We recently wrote about the fact that olive oil isn’t actually the most heart-healthy oil. It comes as a surprise to many people as it’s associated with the Mediterranean diet — one of the best diets for heart health. Today, we want to take a look at rice bran oil. It’s not one that most of us use. Even though it is readily available in supermarkets, we go for the oils we know. While it’s higher in fat than olive oil, it can help lower cholesterol in a way olive oil cannot.
Rice bran oil is made from the husk that surrounds a grain of rice. It has a mild nutty flavor, so it won’t make a dish taste funny, doesn’t sink into food and has a very high smoke point, making it great for frying. It also contains antioxidants and is free of trans fats. It is an excellent source of several antioxidants that fight aging, combat free radicals and possibly prevent cancer. The antioxidants it contains are gamma oryzanol, phytosterols, polyphenols, squalene, tocopherols and tocotrienols. The largely neutral flavor means it can be used for baking as well as frying! We love it when something is so easy to incorporate into our diet. Making a simple swap for whatever you use now is an effortless way to make the change.
Oryzanol has been shown to help lower cholesterol. It’s rarely found in other oils. It also contains another element not often seen in oils: tocotrienols. Tocotrienols break down into heart-healthy vitamin E and aid the heart. Both the American Heart Association and The World Health Organization recommend using rice bran oil for improving serum cholesterol levels. Some people may think that because it is made from the husk of the rice, its cholesterol-lowering benefits are related to fiber. However, oil-less rice bran did nothing to help cholesterol in a study while the oil made a significant impact.
Rice bran has many other benefits besides lowering cholesterol. Some animal and human studies have shown that rice bran oil may significantly lower high blood sugar — up to 15 percent. No changes were seen in insulin levels, so it might be that it was lowering blood sugar on its own. Additionally, some small studies have shown that the oil aided skin health, the immune system and improved bad breath.
With all this in mind, consider adding rice bran oil to your shopping list and diet! It might be a swap you’re pleased you made.