What is Canola Oil?
Canola is originated from Canada and it is the nation’s most valuable crop, with annual exports of canola seed, oil, and meal totaling over $3 billion.
Canola is also grown in the U.S., largely in North Dakota. Since the mid 90s, sales of canola oil have rocketed as it is increasingly being used in home and restaurant cooking and in many processed foods.
Canola has been promoted as “healthy” and marketed as:
- Cholesterol and trans-fat free.
- Lowest in saturated fat (7%) among all dietary fats.
- High in Omega-3 fat (11%), an essential fatty acid that is needed but not made by the body.
- Has a moderate level of Omega-6 fat (21%), also an essential fatty acid that is needed but not made by the body.
- Relatively high in monounsaturated fat (61%), though olive oil has the highest.
So, is canola oil really as healthy as it claims to be?
Canola oil comes from the seeds of the canola plant. After harvesting, the seeds are then thoroughly crushed, extracting the oil contained in the seed. The canola seed is 45% oil in average and the remaining 55% is high in protein and is ground up and used as high-quality animal feed. Canola plants can grow up to six feet tall and produce beautiful yellow flowers. As the plant matures, small pods form that contains about twenty brownish-yellow and black canola seeds. The seeds are taken to a facility where they are crushed and the oil refined and bottled as oil that is pale yellow in color, with the neutral taste, light texture, and high heat tolerance. Canola is cool season crop and the cool night temperatures of the prairies allow it to grow particularly well after hot summer days with limited amounts of rainfall.
The Origin of Canola
Historically, canola’s roots are tied to the rapeseed plant, but since they have different chemical compositions they are not the same. Canadian canola remains internationally recognized as the industry forerunner regarding quality. In Canada, rapeseed is only grown under contract and used for special purposes.
For centuries, rapeseed oil has been very popular in India and China. Rapeseed belongs to the mustard family of plants. The characteristic rapeseed oil contains very high anti-nutritional substances like erucic acid (40-50%) and glucosinolates that are harmful to humans. Therefore, in the western world, rapeseed oil is seldom used as primary food oil.
Because rapeseed is very adaptable to genetic manipulation, in the 1970s, Canada’s research community began breeding a new variety from the rapeseed plant. This new variety of oilseed, which has less than 2% erucic acid and less than 30 umoles of glucosinolates, became known as canola, or Canadian oil, low acid.
Contents of Canola Oil
Canola oil is marketed as one of the healthiest oils in the world. Of all the oils, canola is the lowest in saturated fat, trans fat free, cholesterol free, and high in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E. In fact, canola oil has less than half the fat that olive oil contains and contains more than ten times more omega-3 fatty acids which are proven to boost heart health. It also contains vitamin K, which is vital for blood clotting. Nutritional research is confirming that the fatty acids in canola are quite beneficial in treating as well as preventing risk factors related to coronary heart disease like high blood cholesterol and thrombosis.
In addition to these health benefits, canola oil also contains alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which has been proven to improve cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure and reduce triglyceride levels. Similarly, ALA contains anti-inflammatory properties. The ability to lessen inflammation could be beneficial in treating conditions like arthritis and asthma. Omega-3s found in the oil might also help in treating conditions related to improper immune functions like eczema and rheumatoid arthritis.
Furthermore, canola oil has several uses. Cosmetics, paints, printing inks, pesticides, and plastics can all be produced using canola oil! Vegetable oils, in general, can even help fuel your car. Canola oil, in particular, is a good feedstock for biodiesel because of the low saturated fat content. So it is not only good for your heart, it’s good for your engine.
Canola oil is a well-balanced, cost-effective choice. It’s versatility shines from deep frying to baking. Many people consider olive oil as a universal choice when it comes to deciding on which oil to buy. The health benefits and good fat content are essential in a balanced lifestyle.
Canola Oil and Health
Some experts disagree with the health benefits of canola oil. Before you decide to make use of canola oil, you owe it to yourself to find out the deal about it. Try to be aware of all that it does to the body. Ask yourself if canola has something beneficial to offer. If not, you’re better off with the ordinary kind of cooking oil. it’s much affordable, too.
If you randomly question a group of people you walk by on the streets, most of them would say that canola oil is healthy. That’s because they hardly know anything about it. They think any oil that’s not the usual is healthy. Well, not all alternatives are, and in the case of canola oil, it can even pose dangers.
On TV and other commercial proposals, it’s just a good marketing tact. The technique is to focus on the positive attributes and leave out the opposite. A team of wise promoters make people believe that using canola oil is better. In a way, there’s truth to the claim because more than half of the products contents has a good effect on the body.
People assume that canola oil passes the health standard because it contains amount of monounsaturated fats. Well, not all of it. Just 65% of the entire product is good for the health. It’s a good ratio, if you think about it. When it comes to wellness, though, there’s no such thing as redeeming portion. When an individual’s state is the issue, there should be no bargaining.
The other percentage, the 35 one is the problem. It’s very unhealthy and contains a polyunsaturated component that results to the causing of toxins and could increase inflammation. In the long run, frequent use of canola oil can trigger heart and other chronic illnesses.
Instead of making yourself believe in the wrong facts, try to rely on the right studies. Canola oil, though commonly thought of to be healthy, is not. You should make it a point to not have it in your kitchen if you don’t to invite trouble to haunt your health in the later years.
If you want an alternative, there is coconut oil, olive oil, and organic grass-fed butter. There is a way for you to cook and lavish in home-made health treats. All you have to do is just make use of the right kind of oil.
Canola oil is not that healthy as we thought. You may think it is, being a different kind of the normal one intended for day-to-day cooking but it has its own set of cons, too. If you want to have an assurance that you’re not harming your own health, inform yourself of the right kinds of cooking aids to use and not just jump at a product that many label as good. Sometimes, it’s best to rely on yourself.
Potential Problems with Canola
Although the canola industry markets it as “healthy,” there are certain aspects of canola oil that raises much concern.
It is not natural
Canola oil is not a natural food, it is a modified food. There is no natural oil/fat that has similar fatty acid composition as canola. Humans have never consumed such oil until the last few decades.
Highly processed and refined
In contrast to extra virgin, cold-pressed olive oil which is made by merely squashing the olives, canola oil has to go through a great deal of processing.
Dangerous for babies
Canola is not totally void of erucic acid; it still contains about 1-2%. This is precisely why the United States organization of Food and Drug Administration prohibits the use of canola in baby formula because it often causes a buildup of fatty deposits especially to the heart. If canola is not good for the babies, can it be that great for adults?
Depletion of Vitamin E
In animal studies, regular consumption of canola oil leads to the depletion of vitamin E, a key factor in cardiovascular health. Canola increases the rigidity of membranes, causes lesions in arteries, and increases the size of platelet cells – thus increasing the risk of stroke, heart attack, and much more.
Genetically modified and herbicide-resistant
Roughly 90% of the canola crops in America are genetically modified (GM) so that they are resistant to herbicides like Monsanto’s Roundup or Bayer’s Liberty Link. That means these GM canola crops are doused in toxic herbicides.
What is the long-term effect of eating oil derived from GM canola crops that have been heavily sprayed with Roundup or Liberty Link?
The canola industry as well as the herbicide manufacturers touted its safety. However, various studies on rats and humans have challenged its alleged safety, with complaints ranging from hormonal disruption, impairment of liver and kidney function, to genetic damage.
The truth is, at present, we have not seen any long-term studies on the effects of such GM canola on human health.
Canola oil also contains traces of some unique sulfur compounds. Baked goods made with canola develop molds rather quickly.
As seen from above, despite all the hype about how good and healthy canola oil is, there are many potential health issues associated with it.
The best oils to use for cooking are unrefined coconut oil and saturated fats from organic, grass-fed animals. Yes, recent studies have shown that saturated fats do not cause heart disease; it is trans fat that is the culprit. Saturated fats are much more stable and do not go rancid as easily as the vegetable oils made from corn, cottonseed, safflower, soybean, and sunflower.
Olive oil is great for salads and should only be used for low to moderate heat cooking.
Peanut oil is good for cooking and frying because it is quite resistant to rancidity. However, since peanuts are often heavily sprayed with herbicides, it is best to use organic peanut oil.
Sesame oil is also quite stable and not easily subject to rancidity.
Be aware of processed foods that contain canola oil. Quite often, the front label will boast “Made with Olive Oil”, but when you read the ingredients on the back label, you may discover that canola is listed as a major ingredient.
Be aware that many processed foods use canola oil, including those found in Whole Foods. Restaurants have increasingly switched to using canola oil due to its cheaper cost and alleged health benefits. If you go to a particular restaurant on a regular basis, do ask what kind of oil is used in the cooking.