do. Cold-pressed oils are created with the “first pass” of the press and are the purest variety of oil available. However, many manufacturers see the cold-pressing process as inefficient, since the process creates a lower amount of oil than other manufacturing processes.

Because of this, some manufacturers will try and eke out all the oil they can get from the olives, using heat, chemicals, or both to obtain more oil to sell on the market. This results in an inferior product with a strong flavor profile that is often not enjoyable. If you’ve ever had inexpensive olive oil from the supermarket, you’ve probably experienced expeller-pressed or refined oils.

In fact, if you think you hate the flavor of olive oil, try finding a local supplier of cold-pressed oils before you make your final decision. It just might change your life!

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History of Cold-Pressed Oil 

The history of cold-pressed oils traces all the way back to the Indus Valley Civilization, roughly 5,000 years ago. This was discovered after charred remnants of ancient oil-pressing machines and sesame seeds were found among the ruins of Harappa. Since then, the majority of cold-pressed oil’s history and mastery originate from India. 

People in India describe cold-pressed ingredients as “Chekku,” “Ghani,” and “Kolhu” oil. This traces back to an ancient instrument known as a Ghani. This was a mortar and pestle tool typically made from wood or stone. This long, oval-shaped device allowed people to crush oilseeds and create some of the first known cold-pressed oils. 

How is Cold-Pressed Oil Made? 

A variety of ingredients can be used to make cold-pressed oils. However, this process is commonly utilized to make olive, avocado, flaxseed, sunflower, pumpkin, and peanut oils. The process begins with fruits, seeds, or nuts being ground into a paste. This is slowly stirred to encourage the oil to separate from its solid parts. 

Once the oil begins to separate and clump together, pressure is applied to the mixture. This enables the oil to come out. This can be done one of two ways: by stone or machine. If the oil is extracted by machine, manufacturers must keep it within a certain degree of temperature. Friction will inherently generate a mild amount of warmth, so it’s important to monitor heat build-up to classify it as cold-pressed. 

Defining “Expeller Pressed”

When searching for cold-pressed oils, you might run into words like “expeller pressed.” What does this mean? Are there significant differences between oils that have been expeller-pressed and traditionally cold-pressed oils? There are minor differences between these methods of pressing, although they will still be raw oils.

“Expeller pressed” simply means that the oil was processed using a machine with mild amounts of heat. While this isn’t completely separate from stone-pressed oils, it’s important to do your research before purchasing a certain type of cold-pressed oil. Read the labels carefully and stick with consistent distributors. Cold-pressed oils fully retain their taste and nutritious properties, so it’s important to select ingredients that support your dietary choices. 

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Nutrients in Cold Pressed Oil

Their high nutritional value sets cold-pressed oils apart from more commonly seen brands in grocery stores. As stated above, cold-pressed oils are extremely high in unsaturated fats and  vitamins. Cold-pressed oils also have powerful antioxidants and plant compounds like oleuropein and hydroxytyrosol, and may be a major factor in the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet. 

These have the potential to prevent a variety of chronic conditions, particularly cardiovascular diseases. Cold-pressed oils may contain at least 30 plant compounds that contribute to anti-inflammatory benefits and effective antioxidant properties. 

To give you a better understanding of their nutritional value, just one tablespoon (15 ml) of cold-pressed oil can contain: 

  • 119 calories
  • 2 grams of saturated fat
  • 10 grams of monosaturated fat
  • 1.5 grams of polyunsaturated fat
  • 12.9% of the daily value (DV) of Vitamin E
  • 6.8% of the DV of vitamin K

Potential Health Benefits of Cold Pressed Oil

Contains Healthy Fats

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends that people consume 20-35% of their calories from mostly unsaturated fats. Thankfully, that’s pretty much what cold-pressed oils are, with 71% of their unsaturated fats coming from something called oleic acid. 

This specific unsaturated fat may contribute to lower levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol. Cold-pressed oils are also filled with omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, which support the body’s immune system. 

Potentially Reduces Inflammation

Recent studies suggest that the high amount of healthy fats, antioxidants, and plant compounds found in cold-pressed oils may reduce inflammation

Prolonged, low-grade inflammation may be associated with medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. In fact, a compound commonly found in cold-pressed oils called oleocanthal acts like ibuprofen. While researchers are still learning more about cold-pressed oils’ anti-inflammatory properties, it’s certainly a promising start. 

Heart Healthy

Including cold-pressed oils in your cooking routine could reduce your risk of heart disease. Unfortunately, cardiovascular-related conditions continue to be the leading cause of death for people of all gender identities worldwide. 

Thankfully, many studies have proven a correlation between foods made with cold-pressed oils and lower levels of LDL cholesterol. These same studies also found decreased levels of blood pressure with cold-pressed oils. These are all hopeful signs that cold-pressed oils are heart-healthy

Cooking Uses of Cold Pressed Oil

Cold-pressed oils generally tend to be healthier ingredients for people on specific diets. Even if you don’t use cold-pressed oils for a particular purpose, many people find them to be quite tasty. They retain such a pleasant flavor that they can make a significant difference in your meal choices. Here are five ways to use cold pressed oils in cooking: 

Salad Dressings

Drizzle cold-pressed oil, such as extra virgin olive oil or cold-pressed avocado oil, over your salads to enhance their flavor. Combine it with balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, or your favorite herbs and spices to create delicious and nutritious dressings.

Dipping Oil for Bread

Create a flavorful dipping oil for bread by combining cold-pressed olive oil with balsamic vinegar, minced garlic, and a sprinkle of herbs. It serves as a tasty alternative to butter and adds a gourmet touch to your bread.

Marinades for Grilling

Use cold-pressed oils in marinades for meats, fish, or vegetables before grilling. The oil can help tenderize and infuse flavors into the ingredients. Consider blends with herbs, garlic, or citrus for added complexity.

Drizzling Over Cooked Vegetables

After roasting or steaming vegetables, drizzle them with a bit of cold-pressed oil for a finishing touch. This not only adds richness but also enhances the overall taste of the vegetables.

Homemade Pesto or Sauce

Incorporate cold-pressed oils into homemade pesto or sauces. Use basil, garlic, nuts, Parmesan cheese, and cold-pressed olive oil to create a vibrant pesto for pasta, or blend tomatoes, herbs,  for a flavorful sauce.

Tip: It’s best to reserve cold-pressed oils for low to medium-temperature recipes since heat reduces the health benefits of cold-pressed oils. In other words, cold-pressed oils should be looked at as a flavor enhancement rather than a cooking oil. 

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Also, if you enjoyed learning about cold-pressed oils, check out our blog featuring other helpful information about these kinds of ingredients. Please visit our online store to buy our delicious sweet potato chips!

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