There are many debates about some food sources whether they are helpful or not to us – from dairy products to caffeine to eggs and now, there’s mustard oil.
For several years, mustard oil was considered dangerous to humans. However, these days, it has become a common ingredient in a number of dishes. But what is really the truth behind these scary stories about mustard oil?
Is Mustard Oil Really Toxic?
There is generally nothing wrong with how mustard oil is extracted from mustard seeds. The problem lies in the components of the seeds themselves, since they contain an enzyme known as myrosinase and sinigrin, a glucosinolate. When these two compounds are exposed to heat or pressure, they form substances that are noted to be as poisonous whether the contact is through ingestion by mouth or through the skin.
Aside from the mentioned problem, there are other risks when you consume mustard oil including the following:
- It has erucic acid, which is a strange type of fatty acid as it is classified as a monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid. It is highly toxic and can cause various health problems, including respiratory issues, anemia, coma, diarrhea, and sometimes death.
- It may increase your risk of developing lung cancer, especially through regular ingestion. Erucic acid can distress the lungs after it has affected the respiratory system. This can lead to troubled breathing and over time, lung cancer.
- It is bad for pregnant women as it can affect the growing fetus and the mother. There are chemicals found in the oil that can be harmful for those with child and may result in miscarriage.
Does this mean you should give up on mustard oil? Not necessarily. The important thing is you know how to use it properly. In truth, there are some health benefits you can get when you consume mustard oil, including improved cardiac health, better skin and hair, and reduced pain due to inflammation.
When cooking with mustard oil, it should not be exposed to pressure and heat. However, most of the bottles of the oil sold in grocery stores today state that the product is for external use only. This is because of the erucic acid that it contains, although Walter Willet from Harvard University said that the levels of the acid in the oil are not dangerous. Still, more research is required. To be on the safe side, choose a much safer oil alternative such as coconut oil and olive oil.