Oils are lipids, better known as fats, in viscous liquid form. They repel water and blend with other oily substances. Natural oils that are valued for their nutritional content are typically extracted from botanical or aquatic sources. Certain foods that are high in oils include fatty fish, seeds, nuts and olives. Most edible oils are abundant in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats ("good fats") and have low levels of saturated fats ("bad fats"). Oils derived from plants contain only small amounts of cholesterol.
The process of pressing is how oils are commonly made, with many plant-based oils utilizing a cold-pressing method that yields a high-quality product. Cold pressing results in the optimal retention of both flavor and nutrients. Although some oils are processed using solvents, natural oils are generally pressed with mechanical expellers and are solvent-free.
Oils such as olive oil and coconut oil are often labeled as "extra-virgin." This means the product was made completely by mechanical means without solvents or high temperatures. In addition to featuring the plants' natural nutrients, extra-virgin oils also exhibit the fullest and most nuanced flavors. Virgin oils are less meticulously processed and may or may not be fit for consumption, depending on the plant source and specific production method.
Nutritional oils supply various healthpromoting compounds. In addition to monounsaturated fats, which are considered beneficial lipids, these oils often feature polyunsaturated fats, including omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which have been extensively studied for their wellness supporting properties. Some oils also contain omega-9 fatty acids, and, like other omegas, this variety has been associated with promoting cardiovascular health.** Natural oils may also feature free radical-fighting antioxidant activity that supports cognitive, immune system and skin wellness.**
While these oils are commonly ingested as a liquid, they may take on solid form, as with coconut oil, which can have a butter-like consistency. Some oils do not cook well and are best served unheated. Olive oil, for example, can be lightly warmed but should not be used with high heat, which will diminish its flavor and nutritional content. Liquid oils are also consumed as softgel or capsule supplements. Some of these oils may be applied topically, especially vitamin E oil, while others may be offered as a fragrant essential oil, such as peppermint oil.
Among the most popular nutritional oils are:
Fish Oils: These include general fish oil, typically consisting of various ocean fish, and salmon oil and cod liver oil, all of which are known for supplying omega-3 fatty acids. Krill oil and shark liver oil are renowned for their content of the beneficial compounds astaxanthin and squalene, respectively. Due to their content of “active ingredient” omega-3s, fish oils are commonly associated with support for overall cardiovascular wellness, cognitive health and joint comfort.**
Seed Oils: Oils extracted from seeds have a wide range of healthpromoting qualities.** Flaxseed, chia seed and hemp seed oil are particularly notable for their combination of cardiovascular supporting omega-3s, -6s and -9s, while black seed also contains the latter two fatty acids.** Black currant and evening primrose seed oils are both notable for their prevalence of the omega-6 fatty acid GLA, and castor oil has long been valued as a skin and hair emollient. Seed oil of the well-known squash pumpkin has been linked to prostate wellness, while coconut oil is appreciated for its role in energy metabolism.**
Plant, Fruit, Nut & Essential Oils: Aside from seed oils, other plantderived oils include red palm oil and wheat germ oil, which both supply abundant levels of vitamin E and help to maintain cardiovascular health.** A common culinary component, olive oil also aids in upholding circulatory wellness, while macadamia nut oil has similar properties.** And though peppermint oil is noted for its refreshing aroma when used in aromatherapy practices, it is additionally called upon as an ingestible supplement in softgel or liquid form for encouraging gastrointestinal health and comfort.**
Vitamin Oils: The oil of vitamin E as dalpha tocopheryl acetate is connected with many wellness benefits, including antioxidant activity and cardiovascular support.** An important vitamin oil sometimes presented in softgel form, E has a Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of 15 mg (22.4 IU) and a Tolerable Upper Intake Limit (UL) of 1,000 mg (1,500 IU). As a topical oil, vitamin E is famous for supporting hydrated, healthy and supple skin.** In some topical products, vitamin E may be blended with other plant oils such as apricot kernel and sweet almond seed, which supply additional skin conditioning and emollient benefits.**
Nutritional Oil Products
Nutritional oils are primarily sourced from plants or fish. These supplements are available as liquids and softgels, as well as solid oils. While most individual oil products contain one specific variety, some kinds, particularly fish, may feature other ingredients for flavoring or additional healthsupportive qualities.**
Nutritional Oil Products Directions for Use
Prior to regularly using supplemental oils, consult with your health care provider. There is no set recommended amount for most natural oils. Softgels and liquid capsules can vary considerably in regards to nutrient levels and typically vary from 50 mg to 1,000 mg. Topical products are typically applied as needed. Since these oils may be formulated for ingestible, topical or culinary uses, it is important to refer to and adhere to manufacturers’ labels for intended use.