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Q. How Healthy Is Canola Oil Really?

By Brierley Wright, M.S., R.D., March/April 2010

How Healthy is Canola Oil?

A. Canola oil comes from canola seeds. They are a genetic variation of rapeseed that was developed in the 1960s using traditional plant-breeding methods to make the rapeseed more palatable.

But canola often gets a bad rap. For example, we get questions from people who’ve heard canola oil is toxic and can cause various diseases, from emphysema to Mad Cow. The truth is there are no sound scientific studies suggesting a link between canola oil and any disease.

We also hear concerns that canola oil is genetically engineered (GE). This is true—most canola (93 percent in the U.S.) is GE. If that’s a concern for you, choose certified organic.

EatingWell often uses canola oil in our recipes because it’s one of the healthiest oil choices. It’s a good source of monounsaturated fats, the kind that, when used to replace saturated fats like butter and cheese, can help reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol levels and lower your risk of heart disease. Canola is the richest cooking-oil source of alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fat that has been linked to heart health.

Canola is also versatile: it has a neutral taste, light texture and a medium-high smoke point, so it works well for sautéing and baking. (An oil’s smoke point is the temperature at which it begins to smoke. When it does, disease-causing carcinogens and free radicals are released, so you never want to heat your oil to that point.)

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COMMENTS POSTEDsort icon

In 1974, rapeseed varieties with a low erucic content were introduced. Scientists had found a way to replace almost all of rapeseed's erucic acid with oleic acid, a type of monounsaturated fatty acid. (This change was accomplished through the cross-breeding of plants, not by the techniques commonly referred to as "genetic engineering.") By 1978, all Canadian rapeseed produced for food use contained less than 2% erucic acid. The Canadian seed oil industry rechristened the product "canola oil" (Canadian oil) in 1978 in an attempt to distance the product from negative associations with the word "rape." Canola was introduced to American consumers in 1986. By 1990, erucic acid levels in canola oil ranged from 0.5% to 1.0%, in compliance with U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards.

This light, tasteless oil's popularity is due to the structure of its fats. It is lower in saturated fat (about 6%) than any other oil. Compare this to the high saturated fat content of peanut oil (about 18%) and palm oil (at an incredibly high 79%). It also contains more cholesterol-balancing monounsaturated fat than any oil except olive oil and has the distinction of containing Omega-3 fatty acids, a polyunsaturated fat reputed to not only lower both cholesterol and triglycerides, but also to contribute to brain growth and development.

In other words, it's a healthy oil. One shouldn't feel afraid to use it because of some Internet scare loosely based on half-truths and outright lies.

Anonymous

04/06/2013 - 6:36am

Does anyone who runs this sight read anything that het's posted? Next time please, sight the studies and places you get your information on how Canola oil is good for you, because I can sight many references on how it's bad, bad, bad!!! IDIOTS!

Anonymous

04/05/2013 - 8:32pm

I am amazed by the comments from all the Anonymous speaking about rumours and their own fears about things that they do not understand. They tend to believe anything that they read regardless whether it has any scientific background or research behind it. Ever hear of the parable of Chicken Little and the sky is falling. It seems that there is a chorus of this happening all over the internet with everyone voicing their concerns without any basis for their belief other than an idea.
I notice the author of this page has a Master’s of Science, not just a science degree and is a registered dietitian. I do not see any of the anonymous responders displaying their science degrees or displaying any knowledge of any science. They are just readers of the mass of internet blather with opinions that are formed by that.
I wonder if anyone knows that all of the food that we eat and have eaten for at least the last couple of hundred years and some for much longer that that have been modified by the method of grafting and cross breading of plants to improve the health of the plants. This has been going on since we, as a species moved from hunters and gathers to subsistence farmers. This age-old method was used to develop Canola out of the Rapeseed plant in the 70’s. They reduced the Acid in the oil. This was not Genetically Modified in the Lab as modern claimants refer to. It cannot and does not have the properties to produce Mustard gas and is not responsible for respiratory ailments as claimed of Rapeseed.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not a proponent of genetically modified plants (in the lab, not field varieties) Look what it has done to wheat. The increase in gluten by 10 times in plants through genetic modification (in the lab) has caused a worldwide epidemic in gluten intolerance.
I agree that the methods of processing of Canola by using a antifoaming agent is not good but there are more and more farmers using the cold press method of processing that leaves a rich, high in good monounsaturated fats and Omega 3's. This is a high smoke point so it is good for stir fry’s and baking all better that Olive oil. Now we see that Coconut and grape seed oil which is being touted as the better oils. Do we know much about the processing of these oils and their additives? These oils are usually processed in other countries which do not have the disclosure requirements of North America.
Now for the GM Canola which is prevalent within North America to make it more hardy. In my research on the net I am seeing claims from the science side of the argument that says that the GM components are in the plant material and are not present in the oil. Since there is no plant parts in the oils the claim is for no GM.
I am not in a position to verify this and I challenge you to research and make your own decision. Feel free to respond with your findings.
Thanks
Stuart Gam

Anonymous

04/04/2013 - 11:07pm

ewww i dont like oil stuff

Anonymous

04/01/2013 - 4:40pm

Nobody discusses problems with Olive Oil. I'll consider Canola Oil like 31 Flavors and I'll be happy with 30 WITHOUT the 31st. Just in case the huge amount of talk might be 10percent true. I like my health too much to bother with something so meaningless when there are so many other choices. The only reason it would have meaning is because there was money involved pushing it forward into the screen of my vision. That happens because it's the cheapest available. I like quality and will pay for it. I'm not a cheap ass chance taker.

Anonymous

04/01/2013 - 2:08pm

Thanks eating well for making clear your position. Now that I know eating well are for an oil that is high in trans-fats from the 300 degree celsius extraction process, high in hydrogenation so therefore free radical friendly, causes Vitamin E deficiency and other health issues because of its lack in healthy saturated fats and a host of other health compromising challenges, not to forget toxic due to the hexane used in processing which can't be fully removed, I know to ignore your advice and site in the future. It's easy now that we're able to compare your advice with the experts who have kindly explained in authoritative articles. Phew! That was so easy! :)

Anonymous

03/31/2013 - 3:08am

If you want a healthy high smoke point oil use Coconut Oil, or render your own lard or tallow from GRASS FED ANIMALS that are fed NON GMO, and SOY FREE!!!

Anonymous

03/27/2013 - 10:54am

Hi Gang,
What about safflower oil? I need a healthy, unprocessed oil with a high smoke point to saute with. Ideas? Much Appreciated !! Thank you ,
Kelly Welton

Anonymous

03/26/2013 - 12:29pm

Canola oil as well as soy ad corn oil are processed using Hexane. I would never use any of these oils simply for this reason. Peanut, olive, walnut and grape seed are expeller pressed . It seems not using chemicals to process would be much healtier. Although, I'm no expert and organic canola is available, no GMO's.

Anonymous

03/23/2013 - 6:29pm

Whenver a scientist is involved in food, IT'S BAD NEWS PERIOD! Canola oil is 100% genetically created with science from an unedible plant called rapeseed!

Anonymous

03/22/2013 - 1:45am

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