Updated: Nov 19
Like anything in Ayurveda, we live with nature. The best suitable oil for body and mind will change with the season, constitution, and imbalances. At Power Up on Plants, the quality we first look at is if the oil is heating or cooling.
Choosing the right oil
In the colder times of the year, winter, part of fall, and spring, it is essential to focus on warming foods. It's advisable only to eat warming or neutral oils like sesame, mustard, sunflower, or ghee during these seasons. Switching around with them is recommended. Also, adding more than one type of oil is a plus. When you struggle with pitta related symptoms or struggle with too much heat in the body. Then focus on the more neutral oils.
In the warmer times of the year, high summer, or in the tropics, it is okay to use cooling oils, but only if you aren't struggling with vata or kapha related symptoms like cold hands and feet, dry skin, constipation, etc.
I would always recommend heating the oil and not eating it raw. Raw oil is hard to digest and weakens your digestive fire. The only exception is Ghee as it is has already been heated.
To get a better idea of what oil will suit best, I'll take you through the most commonly used oils and oils that are easy to buy at your local organic shop. I will take you through their qualities and their benefits.
Did you know that Sesame seeds have one of the highest oil concentration of any seed? When I hear the word sesame oil, I automatically smell the Nutty flavor. Apart from the smell, Ayurveda sees Sesame oil as a huge benefit in detoxifying and fortifying immunity. It does this by feeding the Colon and the digestive system. Another great benefit of sesame oil is that it helps with irregular digestion and strongly recommended when feeling sluggish or to relieve constipation. To make it easy on the digestion, use it while cooking, and don’t eat it raw over a salad.
As sesame oil consists of fire and water elements, it is great for Vata and Kapha dominant dosha’s. It is high in fats and nourishes muscles, builds Ojas, and helps towards Sattva. It is a natural warming oil that is pungent and sweet—not recommended when Pitta is out of balance. To counter the warming effects of the oil, you can add cooling spices to your meal. (Click here)
Sesame oil is a natural warming oil. To get the effects you want, make sure to use cold-pressed sesame oil and not the roasted Sesame oil often used in Asian style cooking.
Ghee or clarified butter (see insta post) probably not the first thing that comes to mind when reading a blog about oils and their benefits. Ayurveda, on the other hand, sees it as a huge value to your daily diet. The golden liquid is one of Ayurveda's most important medicines, as it is very easy to digest, it is neither warming nor cooling, and it is beneficial for any constitution.
Ghee has great benefits; it not only helps to build strong tissue by nourishing the depleted tissue. The body will be more tender and feel more flexible; it strengthens sexual organs and comforts the nervous system.
Ghee is sweet and a great source of fat that the body needs. Especially Vata and Pitta are huge beneficiaries of this yummy dairy product. When overeating, it can aggravate Kapha dosha, so I recommend people with a Kapha imbalance to be alert about their consuming amount.
Mustard seed oil
Mustard oil is a great oil to alternate with sesame oil. It has the same warming quality and is pungent in taste. It is heavier than sesame oil, which makes it a bit harder to digest. Mustard oil is often used with inflammatory conditions, helps break down excessive mucous.
Mustard oil is often used in Ayurveda when Kapha is out of balance. As the oil is stimulating and, as written above, breaks down mucous, it is usually prescribed for treating asthma, colds, and coughs.
Because mustard oil is warming and stimulating, it is easier to aggravate Pitta dosha. So make sure to alternate between different oils, especially when Pitta is out of balance.
Sunflower oil is sweet and easy on digestion. It helps to improve the immune system and boosts the digestive fire by soothing the intestinal tract. In Ayurveda, sunflower oil is used to help with high cholesterol and constipation.
Sunflower oil is the most neutral of the five oils. Although in excess, it will have a subtly cooling effect on the body. It makes for a great friend when balancing Pitta.
The oil a lot of people know to be beneficial as it is easy on digestion and metabolism. Also, it has a high smoking point, which makes it great for cooking.
The trouble with coconut oil is that most people aren’t aware of the cooling effect on the body. Eating lots of coconut oil in cold climates will not help with the cold hands and feet, some of us ladies tend to have. Cooking with coconut oil will benefit you best when consumed in warm weather, when you feel easily irritated or angry, and live in a hot climate.
For the overheated Pitta’s, this is the oil for you. Keeping in mind that alternating with different oils will always work best.
Why do fried foods not work?
When oils are heated to high, their benefits are lost. It kills all the nourishment and vitamins it naturally contains. When the oils burn, digestion will be hard, resulting in aggravation of all three doshas.
Choosing the right oil
So what oil do you choose when cooking? As described above, each oil has its own benefits and qualities. To make a decision, always go for organic cold-pressed (virgin) non- deodorised, and then look at the different qualities the oil has and what benefits you are after, such as checking if the oil is either heating or cooling and how the oil can be beneficial for your dosha. Like with everything in Ayurveda, there is no one size fits all answer. Use the oil that is right for you and have fun with it. Enjoy the cooking process, cook with love, and you can't go wrong.
***Did you know that the oils can also be used on your skin? Abyanga is an important part of the Ayurvedic lifestyle. In my course (click here), there is more information about how to do Abhyanga, and its benefits.***