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For years, olive oil has been the must-have cooking oil. It’s a staple because it’s not only versatile and delicious, but because it’s also fantastic for your health. EVOO is great for your heart, your brain and fighting inflammation. But now, there’s a new cooking oil that promises similar benefits, plus more. It’s called black seed oil, and it packs a punch of antioxidants, an impressive nutrient profile and huge potential health advantages.
Is this new oil worth trying? Find out why this oil is quickly becoming a new favorite and learn how to put it to use.
What is black seed oil?
Black seed oil is made from Nigella sativa, a flowering shrub that produces fruit. This shrub’s fruit contains tiny black seeds, which are used to create the oil. The seeds have a bitter flavor that’s pretty pungent, and so too does the oil.
While black seed oil might be new to your kitchen pantry, the black seeds themselves have actually been used for thousands of years. They’ve been used for everything from healing to protection to flavoring for food.
This oil does go by other names. You might find it at grocery stores and supplement shops under names like black caraway, black cumin or black onion seed. Most commonly, you’ll find it labeled as black cumin if it isn’t simply called black seed oil. However, no matter what name it goes by, it’s black seed oil if it comes from Nigella sativa.
It packs an impressive nutrient profile
Part of the reason black seed oil is popping up everywhere is its awesome antioxidants. This oil is chock full of these free radical fighters. It’s particularly rich in thymoquinone, an antioxidant that research has found to protect the liver, fight inflammation and even offer potential anti-cancer compounds. In fact, thymoquinone has been found to be the most bioactive nutrient in the oil.
The antioxidants present in black seed oil can have far-reaching positive effects within the body. As one analysis of five research studies found, Nigella sativa and its antioxidants can combat a variety of potentially harmful free radicals. The benefits of using this plant-based oil cover nearly every physiological system in the body, from your immune system to your brain to your cardiovascular system and beyond.
But the oil isn’t just packing antioxidants. It also contains sterols, or phytosterols, which are plant compounds that can have a positive effect on cholesterol levels and your risk for cardiovascular disease.
Additionally, according to a 2019 research article, black seed oil contains a number of amino acids, including glutamate, arginine and aspartate. It also contains iron, copper, zinc, phosphorus, calcium and folic acid.
Plus, there’s one more group of key nutrients that you’ll get from black seed oil: fatty acids. Over 64 percent of this oil’s fatty acids are linoleic acid, which is an omega-6 fatty acid that’s absolutely essential. Linoleic acid supports your heart health, lowering cholesterol and blood pressure. Omega-6 fatty acids from refined and processed oils are typically pro-inflammatory, but there is some research that suggests linoleic acid shouldn’t increase your inflammatory markers. You just want to ensure that you select a whole, unrefined oil such as black seed.
This oil has promise for a whole lot of health conditions
The antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients inside black seed oil give it some pretty awesome potential. While the oil itself is still being researched, it’s already showing plenty of promise for a wide range of different health concerns and conditions.
Black seed extract – along with the seed and oil – has the potential to help reduce key factors that contribute to cardiovascular disease. It may help reduce high blood pressure in individuals with mild hypertension, and it’s also shown to potentially reduce high cholesterol.
Black seed oil also shows promise in rheumatoid arthritis patients, as research indicates it may help reduce the symptoms caused by inflammation. The oil’s anti-inflammatory effect also might help those with asthma; it can potentially reduce inflammation in the airways and soothe bronchitis symptoms.
And there’s even promise for two very common health concerns: diabetes and obesity. A 2015 research review concluded that black seed oil may improve blood sugar and cholesterol levels in individuals with diabetes. A 2017 research review also supported this conclusion. And when it comes to obesity, one research study found that taking black seed oil in combination with a low-calorie diet helped obese women lose more weight, achieve smaller waist circumference and lower trigylceride levels. A second study that combined black seed oil and aerobic exercise also saw benefits for obese women, like lower cholesterol levels.
Black seed oil has also shown potential for cancer and cancerous tumors. However, existing research showed benefits in lab rats, and the effects have yet to be studied in humans. More research is needed to determine if there really is an anti-cancer promise in this oil.
Where to find black seed oil
Black seed oil comes in a couple of different forms. It’s available as a cooking oil and as a dietary supplement.
If you want to try black seed oil as a cooking oil, you’ll want to look for a high-quality product. You can cook with it just like you would olive oil, using it in a wide array of different recipes – or even in dressings and sauces.
Raw black seed oil has quite the bitter flavor, but it can be eaten just as is. If you want to take this oil as a supplement, using raw oil is perfectly fine. The taste may not be super pleasant, but it’s an easy way to put the oil to use.
Or, to add black seed oil into your daily supplement routine, you can easily find capsules at most health stores.
How to use black seed oil
When it comes to cooking with black seed oil, there’s a whole lot of potential. It does have a strong flavor profile, so if you don’t like this oil’s bitterness, you can incorporate it into recipes with other highly flavorful ingredients.
An easy way to incorporate it into your cooking routine is to treat it like sesame or walnut oil. Use it in small amounts for a boost of extra flavor. You can drizzle it over salads, mix into dressings or use in curries and stir-frys. Just be careful not to expose this oil to very high heat – too-hot temperatures can lessen its nutritional benefits.
When you dive in and begin using black seed oil, it’s also a good idea to start small. There’s no current daily recommendation or dose suggested for this oil. It’s also a good idea to run it by your doctor if you plan on using it as a supplement. It can interact with some medications, like beta blockers and blood thinners, so you’ll want to make sure it’s safe for any prescriptions you might be taking.
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