Mustard, an annual in the cabbage family, produces tiny black seeds with a pungent quality. The black mustard plant is native to southern Europe, while the brown mustard plant originated in Asia. Mustard seed oil is used for cooking in some cuisines, notably Indian, and offers a variety of health benefits, including potential cholesterol-lowering effects.
Two forms of mustard oil showed cholesterol-lowering benefits in a study published in the May 2011 issue of the journal “Nutrition.” In the study, researchers enriched regular mustard oil with medium chain fatty acids and fed the regular and enriched forms to laboratory animals as 20 percent of their diets for 28 days. The enriched mustard oil resulted in improved fat and protein digestion. Levels of low density lipoprotein, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides decreased in both groups, but the reduction was less in the enriched oil group. Both groups showed an increase in high density lipoprotein, or HDL, the good form of cholesterol.
Mustard oil decreases cholesterol and improves red blood cell membrane structure, according to a study published in the December 2010 issue of the “European Journal of Nutrition.” In the study on laboratory animals, researchers observed that red blood cell membranes were more fragile in animals with elevated cholesterol levels and that the cholesterol-reducing effects of mustard oil improved the strength of red blood cell membranes by changing the fatty acid composition of the membranes to a more polyunsaturated form.
Monounsaturated oils, including olive, canola, mustard and sesame, provide the most heart-protective effects, maintaining high levels of HDL cholesterol while lowering levels of LDL cholesterol, says Tarla Dalal, author of “Healthy Heart Cookbook: Low Fat Low Cholesterol Recipes.” By contrast, polyunsaturated fats may decrease LDL cholesterol but also might decrease your levels of HDL cholesterol, and saturated fats promote elevated LDL levels. For optimal health, do not consume more than 6 teaspoons of oil per day and no more than 3 teaspoons if you have a tendency toward high cholesterol or history of heart disease.
Mustard oil is distinguished by its high content of the essential fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid, a category it shares with soybean oil, according to Dr. Rajiv Sharma, author of the “Diet Management Guide.” Alpha-linolenic acid is an omega-6 fatty acid with anti-inflammatory properties, also found in flaxseed oil, walnuts, hempseed and perilla oil.
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