Wellness Blog

Is Canola Really a Healthy Cooking Oil?

Posted by Dr. Paul Zickler

Find me on:

February 21, 2017 at 9:57 AM

What is the mysterious canola oil?

Often marketed as the world’s healthiest vegetable oil, canola oil was created with the backing of the Canadian government as a natural oil coming from the rapeseed plant. In the 1970s, canola oil was created from the rapeseed plant at the University of Manitoba, creating an oil that was cheap to manufacture and would become a staple in many processed foods. Starting in the mid 1990’s, genetically modified versions of canola oil started hitting the market at an alarming rate. As of 2009, 90 percent of canola oil used was genetically engineered product [1].

rapeseed-canola-oil-organic-plant-healthy-oil-compressor.jpgWild rapeseed oil contains high amounts of erucic acid, which can be harmful to humans when consumed. The creation of an edible rapeseed oil involves lowering the erucic acid to consumable levels, which was then rebranded to the term canola oil, a combination of “Canada” and “oil”. Canola oil has long been included in industrial products like candles, soaps, and lubricants, and when the oil became genetically modified, that opened the doors to create edible products. Low in saturated fats and a great source of omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, canola oil is used in a wide range of food items. However, there are other oils that are healthier than canola.

What are the benefits of canola oil?

Generally, saturated fats are associated with high cholesterol levels, which has put the label of “unhealthy” onto many cooking oils. For example, corn, soy, or sunflower oil are considered less healthy because they have a higher concentration of saturated fats compared to unsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats, when used to replace saturated fats, can help lower cholesterol levels and risk of heart disease. The most well-known type of unsaturated fat are omega-3 fatty acids, which have a number of heart-healthy benefits.

There are many health benefits to canola oil, especially when compared to some of the unhealthy vegetable oils. Canola oil has a very low saturated fat content (the bad fat) and include the benefits of omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (the good fat), which help reduce the risk of heart disease. This helps to explain why canola oil has become so popular.

So, is canola oil bad for me?

canola-oil-healthy-alternative-gmo-free-cooking-compressor.jpgNot necessarily. Organic rapeseed oil can be a healthy alternative to other cooking oils, but over 90 percent of all canola oil in the market are genetically modified. There are no long-term, reliable studies that are performed on GMO canola oil, but there are concerns that GMO canola oil can cause liver, kidney and neurological damage. There simply isn't enough research to rule out the possibility that GMO canola oil can be dangerous.

When looking for the healthiest rapeseed cooking oil, it is important to look for organic and expeller or cold-pressed canola oil. Cold-pressing is the process using a steel press or another physical method to crush the nut or seed to force out the oil. Cold-pressing does not use heat, so the flavor, aroma, and nutritional value of the oil is not affected. Minimal heat through friction is produced. Using heat in the extraction process produces a higher quantity of oil, but the result is a lower quality.

“The lower-cost products sold in supermarkets have often been extracted with chemical solvents or high-speed presses that generate heat”, says Andrew Weil, M.D. in integrative medicine at Harvard [2]. In non-organic oils, high levels of pesticides may be used in the growing of the plants, which may affect the final oil product. Cold-pressed, GMO-free and organic canola oil is the best for your health and it exists, but is expensive and hard to find.

coconut-oil-alternative-canola-healthy-mct-oils-compressor.jpgThe best alternative: Coconut Oil

The best choice is to opt for cold-pressed virgin coconut oil, which retains the full coconut flavor and all the nutrients. Around 60% of coconut oil contains three medium-chain triglycerides (MCT), better known as the fat that helps you burn fat[4]. MCT’s have less carbon atoms than long-chain fatty acids, the fat found in the bulk of your diet, which makes them easier to digest. The fats from coconut oil are easier to digest and generally processed by the liver, which converts the fat immediately into energy (like carbohydrates) instead of being stored as fat.

Coconut oil has benefits of preventing heart disease and high blood pressure, as well as a natural treatment for Alzheimer’s disease [4]. The oil contains lauric acid, which helps boost your immune system and fight a number of conditions like the flu, candida, cold, and blisters. Coconut oil can also help with reducing inflammation, as it contains a high level of antioxidants. Opt for virgin coconut oil because it can be used in cooking, as the oil remains stable even when exposed to medium to high heat.

Coconut oil healthy alternative cooking mct fatty acids

 

 [1] Beckie, Hugh J., Harker, K Neil, Legere, Anne, Morrison, Malcolm J, Seguin-Swartz, Ginette, Falk, Kevin C. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. Retrieved from http://www.canolawatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/20110309_FPJ_Aut11_Beckie.et_.al_.pdf

[2] Ameran, Don. Canola Oil Side Effects. Livestrong.com. Retrieved from: http://www.livestrong.com/article/184705-canola-oil-health-risks/

[3] Crosby, Guy. Ask the Expert: Concerns about Canola Oil. The Nutrition Source. Retrieved from: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/2015/04/13/ask-the-expert-concerns-about-canola-oil/

[4] 20 Coconut Oil Benefits & Side Effects. Dr. Axe. Retrieved from: https://draxe.com/coconut-oil-benefits/

Topics: Diet, Body

Subscribe to Email Updates