Rice Bran Oil: Antioxidants from a Grain
Rice bran oil is an oil that’s extracted from the outer layer (the bran) of rice grains. It’s popular in Asian cuisine and valued for its high smoke point and nutty flavor. But beyond being tasty and good for high-heat cooking, rice bran oil has a boatload of potential health benefits thanks to its impressive nutrient profile.In this article, we’ll explore what rice bran oil is, how it’s made, its nutrition facts and health benefits, and potential downsides. We’ll also chat about how to buy and store it, and how to incorporate it into your diet. Let’s get cookin’!
What is Rice Bran Oil?
Rice bran oil comes from the bran (outer layer) of rice. The bran is removed during the milling process that converts brown rice into white rice.Rice bran makes up about 10% of the weight of the original rice kernel. But don’t let its small size fool you – this part packs a nutritional punch! Rice bran contains the germ and aleurone layers of the rice, which house many vitamins, minerals, proteins and antioxidants (1).To make rice bran oil, the bran is first stabilized through heat or chemical treatment to prevent it from going rancid. Then, the oil is extracted from the bran using chemical solvents or pressing methods (2).The resulting oil has a high smoke point of about 490°F. This makes it great for high-heat cooking methods like stir-frying, sautéing, and deep frying. It also has a mild, nutty flavor that works well in Asian dishes.
Rice Bran Oil Nutrition Facts
One tablespoon (14g) of rice bran oil contains (3):
- Calories: 120
- Fat: 14g
- Saturated fat: 2.5g
- Polyunsaturated fat: 3.9g
- Monounsaturated fat: 6.3g
- Vitamin E: 34% DV
- Gamma oryzanol: 300-2,000mg
Some key nutrients in rice bran oil include:
Rice bran oil is super high in vitamin E – containing up to 300% the Daily Value (DV) in just 1 tablespoon! Vitamin E functions as an antioxidant that protects your cells from damage (4).
This unique antioxidant compound is found almost exclusively in rice bran oil. It has anti-inflammatory effects and may boost heart health (5).
Over 75% of the fats in rice bran oil are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. These “good fats” help lower cholesterol and reduce disease risk when consumed instead of saturated fats (6).
Potential Health Benefits
With its impressive nutritional stats, it’s no wonder rice bran oil has been associated with some pretty awesome health benefits. Here are some of the ways rice bran oil may boost your health:
Several studies have found that swapping rice bran oil for other oils can lower “bad” LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol, and triglycerides (7, 8). These effects may be partly due to its high content of vitamin E and gamma oryzanol (9).
Thanks to its unsaturated fatty acids and bioactive compounds, rice bran oil may help reduce high blood pressure, especially when paired with anti-hypertensive medication (10).
A blend of rice bran oil and sesame oil significantly reduced fasting blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. It may improve insulin sensitivity (11).
When used as a mouth rinse, rice bran oil reduced bad breath by decreasing levels of sulfur compounds that cause halitosis (12).
Test tube and animal studies indicate gamma oryzanol and other antioxidants in rice bran oil have powerful anti-inflammatory properties (13).
Rice bran oil contains tocopherols, tocotrienols, and gamma oryzanol that may inhibit cancer cell growth. More research is needed (14).
Boosts skin health
Applying rice bran oil topically may protect against UV damage thanks to its vitamin E and antioxidant content. It also deeply moisturizes skin (15).Of course, more human research is still needed to make any health claims about rice bran oil. But the existing studies are promising!
Potential Downsides of Rice Bran Oil
While rice bran oil has some impressive nutrition stats, there are a few potential downsides to consider:
- It’s high in calories and fat, so portion control is key. Stick to 1-2 tablespoons per day.
- Rice bran oil may lower blood pressure. People with hypotension should check with their doctor before using it.
- Unrefined rice bran oil has a shorter shelf life and should be refrigerated.
- Over 90% of rice bran oil contains GMOs, since most rice is GMO (16). Opt for organic if you wish to avoid GMOs.
- Rice bran oil has a high omega-6 content. Make sure to balance it out by also getting anti-inflammatory omega-3s from foods like fish, walnuts, and flaxseeds (17).
As with any supplement, it’s a good idea to chat with your healthcare provider before adding rice bran oil to your routine, especially if you have any underlying health conditions.
How to Buy and Store Rice Bran Oil
You can find rice bran oil in most major grocery stores, health food stores, and online. Here are some tips for buying and storing it:
- Look for expeller-pressed or cold-pressed oils. This preserves more nutrients vs. chemically extracted oils.
- Refrigerate after opening to extend shelf life. The vitamin E and antioxidants degrade more quickly when exposed to light and heat.
- Buy small bottles since the oil has a shorter shelf life than more stable oils like olive oil. Aim to use within 3-4 months.
- Opt for opaque, dark bottles to protect the oil from light exposure.
- Check the label for additives. Some brands add preservatives to extend shelf life – avoid these.
- Consider organic. Most conventional rice is GMO, so organic ensures you’re getting non-GMO oil.
- Don’t buy in bulk unless you plan to use within a couple months. The antioxidants degrade over time.
How to Use Rice Bran Oil
Thanks to its high smoke point and neutral flavor, rice bran oil is super versatile. Here are some ways to use it:
- For high-heat cooking like stir-frying, sautéing, baking, broiling, and grilling.
- To make dressings, marinades, and sauces. Whisk together with vinegar, tamari, herbs and spices.
- In baking recipes like cookies, muffins, and breads. Replace up to half the butter or oil with rice bran oil.
- To oil a pan for cooking eggs, pancakes, or popcorn.
- As a finishing oil for drizzling over dips, soups, pastas, roasted veggies, etc.
- For oil pulling to reduce bacteria in your mouth and improve oral health.
- As part of DIY skin and hair treatments like masks, creams, and hair oils.
Start by swapping rice bran oil for other oils in recipes you already love. You can use a 1:1 ratio. Or get creative and make your own Asian-inspired dishes like fried rice, noodles, and dumplings.
The Bottom Line
Rice bran oil deserves a spot in your pantry if you’re looking to up your intake of antioxidants and healthy fats. It’s a nutrition powerhouse packed with vitamin E, gamma oryzanol, and cholesterol-lowering unsaturated fats.Research suggests this oil may be good for heart health, diabetes management, oral health, and more. Just be mindful of portion sizes since it’s high in calories. And balance it out by also getting anti-inflammatory omega-3s from other foods.Give rice bran oil a try in your cooking, baking, dressings, and DIY beauty recipes. Your body and tastebuds will thank you.Let me know if you have any other questions!