Is mustard oil safe to eat? (risks and benefits)
In this article, we will discuss whether mustard oil is safe to eat, the benefits of consuming mustard oil, when is mustard oil not safe to eat and how to use and consume mustard oil safely.
Mustard oil is extracted from the mustard seed and is widely consumed in India. Mustard is a plant from the Brassica family, the same as broccoli and cabbage and is characterised by its pungent flavour.
Is mustard oil safe to eat?
Yes, mustard seed is safe to eat in moderate amounts. Mustard seed is not only safe to eat, but also considered healthy due to its composition rich in antioxidants, which gives the oil antibacterial, antifungal and anticarcinogenic properties (1).
On the other hand, mustard oil contains a high amount of erucic acid, a long-chained monounsaturated fatty acid that is considered unhealthy. The inclusion of erucic acid in a great quantity in the human diet may lead to health complications (2).
What are the risks of consuming mustard oil?
The risk of consuming mustard oil is the presence of erucic acid in its composition, which makes it unsuitable for consumption in large quantities (1, 2). The ingestion of erucic acid can lead to heart complications.
Erucic acid is one of the many unsaturated fatty acids that compose mustard oil. Experiments conducted in animals showed pathological alterations in the heart, liver and skeleton after the ingestion of a high amount of this fatty acid (2).
In this way, a limited consumption of mustard oil was recommended.
However, the animal trials were conducted by using erucic acid alone and not the whole mustard oil, which makes the results from the experiments controversial (3). In addition, rats lack an enzyme that should better metabolise this acid.
What are the benefits of consuming mustard oil?
The benefits of consuming mustard oil are the high amount of antioxidants, and the presence of nutrients, such as proteins and vitamins, such as vitamin K and especially the high concentration of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (1, 2, 3).
The ingestion of polyunsaturated fatty acids can contribute to reducing the risks of cardiovascular disease and other inflammatory diseases, as these lipids have anti-inflammatory properties (3).
Mustard oil is considered one of the most healthy vegetable oils, due to the high proportion of omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fatty acids and the lowest proportion of saturated fatty acids.
Is there evidences of the benefits of consuming mustard oil?
Yes, there is scientific evidence of the benefits of including mustard oil in the diet as cooking oil. The health benefits are attributed to the presence of a high concentration of linolenic acid in the mustard seed oil.
Recent studies conducted at the India Institute of Medical Sciences showed that the consumption of mustard oil as a cooking oil could reduce the risks of ischemic heart disease (3).
When is mustard oil not safe to eat?
Mustard oil is not safe to eat if it is rancid. Due to the high amount of unsaturated fatty acids in its composition, mustard seed is susceptible to being oxidised, especially if the oil is stored improperly (4).
Rancid oil is characterised by unpleasant odours and flavour, and a darker colour, in addition to possible alteration in the consistency. The exposure of mustard oil to heat, oxygen and moisture can lead to the formation of oxidised products.
These oxidised products can affect the metabolism of DNA, leading to cell mutation, inflammatory processes and cell death. The ingestion of oxidised oils can lead to diseases such as diabetes and Alzheimer´s disease (4).
How can you safely use mustard oil?
To safely use mustard oil, you should use it in moderation. It is recommended to avoid mustard oil if you are allergic to mustard, as mustard oil can cause allergic reactions (5).
Despite the controversial scientific debate over the health benefits and possible risks of consuming mustard oil, diversity in the diet, the inclusion of different types of oil and moderate consumption are recommended (1, 2, 3).
Store mustard oil in a cool and dry place, protected from light and heat and consume the oil within its recommended oil. Avoid consuming oil with signs of spoilage and rancidity, such as the presence of off-odours (4).
In this article, we discussed the possible risks associated with the consumption of mustard oil, the benefits of eating mustard oil and how to safely use and consume mustard oil.
Mustard oil has a nutty and pungent flavour and a high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids. It is very appreciated in the Indian cuisine.
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Sehwag S, Das M. A brief overview: Present status on utilization of mustard oil and cake.
Sarwar MT, Rahman MH, Raza MS, Rouf S, Rahman MN. Determination of erucic acid content in traditional and commercial mustard oils of Bangladesh by gas-liquid chromatography. Advances in Biochemistry. 2014;2(1):9-13.
Mishra S, Manchanda SC. Cooking oils for heart health. J Prev Cardiol. 2012 Feb;1(3):123-31.
Okparanta S, Daminabo V, Solomon L. Assessment of rancidity and other physicochemical properties of edible oils (mustard and corn oils) stored at room temperature. Journal of Food and Nutrition Sciences. 2018;6(3):70-5.
Koppelman SJ, Vlooswijk R, Bottger G, Van Duijn G, Van Der Schaft P, Dekker J, Van Bergen H. Development of an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay method to detect mustard protein in mustard seed oil. Journal of food protection. 2007 Jan 1;70(1):179-83.