If Bengalis swear by their fish cooked in mustard oil and Biharis cannot make their bajkas or chokha and jhalmuri without it, there is a deeper reason behind it than the tangy taste of mustard oil.
Mustard oil is Eastern India’s olive oil. It is not just used as a cooking medium but it also serves the purpose of salad oil, hair oil, face and body oil, baby massage oil and even ear wax cleaner (though doctors do not recommend it.)
According to celebrity nutritionist Sandhya Gugnani, “There was a myth attached to mustard oil…unfortunately it was considered unfit for consumption by countries like USA, Canada, and Europe as it contained erucic acid which had an adverse effect on rats. But now it has been proved that it has no adverse impact on humans. Mustard oil is considered one of the healthiest oils as compared to other oils as it has the optimum ratio of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids and is low in saturated fats and high in MUFA (monounsaturated fatty acids).”
Here’s a list of some amazing facts and uses of mustard oil:
1. It has a distinctive pungent taste and is derived from mustard which belongs to the same family from which canola oil is extracted.
2. In Bengal, Bihar, Assam, Orissa, and Nepal it is the traditional cooking medium. It is also used in a number of Kashmiri dishes.
3. As per USDA, 1 tablespoon of mustard oil contains 126 calories.
4. Mustard oil is often applied on the skin to prevent or cure fungal infections. It is said to have anti-fungal properties due to the presence of a compound called Allyl Isothiocyanate.
5. Mustard oil has a pungent odour and perhaps this is the reason why insects avoid it. Hence it is used as an insect repellant in sprays and also keeps away ants and mosquitoes.
6. Mustard oil has oleic acid and linoleic acid which are essential fatty acids that make it a good hair tonic. Hair massage with this oil is said to increase blood circulation and promote hair growth.
7. It is considered a warm oil and hence is recommended as body massage medium in winters.
8. Its warm nature is lauded in Ayurveda and is said to prevent coughs and colds.
9. Traditionally it has been used as a medium to shed toxins from the body. When consumed or applied on skin, it is believed to promote sweating which is a way to excrete body toxins.
10. Mustard oil has been used in conventional oils and medicines for the treatment of rheumatism and arthritis.
11. It has been traditionally used with salt to massage gums for the treatment of various gum diseases.
12. According to a study conducted by experts from All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and Sir Ganga Ram Hospital that compared fat content in different cooking oils, including olive oil, canola oil, mustard oil and sunflower oil, it was found that mustard oil can reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases by up to 70%. It is better than olive oil because the later does not have an ideal ratio of omega-6 (N6) and Omega-3 (N3) fatty acids useful in reducing heart complications. The findings were reported in the February issue of the Journal of Preventive Cardiology.