The pantry isn’t just a place to keep commonly used cooking staples, it’s also a treasure trove of beauty products. Coconut oil, apple cider vinegar, and coffee are just a few items that are just as popular in the bathroom as they are in the kitchen.
Mustard oil is something else you may want to start stashing next to your beauty staples. You may *think* it belongs in the kitchen, but once you know the facts, you may find you want to stick with using it on the beauty front. But before we get into that, it is helpful to know what it actually is and how it has traditionally been used.
What is mustard seed oil?
In countries including India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, mustard oil is a commonly used cooking oil. As you probably guessed from its name, mustard oil is sourced from mustard seeds. First, the mustard seeds are dried, cleaned, and heated. Then the oil gets machine-extracted from the seeds. Last, the oil is filtered to remove any impurities before being bottled and sold.
As anyone with the golden-colored condiment in their fridge can attest to, mustard has a strong flavor profile, pungent and zingy. Mustard dressings and sauces are commonly used to enhance the taste of salads, roasted veggies, and meat. But while mustard oil is often used in cooking in countries outside of the U.S., here, it isn’t approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for consumption.
Confused? Don’t worry, we’re about to get into it. But just because cooking with mustard oil isn’t recommended, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth buying. As mentioned, it’s a valuable beauty staple. Let’s first cover why it may be better for using as part of your beauty routine instead of in the kitchen.
Why the FDA won’t approve mustard oil for cooking
The controversy surrounding mustard oil comes down to two words: erurcic acid, which is an omega-9 fatty acid found in the oil. “It’s not approved by the FDA for use as a vegetable oil due to nutritional and cardiovascular concerns with its high levels of erurcic acid,” explains registered dietitian Patricia Bannan, RD, author of the upcoming book, From Burnout to Balance ($23).
Bannan explains that erurcic acid is linked to causing a heart condition called myocardial lipidosis–at least in lab rats. This heart condition is temporary and reversible, but it’s still not great for overall health. During myocardial lipidosis, lipids accumulate in heart muscle fibers which weakens the heart. In mustard oil, erurcic acid is the major type of fatty acid, at 14 to 33 percent. This is vastly different than olive oil, for example, which is high in a monounsaturated fat called oleic acid that is primarily in olive oil–which is good for your heart.
Even though mustard oil has erurcic acid–which isn’t great for your heart–Bannan says it does also contain monounsaturated fats that are. “Much like other vegetable-based oils like olive and avocado, mustard oil is also a source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. However, even though it is a natural source of this unsaturated fat, it is still not an approved oil for cooking in the U.S.,” she says. In other words, the benefits aren’t enough to outweigh the warning.
Studies confirm that consuming mustard oil regularly isn’t great for heart health. “A small study in Northern India found that higher levels of intake of this oil was associated with higher levels of cardiovascular disease and another small study found that those who consumed more ghee were less likely to have higher cholesterol and triglyceride levels than those who had higher intakes of mustard oil,” Bannan says.
But not all studies have had these same results. “Some research showed that those who consumed mustard oil had lower risk for cardiovascular disease as compared to sunflower oil,” Bannan says. Clearly more research needs to be done on this controversial oil–at least when it comes to consumption.
If you’re looking for a cooking oil that is good for your heart, it doesn’t get much better than olive oil. Watch the video below to find out why:
3 mustard oil benefits that prove it has a place in your beauty routine
Even though this oil isn’t considered safe to consume (at least per the FDA), there are still other ways to use it. Here are three to consider:
1. It can be used to help skin heal.
Scientific research has shown that mustard oil can help strengthen the skin barrier. It’s also antimicrobial. That means if you have a small cut, using a little mustard oil on it may help prevent harmful bacteria from growing as well as help the skin heal. Just avoid doing so on an unclean or open, exposed wound.
2. It is good for scalp health.
If you have a dry scalp, topically massaging mustard oil could help. This is because the oil moisturizes while also working to soothe irritated skin. By nourishing the scalp in this way and decreasing dryness, it can cut down on dandruff, too.
3. It may promote hair growth.
The same scientific study that connected mustard oil to scalp health and cutting down on dandruff found that it could help promote healthy hair growth. This is because the compounds in mustard oil stimulate hair follicles. However, this research has primarily been done on rats so more human studies need to be done in order for it to be considered a true hair growth-supporting oil.
When it comes to mustard oil, the scientific research is stronger for it to be used topically, not internally. There’s certainly no shortage of oils to cook with that have much stronger science connected to benefit the whole body–heart included.
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