Alternative Oil Sources for Human Consumption

Some alternative sources of oils exist, several of which are used both for human and industrial consumption and for animal husbandry.

Alternative Oil Sources for Human Consumption
Alternate sources of oils. Photo by David Clode / Unsplash

The human being needs to consume essential oils through food since the membranes of the body are constituted by these at the cellular level (phospholipids). Although in popular culture we are generally only familiar with those commercial products used for cooking, there is a great variety in nature, which are also usually healthier.

In a radio interview, Miguel Angel Angulo Escalante, professor at the Culiacan Regional Coordination of the Center for Research in Food and Development (CIAD), talked about some alternative sources of oils that exist, several of which are part of the Center's lines of research and are used for both human and industrial consumption and animal husbandry.

Chia (Salvia hispanica)

It is an oleaginous seed used by our ancestors in pre-Columbian times; its oil has omega 3 and omega 6, which are of great benefit to human health. Currently, there are studies on the elaboration of corn tortillas combined with chia to increase the nutritional value of this food. When chia is soaked in water, a gel (polysaccharide) forms around the seed which, if consumed in moderation, causes satiety in the individual; however, if consumed in excess, it can cause constipation.

Safflower (Carthamus tinctorius)

It is one of the most popular cooking oils. Some studies sustain that, consumed in moderation, it can be a good option to regulate glucose levels in the blood, compared to other oils for food use.

In Mexico, its production has decreased because crops have been damaged by diseases. Most of the oil that is processed in the country is exported to Europe since its organic qualities make it a product in demand on this continent.

Bonete (Jatropha platyphylla)

The seeds of this plant have a high oil, lignocellulosic, and protein content. CIAD has studied the residual protein of its seed for the production of balanced feed for poultry, sheep, cattle, tilapia, and shrimp; in addition, a research project is being developed that explores the bonete as a source of biomass for the production of bioturbosine.

Ricin (Ricinus communis)

Also known as higuerilla, it is a plant that grows easily without the need for attention in cultivation. Although it is not used for human consumption due to its high toxicity, the oil extracted from it is used in the cosmetic and automotive industries. In herbalism, the oil has been traditionally used as a natural laxative.


When choosing the best oil for our daily consumption, it is necessary to emphasize that the necessary amount of it can be obtained directly from foods such as avocado, nuts, almonds, and seeds, as well as from animal sources (meat), so in food preparation, only a minimum amount should be used so that the food does not stick to the pan or pot.

There is currently a line of research on oils and proteins obtained from insects since these animals (unlike plants) have the essential amino acids in quantities required by humans for their overall health, so it would be an alternative to the consumption of animal meat such as beef, chicken, and pork.

When frying food, it should be considered that some oils, such as olive oil, lose their antioxidant qualities when heated, so they should preferably be used only to season food at room temperature.

Finally, when food is submerged in oil for frying, a large amount of oil remains on the food, which increases the number of kilocalories consumed, which can lead to obesity and cardiovascular disease problems in the medium term.