The first step to any great meal is choosing what oil or base you need. I’ve mostly reached for olive oil since I’ve always heard it’s the healthiest way to cook. But that might not always be the case! While olive oil should keep its place in your rotation, you should also consider the omega-3-rich tea seed oil that’s making a breakthrough in the US.
Tea seed oil originates in the Hunan region of China and is the most common oil used in Chinese cuisine. The oil is made from cold-pressing Camellia oleifera seeds, which can only be harvested after the flower has bloomed for five seasons. The seeds are then collected during a one-month period. In all, one bottle of the oil takes 8 years to make. And it’s worth it!
“It’s known as the ‘olive oil of the East’ because it’s full of catechins, a type of antioxidant that is very beneficial. In this way, tea seed oil makes whatever you’re cooking a little bit healthier,” Anthony Chen, who founded a company bringing the oil to the US, told Well & Good. You can purchase a bottle at Yóu Yóu.
Besides the antioxidants, it’s packed with all sorts of health benefits. The key one is its omega-3 fatty acids, which the oil is chock-full of. Omega-3s were linked to longer lifespans in a study from earlier this year. According to researchers, high levels of omega-3s led to lower mortality rates in participants over 65. Overall, people with high omega-3 consumption who were non-smokers had the highest survival estimate.
Tea seed oil is also extremely versatile. Unlike olive oil, it has a high smoke point, which means the oil won’t burn as you keep cooking. In fact, you could recycle the same bit of oil for several meals since the oil doesn’t brown and is good to continue using. Tea seed oil also has a neutral taste, making it perfect for all kinds of meals. And it really shines when you cook Asian-inspired dishes like stir fry.
“Your oil is the foundation of your meal. When you build your meal with an authentic Asian oil as your base, it’s the starting point for creating the very best Asian dish you can make,” Chen said. “It can really take your cooking to the next level.”
If you see tea seed oil next time you’re at the store, it might be worth grabbing a bottle to take advantage of its health benefits.