Have you ever cooked with canola oil? Or are you planning to? Then, please go through what we have to say.
Canola oil is often marketed as one of the healthiest cooking oils out there. The oil is low in saturated fat and high in omega-3 fatty acids, which is why proponents recommend it quite often. But research has some stunning revelations. On the surface, the oil is not quite what it seems to be. In this post, we’ll take a detailed look into canola oil – top to bottom.
Table Of Contents
Canola Oil – In Detail
To know about canola oil, we must first know about rapeseed oil. Rapeseed oil, obtained from rapeseed (a bright yellow flowering member from the Brassicaceae species), was often used for industrial purposes decades ago. The oil was quite cheap to produce and unfit for consumption. It contained erucic acid and glucosinolates, both known to cause heart disease (1).
In an attempt to make it edible, a set of Canadian scientists used selective breeding techniques to produce seeds containing less of these harmful substances. The result was canola oil (Canadian oil).
Simply put, canola oil was born out of genetic modification. As per studies published by the Defence Food Research Laboratory, India, almost 90% of the canola oil produced in the USA is genetically modified and is mainly used to produce vegetable oil (2). In fact, the oil is also used in making lipsticks.
Research is still ongoing on genetic modification, and reports suggest it may not be bad totally (4).
Just like other oils, canola oil is also processed – making it a further bad option. This video will tell you how.
Many of today’s packaged and processed foods contain canola oil. And this is what the Weston A. Price Foundation, a renowned non-profit organization (headquartered in Washington D.C.) that focuses on Nutrition Education has to say about canola oil:
We are sure this gave you a hint of the harm canola oil can cause to you and your family. When we dug deeper, we found some shocking findings.
How Can Canola Oil Harm You?
1. It May Hurt Your Liver And Kidneys
We saw that canola oil is genetically modified. Though the benefits of GMOs might outweigh their harms, this is not so in some cases. Rats fed GM crops suffered damage to their liver and kidneys in just under three months (5). Intake of GMO led to an increase in blood hormone levels. This indicated the kidneys and liver weren’t functioning properly.
2. It Can Damage Your Heart
Canola oil is partially hydrogenated. It can cause inflammation and lead to the accumulation of calcium in the arteries – leading to issues like coronary heart disease (6).
Canola oil contains omega-3 fats. Yes, they are great, but hold on! The heat canola oil is exposed to during processing makes the omega-3s rancid and foul-smelling. When manufacturers deodorize the oil to counter this, the healthy omega-3s are converted into the dangerous trans fats. And as we know, trans fats contribute to heart disease.
Canola oil may also elevate blood pressure levels. Stroke-prone hypertensive rats, when fed with canola oil, died sooner than rats fed with other oils (7). This constant increase in blood pressure can lead to strokes as well.
3. Canola Oil May Affect Your Brain Health
Studies show how mice fed with canola oil had lowered memory than the mice in the control group (8). A diet rich in canola oil may also aggravate memory issues over six months.
Though we need more research here, the preliminary findings are not encouraging.
4. May Retard Growth
Infants cannot break down all the components of canola oil, which makes the oil harmful to them. The unhealthy fats in the oil may retard growth in infants. Shockingly, canola oil is now being used in some brands of baby formula as well (9)!
We recommend you go through the nutrition facts before purchasing baby formula.
5. Increases Inflammation In Your Body
This has to do with the processing of the oil. We already saw how the processing (deodorizing, to be specific) of the oil could convert healthy fats into deadly trans fats that cause inflammation.
6. Can Elevate Toxicity Risk
A majority of the canola oil used in the US is genetically modified. This means your canola oil could be contaminated by toxic chemicals. Unless the packaging says ‘organic,’ ‘solvent-free,’ or ‘expeller-pressed,’ don’t pick the oil. This is a rare case, though.
GMO toxicity can lead to a host of issues – including allergic reactions, immuno-suppression, and even cancer.
The nutritional profile of canola oil should give you some better perspective.
|From Protein||0.0(0.0 kJ)|
|From Alcohol||0.0(0.0 kJ)|
|Polyunsaturated Fat||61.4 g|
|Total trans fatty acids||0.9 g|
|Total trans-monoenoic fatty acids||0.1 g|
|Total trans-polyenoic fatty acids||0.8 g|
Now you know why canola oil is a bad idea after all. But wait, does this mean its proponents are wrong?
So, Is Canola Oil Pure Evil?
Not really. Canola oil does have some benefits. In fact, it is not the worst of veggie oils.
It has less saturated fat than other oils commonly used in the US. Low saturated fat means low cholesterol levels. Canola oil also contains higher amounts of healthy unsaturated fats.
Several studies have shown canola oil to lower total cholesterol levels and triglycerides by as much as 25% (10). But these studies are short in duration – most of them are just about four months long. Too short a time to determine anything.
Even otherwise, the negatives of canola oil far outweigh the benefits. The healthy unsaturated fats are damaged in the processing. The processing also adds other chemicals to the oil. Though canola oil is not pure evil, it is better you don’t go for it.
At least until there is more clarity on GMOs.
So, what can you do until then? Any alternatives?
What Alternatives Do You Have?
Canola oil can be substituted by a few healthier options.
- Olive Oil
One of the best cooking oils! Look for the cold-pressed or extra-virgin variety sold in a dark-colored glass container. Ensure it is GMO-free as well.
- Coconut Oil
Ensure it is virgin and cold-pressed. A big NO to refined coconut oil.
- Red Palm Oil
Made from the palm fruit instead of the palm kernel, this one is rich in vitamin E and beta-carotene (in its unrefined state).
- Ghee Or Butter (Organic And Pasture-Raised)
These contain healthy short-chain fatty acids that can prevent disease. If you are going for butter, choose the organic grass-fed type.
We strongly recommend you don’t go for canola oil. But if you want to, ensure it is organic and non-GMO.
The oil may contain omega-3 fats, but they are not effective. Don’t just go by marketing gimmicks. Do read the labels. Do your research – because this is about you and your family.
Tell us how this post has helped you. Just leave a comment in the box below.
Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions
Is canola oil gluten-free?
Yes, canola oil is gluten-free.
What is the difference between canola oil and vegetable oil?
Though canola oil is technically a vegetable oil, it comes from the rapeseed plant. Vegetable oils are extracted from different plant-based oils that are mixed.
1. “Cardiac lesions in rats fed rapeseed oils”. US National Library of Medicine.
2. “Genetically modified foods…”. US National Library of Medicine.
3. “The impact of genetic modification…”. US National Library of Medicine.
4. “Levels of trans geometrical isomers…”. Wiley Online Library.
5. “GMO corn causes liver, kidney problems…”. Reuters.
6. “The negative effects of hydrogenated…”. US National Library of Medicine.
7. “Influence of sources of dietary oils on the lifespan of…”. Springer Link.
8. “Canola oil linked to worsened memory and learning…”. ScienceDaily.
9. “The scandal of infant formula”. The Weston A. Price Foundation.
10. “Comparison of the effect of canola oil and sunflower…”. US National Library of Medicine.