Over the last several years, Argan oil has become well known in international cuisine and cosmetics, not least because of its special ingredients. The golden oil with its intensely nutty smell and taste is made from the almonds of the argan tree. The argan tree only grows in Morocco, and the oil is traditionally processed by women in manual work. The almond harvest of four to five trees is needed for one liter of hand-pressed Argan oil, which corresponds to an amount of about 30 kilos of fruits and two days of work. This explains the relatively high price of that hand-produced oil. Argan oil consists mainly of fatty acids, tocopherols (a form of vitamin E), phytosterols (a chemical compound from plants) and polyphenols (phytochemicals). Each individual ingredient has a particular effect on the human organism.
Argan oil consists of 20 percent saturated and 80 percent unsaturated fatty acids. Saturated fatty acids primarily supply the body with energy and are found mainly in animal fats. They provide for an increase in the cholesterol level in the blood and are responsible for many lipid metabolism disorders. Saturated fatty acids, in their chemical structure, have no double bonds, which means that they have a more rigid structure. Accordingly, products with many saturated fats, such as butter or lard, solidify very fast. Unsaturated fatty acids are distinguished between monounsaturated and polyunsaturated forms. Monounsaturated fatty acids are particularly important for the cells as they have a double bond in their chemical structure, making their structure less stiff. They are found mainly in vegetable oils. The polyunsaturated fatty acids cannot be produced by the human body, so their supply is vital. They have a structure with multiple double bonds and are therefore least rigid. The unsaturated fatty acids such as those found in a high proportion in Argan oil, are much healthier than the saturated fatty acids for the human body because they do not raise cholesterol levels and protect against cardiac and circulatory diseases.
Tocopherols are a form of vitamin E, which is a liposoluble vitamin. The proportion of this vitamin E type contained in Argan oil is about 600 mg per kilogram – the minimum requirement for an adult is 4 mg per day. A supply of 20 to 35 mg per day is considered beneficial for the health. Tocopherols are natural antioxidants and scavengers of free radicals and thus act as protection for the body's cells. Moreover, the various types of vitamin E are important in regulating the gonads (testes, ovaries).
Argan oil contains 1300–2000 mg of phytosterols per kilo, which are chemical plant compounds that can lower the cholesterol level in the blood. They mainly occur in untreated (native) oils, fats and seeds. Effective for the human body is a minimum quantity of 2 mg phytosterol per day. Argan oil contains two types of phytosterols, which are present not at all or only in small amounts in other edible oils. These phytosterols are schottenol and spinasterol, which can have special effects on the human organism. For schottenol an antitumor effect was described and spinasterol apparently stimulates the cells.
Polyphenols are known as phytochemicals, which are produced by plants as coloring, tanning and bittering agents. Argan oil contains, amongst other things, the six polyphenols vanillic, syringic and ferulic acid, tyrosol, quercetin and myricetin, which are responsible for the unique smell and taste of that special oil. Polyphenols act as antioxidants and possess anti-inflammatory and cancer preventive effects.
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