Canola is low in saturated fats, but is canola oil bad or good for your health? Let’s take a look at the canola oil health benefits.
Lots of do-it-yourself recipes as well as restaurants use canola oil. There are a couple main reasons why canola oil has become so popular. First, it’s cheap. Second, much of the population still believes saturated fat and animal-derived fats are bad for health. But are there canola oil health benefits? And, is the canola oil bad or good for you?
As unappetizing as it sounds, Canola oil is derived from rapeseed. It doesn’t take a marketing genius to figure out “rapeseed” oil won’t fly off the shelves. Rapeseed has been used as a cooking oil for centuries, particularly in Asia.
Canola oil was developed in Canada, hence the “CAN” in canola.
Rapeseed is in the same family as tulips, cabbage, and watercress. Before Canola oil was developed, rapeseed was used as an industrial lubricant in Europe and North America.
It wasn’t until the 1970s that rapeseed was used as an edible cooking oil in North America. There are a couple major reasons rapeseed wasn’t used as an edible in the USA. First, corn and soybean farming have flooded the market with cheap vegetable oil for a long time. Second, natural rapeseed has a high amount of erucic acid. Erucic acid has been clinically shown to cause heart lesions in lab animals. It’s also a natural insect repellant.
Canadian plant breeders figured out how to remove the erucic acid by cross-breeding (some people would refer to it as “genetically modifying”; it’s up for debate which term is more accurate). The new variety of rapeseed contains oleic acid. Oleic acid is known as a heart-healthy monounsaturated fat.
Canola Oil Health Benefits? Is Canola Oil Bad or Good?
Low in Saturated Fat, So It’s Gotta Be Good, Right?
What are canola oil health benefits? Canola was touted (and still is by some) for having low saturated fat content (only about 7%). Many so-called health experts still advise to keep saturated fat intake low. Compare the saturated fat content in canola oil to some other cooking oils (and butter):
- Coconut oil: 91%
- Butter: 70%
- Palm oil: up to 80% depending on variety
- Lard: 50%
- Corn: 13%
If you’re a doctor, you’re going to tell your patients that Canola oil is good because it’s low in saturated fat.
But many natural health experts believe Canola oil is bad for you because they say it’s genetically modified. Another thing these experts say: because Canola oil is a very recent invention, it’s not natural for us to consume. Our bodies have not had time to adapt to it.
Are there canola oil health benefits?
Let’s give Canola oil the benefit of the doubt for a second. Let’s argue that it’s not genetically modified and that it was merely cross-bred with another plant. It wasn’t created like a Frankenstein experiment. Let’s also say that rapeseed has indeed been consumed for centuries. And that it’s even healthier to consume now that it’s comprised of oleic acid, not erucic acid.
These so-called alternative health experts, even if they are right (which is up for debate) are missing the point.
Canola oil is unhealthy to cook with precisely because it is so low in saturated fat. Saturated fat is the most chemically stable type of fat. That means that it’s harder for it to spoil, especially once exposed to heat. The lower the saturated fat content, the easier it is for cooking oil to become rancid or carcinogenic. That’s why vegetable and seed oils are the worst oils to cook with. Vegetable and seed oils are high in omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids. Most people consume too much omega-6 fatty acids and not enough omega-3 fatty acids. (See more on healthy omega 6:3 fatty acid ratios.)
Cooking with Canola? Follow these guidelines.…
If you’re going to cook with Canola oil, do so at a lower temperature (lightly sautee). If the oil starts to smoke, that’s when you know it’s starting to become unstable.
Also buy Canola oil that’s been cold-pressed. Processing a cooking oil with heat turns the oil into a rancid concoction. But unless you’re a cooking oil judge that has a sense of smell like a hound dog, you wouldn’t know the difference. Processed canola oil that hasn’t been cold-pressed also may contain hexane.
Hexane is a component of gasoline. It’s used to extract the oil from the rapeseed. Detergents also may be used in the processing.
Canola oil might actually be as evil as some natural health experts say. But if it’s organic cold-pressed, it’s not quite the poison some Internet trolls would have you believe.
Is canola oil bad or good? Based on the information found, canola oil is bad and should be avoided.
It’s nearly impossible to avoid this ingredient. Most restaurants use it. And, if you’re a sucker for processed foods from time to time, chances are pretty good canola oil will be in the ingredients.
The best way to avoid Canola oil is to eat at home as much as you can. With so many other healthy oils and butters to cook with, there’s really no reason to make Canola oil part of your diet anyway.