If you were one of those who believed in the misconception that omega-3 fatty acids are always derived from animal sources, we are here to change your opinion.
There is a very rich plant-based source of this amazing and very essential fatty acid and that is “Perilla Oil”. An oil which is renowned for its cooking usefulness has benefits beyond your imagination. Let’s dig in.
What is perilla oil and where it came from?
Like every oil, perilla oil is derived from the seeds of a plant known by the name Perilla frutescens which belongs to the famous mint family.
Rightfully called Asian oil, the tall plant of Perilla frutescens grows in Asian countries like India, Japan, China, and Korea. Some of the percentages also grow in North America.
It is often known by names such as purple mint, wild coleus, and Chinese basal.
Often used as a drying oil, perilla oil is an essential part of Asian cuisine, especially Korean cuisine, and is known for its nutty taste and rich flavor.
Our bodies need omega-3 fatty acids to perform several functions but are dependent on external food sources to obtain them. The importance of omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy is not a secret. Hence, nature has blessed us with the animal as well as plant-based sources for it.
Nutritional composition of perilla oil
Perilla oil is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids as it contains 50% more fatty acid content than any other plant source. The alpha linoleic acid is the major fatty acid present in perilla oil and constitutes up to 69% of the oil. Let’s have a look at what this rich oil is made of:
- Fatty acids mainly omega-6, omega-9
- Essential Oils
- Phenolic Compounds
Alpha linolenic acid which is the major fatty acid of the perilla oil gets converted into long-chain fatty acids; DHA and EPA which are the same fatty acids that are found in fish oil.
Health benefits of perilla oil
The role of perilla oil in Asian cuisine cannot be denied. But the benefits are much more than just flavor and taste. Here, have a look:
1. Beneficial for allergies and inflammations
Perilla oil contains certain extracts that are capable of eliminating the chemicals responsible for allergies and certain inflammatory reactions. A study was carried out where asthmatic patients were given perilla leaf extracts for four weeks. The results showed that the airflow of the patients improved as perilla extracts eliminated the chemicals responsible for asthma. In addition to this, perilla oil also reduces the risk of colon cancer as well as memory problems.
The reduction of colon cancer has been proved by a study which showed that intake of 25% perilla oil daily can reduce the risk of this cancer.
2. Heart Friendly
Perilla oil is considered a heart-friendly oil. A study was carried out that involved a clinical trial. The trial included heart patients who had a heart attack once. They were given an alpha linolenic rich Mediterranian diet. The results showed that people who took the Mediterranean diet had fewer second heart attacks as well as deaths resulting from heart diseases as compared to heart patients consuming typical diets.
Likewise, a study was carried out that involved 43000 men who consumed alpha-linolenic acid. There was a reduced risk of a heart attack in them.
3. Lowering Cholesterol
Perilla oil can lower cholesterol levels in the blood. A study was carried out with 85 participants, all of them with high cholesterol. The participants who were given perilla oil supplements showed lower levels of cholesterol, reduced activity of apolipoproteins protein B, lower levels of oxidized LDL as well as LDL. In addition to this, there was seen a reduction in a marker of heart disease activity known as lipoprotein-associated phospholipase A2.
Another study showed that the cholesterol-lowering effect of perilla oil was higher when coupled with physical activity.
4. Prevention of Osteoporosis
A research carried out on elderly adults showed that those who included perilla oil in their diets showed a lower risk factor of hip fracture. Not only this, perilla oil increases bone strength and also retains more calcium, both of which are equally important for the prevention of osteoporosis.
5. A Healthy and Younger-looking Skin
The benefits of perilla oil on the skin are well acclaimed all over the world. It exerts an antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effect on the skin as it is naturally packed with lots of linoleic acids that can combat various skin problems. The omega-3 in perilla oil slows down skin aging and acts as antioxidant offering protection to the skin. Moreover, it is ideal for people with oily skins as it contains a compound that plays the role of a precursor for ceramides that protects against water loss. It is often called a dry oil due to its high absorbance in skin and non-greasiness.
6. Beneficial for Hair
If you wish to have healthier hair, this is the right oil for you. Perilla oil reduces scalp irritation, keeps hair looking younger for longer, and repairs damaged hair as well as helps in the growth of hair. All thanks to the rich vitamin A in it, this oil is a favorite among hair experts.
Side effects of perilla oil
Too much perilla oil can have adverse effects on the body. Too much consumption of perilla oil affects insulin resistance which may lead to diabetes. Consuming a diet with 25% perilla oil can reduce insulin sensitivity as well as triglycerides and cholesterol.
There is speculation that too much perilla oil may pose a risk of prostate cancer.
If you are taking blood thinners, then you must keep an eye on your intake. Moreover, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you must consult your doctor.
Perilla oil has a rich history of medicinal use for the last 1000 years. With more benefits then risk factors, perilla oil can be a tasty and healthy add-on to the diet. However, remember that moderation is the key.