Everyone has heard of organic products. But what do they really mean? We must first make the distinction between products that are organic and certified organic. In the late1990’s, the Quebec government enacted legislation in this area through the Respecting Reserved Designations Act and created the Conseil des Appellations Réservées et des Termes Valorisants du Québec (CARTV) who is responsible for overseeing this statute. In this act, only products with at least 70% organic ingredients that have been produced or transformed according to the specifications of a CARTV-recognized certifying body can be designated organic. To date, only 6 certifying bodies are recognized in Quebec: Quality Assurance International (QAI), GarantieBio-Ecocert, OCPP/Pro-Cert Canada, International Certification Services, OCIA International and Québec Vrai.

In fact, an organic product is a food that has been cultivated without synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers, in conformity with strict specifications that govern cultivation and production methods. This involves annual visits, inspection of the production premises and accounting records for buying and selling to ensure that the enterprise is following the regulations. If not, it will lose its certification. An organic product is a product that is healthy and cultivated or produced in an environmentally-sustainable manner.

The first cold-pressed process is a simple one but it still requires a certain know-how to obtain the best results. Seeds that have had dust and husks removed (in some cases only) are stored in silos where they flow towards the rotating screw mechanism of the press. Without being preheated, the seeds are dragged by the rotating screw mechanism that grinds them along the extraction cage in order to extract the oil. The oil never reaches over 50oC during the extraction process. This heat is a result of the friction created by the grinding of oil seeds in the extraction cage. The extracted oil flows through minuscule holes all around the extraction cage. It is then filtered and bottled. We print expiry dates on our opaque bottles, which is a testament to the care and attention we put into offering you a quality product.

First cold-pressed means that the oils seeds are pressed only once, with no additional heat. Once pressed, the seeds take the shape of small, protein-rich wafers that will be used to organically feed livestock.

The production of good first cold-pressed oil can be compared to the production of fresh fruit juice. Rotten oranges would never be used to make fresh orange juice. The same applies to oil: low-quality seeds will give the oil a bad taste and it will quickly turn rancid. Of course, it is also essential to use good equipment and control the speed of extraction. Contrary to oil that is refined, inert and almost unalterable, a first cold-pressed oil is vibrant because it retains its taste and nutritional properties. It also requires appropriate packaging (tinted glass).

Given the continuous barrage of oils on the market, here are some important questions that will help you make an informed choice:

• Who is the maker?
• Can the maker be easily contacted?
• What is the origin of the product?
• Is it organic? If so, who is the external body that certified it? Is it accredited?
• Can I obtain information on the product from the manufacturer (where and how the products are produced, what is the origin of the raw materials, what are the quality and health standards, is there a system to trace products, complete nutritional information, “how-to” advice, educational activities for customers, etc.)?
• Is there an expiry date on the product?
• Is there a lot code to trace the product if there is a problem?
• For olive oil, are the terms first cold-pressed or extra-virgin clearly indicated on the label?
• Is the bottle dark and preferably made of glass?

Lastly, remember that a good first cold-pressed oil will have the taste and aroma of the oil seeds used.

Saturated fats are most often found in animal fat but vegetable oils also have them in generally lower proportions. Do not confuse saturated fats with cholesterol, which only comes from animals. Palm oil and coconut oil are examples of saturated fats, with no cholesterol. Saturated fats are generally solid at ambient temperature. Scientists agree that we must eliminate our intake of saturated fats because they raise total cholesterol and are harmful to the cardiovascular system when consumed in large quantities.

Olive oil is the best known source of monounsaturated fats. Oleic acid is a monounsaturated fatty acid. Healthy for the heart, there are many recognized benefits of these fatty acids. These oils are the main sources: olive, canola, hazelnut, sweet almond and avocado. These oils, high in monounsaturated fatty acids, have a tendency to coagulate in the cold. They can be stored in the pantry as long as they are used on a regular basis.

The best known polyunsaturated fatty acids are linoleic acid (omega-6) and alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3), called essential fatty acids (EFA). They are essential because they are necessary to live and the body can’t produce them on its own. Therefore, they must be incorporated into our daily diet. EFAs play an important role in the proper functioning of the immune, nervous and cardiovascular systems. The main sources of alpha-linolenic fatty acids (omega-3) are the following oils: flaxseed, hempseed, canola and walnut. These fat molecules are supple and very useful to the body, but they are susceptible to oxidation. Therefore, they must be stored in the refrigerator because they are delicate and oxidize quickly. Avoid heating them.

Lastly, here is some information on trans fats, which are often talked-about these days. Fatty acids (saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) are found naturally in the form of cis. However, through the hydrogenation of vegetable oils (to make margarine, for example), the form of their fatty acids change. These fats become solid at ambient temperature and their form is called trans. In fact, the hydrogen atoms of an unsaturated fatty acid move and the link that represents the fatty acid becomes rigid like a saturated fat instead of keeping its original suppleness. Fats are hydrogenated to make them more stable and resistant to oxidation. Trans fats are found in margarine, shortening, chips, crackers, etc. Hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils contain trans fats. The problem with this type of fatty acid is that it is no longer an unsaturated fat; it’s a saturated fat with many disadvantages. It is therefore important to learn how to recognize them and limit our intake. It is also worth pointing out that industrially-produced oils also contain trans fats, since certain refining stages are done at temperatures above 200oC. Lastly, it is also important to mention non-hydrogenated margarines containing tropical oils that have undergone a refining process, which denatures the product.

The Mediterranean diet is renowned for its prevention capabilities and the exquisite taste of its ingredients. This diet combines pleasure and health and has an abundance of plant foods such as: bread, pasta, vegetables, fruits and nuts. Olive oil is the main source of fat while fish, poultry, eggs and milk products are recommended in moderation. Red meat should be eaten occasionally and a glass of red wine at mealtime is suggested.

Several studies have shown that olive oil, which is rich in monounsaturated fats, has many cardiovascular benefits. In fact, olive oil is the protective agent of good cholesterol (HDL) and can even increase it. It also lowers bad cholesterol (LDL). Oleic acid, the main monounsaturated fat in olive oil, is also more resistant to oxygen and heat and therefore much more chemically stable than polyunsaturated fats. Furthermore, a diet rich in monounsaturated fats could prevent the risk of coronary disease as well as cancer, diabetes, obesity and hypertension.

Lastly, a recent American study revealed the pain-relieving properties of extra-virgin olive oil. These properties are attributed to one of its ingredients, oleocanthal, an element found in ibuprofen. Another excellent reason to appreciate olive oil!

Every day, the human body needs a large variety of nutritional substances to function properly. Essential fatty acids (EFA) are among these crucial elements because they are necessary to live and the body can’t produce them on its own. Therefore, EFAs must be included in our diet. There are two of them: linoleic acid (LA), which is part of the omega-6 (w-6) family, and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is part of the omega-3 (w-3) family.

Nuts, seeds and cold-pressed oils are the best sources of EFA. There is a large quantity of LA in the following oils: safflower (79%), evening primrose (73%), sunflower (71%), walnut (61%), pumpkinseed (44%) and borage (37%). ALA is present in flaxseed oil (58%), hempseed oil (20%), canola oil (14%) and walnut oil (12%).

EFAs help maintain skin elasticity and ensure the proper functioning of the nervous system. Furthermore, they are the precursors of prostaglandins (hormone-like compounds) which have known anti-inflammatory effects. The North American population generally consumes enough LA (w-6) because it is relatively abundant in our foods, but not enough ALA (w-3).

Deficiencies or the misuse of EFAs can lead to heart or circulatory disorders, skin problems (eczema), various inflammatory disorders, arthritis, weight problems (thinness or obesity) and a breakdown of the immune system.
Introducing flaxseed oil into our daily diet is an excellent way to make up for this deficiency since it is the plant source that is highest in omega-3’s (58%).

Dr. Jean-Marie Bourre, member of the French Academy of Medicine, describes the essential role omega-3’s have on health. Referred to as “the discoverer of the effects of polyunsaturated fatty acids on the brain”, Dr. Bourre’s research demonstrates the importance of incorporating omega-3’s in one’s daily diet.

As it appeared on April 9, 2005 in the newspaper Le Devoir, Dr. Bourre states that a diet deficient in essential fatty acids could have disastrous consequences on brain development and consequently, on its functioning. Multiple scientific and clinical studies have shown that an omega-3 deficiency could affect infant development. Dr. Bourre advises pregnant or lactating women to increase their daily intake of omega-3.
This article also stresses the fact that numerous studies have demonstrated the importance of omega-3 on cardiovascular health. The beneficial effects are many: decreased blood triglyceride levels, reduced inflammation, and increased softening of the arteries, which lowers blood pressure.

Furthermore, recent research on cancer prevention carried out by Dr. Richard Béliveau (co-author of the book “Les aliments contre le cancer”, Éditions du Trécarré) demonstrates the importance of incorporating omega-3’s in one’s daily diet. The studies show that ALA plays a role in cancer prevention by reducing the possibility of developing cancerous cells and preventing the formation of new blood vessels necessary to their growth. Omega-3’s are also beneficial for the treatment of cancer by improving the effectiveness of medications and chemotherapy.

Recently, canola oil has had a negative image in the natural foods market. It’s because it fell victim to the controversy surrounding genetically-modified organisms (GMO). Contrary to popular belief, not all canola is transgenic! The distinction must be made between hybridization, the natural phenomenon that produces canola, and transgenesis, which involves human intervention to integrate a foreign gene into a living organism.

Maison Orphée’s canola oil is certified organic. The seeds we use are not genetically modified as organic certification standards do not allow the use of transgenic plants. Furthermore, we carry out genetic identity analyses on all the seed lots we purchase to ensure that they are not transgenic.

Canola oil has an exceptional nutritional value. It is monounsaturated (the type of fatty acid recognized for its beneficial effects on cholesterol, the heart, etc.). Furthermore, canola is one of the few oils that contain two essential fatty acids (omegas 3 and 6). These two fatty acids are essential to live and the body can’t synthesize them. Therefore they must be included in the diet. They have different roles in the body, such as maintaining skin elasticity and protecting against cardiovascular disease.

It is preferable to use canola oil in vinaigrettes, seasoning or for light sauteing. However, it can also be used for baked dishes. La Maison Orphée has organic canola oil in 500-ml or 750-ml bottles. You can also try the organic Quatuor blend made with canola, olive, sesame and hazelnut.

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