While argan oil benefits are becoming more well known in recent years due to its use as a cosmetic aid for shiny hair and lustrous skin, the historical use of argan oil in Northern African cultures is actually as a food.
In particular, argan oil is a pleasing accompaniment to most any raw or lightly grilled dishes.
Argan oil is produced from the fruit kernels of the “Argania Spinosa” or Argan tree, endemic to the Northern African country of Morocco.
Rich with antioxidant phytochemicals and essential fatty acids, argan oil benefits to health are well known and valued by local cultures and becoming widely acknowledged worldwide.
Argan oil is about 80% unsaturated fat by composition, of which about 32% is essential linoleic fatty acids and 47% oleic acid.
Although argan oil’s beneficial fatty acid composition bears a certain resemblance to olive oil, argan oil is actually more stable and almost three times richer in vitamin E. The high content of tocopherols and the type of omega-3 fatty acids found in both nuts and fish give it the unique capacity to help reduce rates of inflammation and neutralize free radicals within the body.
As a healthy and traditional fat, argan oil has been found to prevent oxidation and hence slow aging, while simultaneously stimulating digestion and boosting brain power. Argan oil contains rare sterol molecules and phytochemicals that cannot be found in other plant-derived oils.
Argan Oil Benefits to Health
Modern research is suggesting that argan oil benefits to health consist of the following when consumed as a whole food processed in a traditional manner:
- Powerful anti-oxidant action
- Stimulates the nervous system and builds brain capacity
- Reduces joint and rheumatism pain
- Calms hypertensive tendencies
- Facilitates digestion by increasing pepsin
- Stabilizes blood sugar/insulin levels
Proper Processing Key to Maximizing Argan Oil Benefits
As with any food, processing is key. There are two very different processes used to extract argan oil.
Make sure you aren’t fooled into buying industrialized argan oil!
- High-impact mechanical techniques employed by big companies.
- Traditional manual pressure extraction used in small native cooperatives.
The method of processing greatly affects the quality of the final product as well as argan oil benefits to health. In addition, processing of argan oil impacts the economic viability of the local peoples harvesting it and the sustainability of Argan forests.
If argan oil benefits are sought via consumption as a food, it is particularly important to source oil manufactured the traditional, manual way.
The following steps are followed to produce only the highest quality argan oil richest in antioxidants with no rancidity of the oil from overly aggressive processing (this is the source I use):
- The argan fruits are harvested from stands of trees and left to dry on the roofs of mud houses.
- The pits are then manually removed with the help of two stones.
- A thin protective skin is peeled off, and the pits are subject to a light toasting, a key step for giving the oil its distinct savory flavor.
- The slightly heated pits are then ground and slowly kneaded in traditional stone mills to produce a creamy paste.
- After about 30 minutes of continuous mixing, and with the careful addition of small amounts of boiled water, the precious oil slowly dissociates from the rest of the paste.
- This shimmering golden liquid is argan oil in its true form.
Like truly authentic, 100% olive oil, please note that you get what you pay for when it comes to argan oil. If the price seems too good to be true, it is likely not 100% pure and/or was processed in a manner that negatively impacts argan oil benefits to health.
Also be sure the color is golden as shown in the picture below.
How to Best Enjoy Argan Oil Benefits in Your Kitchen
Great chefs in Europe have also borrowed this secret, using the smooth qualities of argan oil to add depth and warmth to their exquisite dishes.
Salad Dressing Recipe Using Argan Oil
I personally most enjoy argan oil benefits via a drizzle mixed into my homemade salad dressings to boost depth of flavor. Here’s my recipe for basic honey mustard emulsified with argan oil (makes about 1 cup of dressing):
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tsp argan oil (find it here)
2 Tbl raw honey
1 Tbl organic dijon mustard
Have you tried argan oil? How have you been most enjoying argan oil benefits in your home – externally, internally or both?
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist