Rice Bran Oil: Versatile Healthy Fat or Inflammatory Cooking Oil?
Rice bran oil is considered a key ingredient around the globe and is commonly used for cooking, skin care, hair growth and more. However, while some favor it for its neutral flavor, versatility and high smoke point, others claim that it’s inflammatory, highly processed and downright unhealthy.
So is rice bran oil good or bad for you? Is rice bran oil good for skin? And what are the health benefits of rice bran oil? Let’s look at what you need to know about this controversial ingredient.
What Is Rice Bran Oil?
Rice bran oil is a type of oil that is made from the outer layer of of rice. The extraction process involves removing the oil from the bran and germ and then refining and filtering the remaining liquid.
This type of oil is well-known for both its mild flavor and high smoke point, which makes it suitable for use in high-heat cooking methods like frying. It’s also sometimes added to natural skin care and hair products, thanks to its ability to promote hair growth and support skin hydration. Although it’s used around the world, it’s particularly common in cuisines from areas such as China, Japan and India.
- Has a High Smoke Point
- Naturally Non-GMO
- Good Source of Monounsaturated Fats
- Promotes Skin Health
- Supports Hair Growth
- Reduces Cholesterol Levels
1. Has a High Smoke Point
One of the top benefits of this oil is its high smoke point, which is significantly higher than most other cooking oils at 490 degrees Fahrenheit. Selecting an oil with a high smoke point is important for high-heat cooking methods, as it prevents the breakdown of fatty acids. It also protects against the formation of free radicals, which are harmful compounds that cause oxidative damage to cells and contribute to chronic disease.
2. Naturally Non-GMO
Vegetable oils such as canola oil, soybean oil and corn oil are often derived from genetically modified plants. Many people choose to limit consumption of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) due to concerns related to allergies and antibiotic resistance as well as numerous other potential health hazards linked to GMO consumption. However, because rice bran oil is naturally non-GMO, it can help minimize the possible health issues associated with GMOs.
3. Good Source of Monounsaturated Fats
Is rice bran oil healthy? In addition to having a high smoke point and being naturally non-GMO, it is a great source of monounsaturated fats, which are a type of healthy fat that may be beneficial against heart disease. Plus, research suggests that monounsaturated fats may also positively impact other aspects of health as well, including blood pressure levels and carbohydrate metabolism. Each tablespoon of rice bran oil contains about 14 grams of fat — 5 grams of which are heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids.
4. Promotes Skin Health
Besides enhancing internal health, many people also use rice bran oil for skin to promote hydration and reduce signs of aging. The multitude of rice bran oil benefits for skin are largely due to its content of fatty acids and vitamin E, which is an antioxidant that helps protect skin against damage and prevents the formation of harmful free radicals. For this reason, the oil is often added to skin serums, soaps and creams designed to keep skin healthy and smooth.
5. Supports Hair Growth
Thanks to its contents of healthy fats, one of the best benefits of rice bran oil is its ability to support hair growth and maintain hair health. In particular, it’s a great source of vitamin E, which has been shown to increase hair growth for those suffering from hair loss. It also contains omega-6 fatty acids, which can promote hair growth by increasing follicle proliferation.
6. Reduces Cholesterol Levels
Promising research has found that rice bran oil could decrease cholesterol levels to support heart health. In fact, a 2016 review published in Hormone and Metabolic Research reported that consumption of the oil decreased levels of both total and bad LDL cholesterol. Not only that, but it also increased beneficial HDL cholesterol, although this effect was only significant in men.
Although there are multiple potential rice bran oil health benefits, there are several rice bran oil side effects to consider as well.
For starters, it’s highly processed and refined, much like other vegetable oils such as grapeseed oil and canola. Studies show that regular consumption of ultra-processed foods, such as rice bran oil, may be associated with a higher risk of certain types of cancer, including breast cancer. According to a recent 2019 study in JAMA Internal Medicine, a 10 percent increase in consumption of ultra-processed foods was linked to a 14 percent higher risk of death among middle-aged adults.
Additionally, many people wonder: is rice bran oil high in omega-6? While it does contain a good amount of monounsaturated fats and omega-9 fatty acids, it is also high in omega-6 as well. Consuming excess amounts of omega-6 can lead to inflammation, which can contribute to chronic conditions such as heart disease and cancer.
Where to Find and How to Use
Wondering where to buy rice bran oil? It can typically be found alongside other cooking oils in most major stores as well as online retailers. Products like rice bran oil soap are widely available at many stores as well.
It’s best to use rice bran oil for high-heat cooking methods where other types of cooking oil may not be suitable, such as grilling, frying or sautéing. Keep in mind, however, that it should also be paired with a variety of other healthy fats in your diet, including coconut oil, extra-virgin olive oil or grass-fed butter.
You can also use rice bran oil for hair by massaging it directly into the scalp one to two times weekly. Alternatively, try adding a few drops to your shampoo or mix it into a homemade face mask to take advantage of its skin-soothing properties.
Although using rice bran oil for cooking is fine from time to time, it’s highly refined and loaded with omega-6 fatty acids, so it shouldn’t be considered a staple in your daily diet.
There are plenty of rice bran oil substitute options out there that you can easily swap into your favorite recipes. Coconut oil, for example, is great for high-heat cooking. The biggest difference between rice bran oil vs. coconut oil is the fat content; while rice bran oil is made up of a mix of mono- and polyunsaturated fats, coconut oil is mostly saturated fat.
Olive oil is another option that can easily replace rice bran oil as an ingredient in salad dressings or as a topping for cooked veggies. Olive oil has a lower smoke point but is rich in antioxidants and contains a higher concentration of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.
Ghee and grass-fed butter are two other simple substitutes that work especially well in baked goods such as muffins, pancakes and desserts. In addition to having a high smoke point comparable to rice bran oil, both are also rich in medium-chain triglycerides and butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid that has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects.
Recipes (and Healthy Substitutions)
Rice bran oil is a great ingredient for soaps, hair masks and skin creams due to its content of vitamin E and healthy fats. Here are a few simple recipes to help you get going:
When it comes to cooking, however, rice bran oil should be consumed only in moderation as it contains a high amount of omega-6 fatty acids and is heavily processed. Instead, here are a few recipes that use other healthy fats in place of rice bran oil:
- Fried Plantains
- Creamy Avocado Cilantro Lime Dressing
- Sweet Potato Hash Browns
- Watermelon Feta Salad
- Cinnamon Rolls
In moderation, using a bit of organic rice bran oil from time to time is unlikely to have a negative impact on overall health. However, it shouldn’t be a staple in your diet and should be paired with plenty of heart-healthy fats such as coconut oil and olive oil.
For those with celiac disease or a sensitivity to gluten, an important question to consider is: is rice bran oil gluten free? Although rice bran oil does not normally contain gluten, it’s important to select certified gluten-free products if you’re following a gluten-free diet, which can prevent potential cross contamination.
Additionally, although uncommon, some people may be allergic to the oil. If you experience any food allergy symptoms such as itching, swelling or hives after consumption or when applying it to the skin, discontinue use immediately and consult with your doctor.
- Rice bran oil is a type of oil produced from the hard outer layer of rice, which is known for its high smoke point and mild flavor.
- In addition to being naturally GMO-free, the oil contains a good amount of monounsaturated fats and can help promote skin health, increase hair growth and reduce cholesterol levels.
- However, it’s also highly processed and loaded with omega-6 fatty acids, which can be pro-inflammatory if consumed in high amounts.
- Therefore, it’s best to use rice bran oil in moderation and stick to healthier fat options such as coconut oil, olive oil and grass-fed butter whenever possible.
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