Your Facebook questions answered: How healthy is canola oil?

Photo courtesy CanolaInfo

Photo courtesy CanolaInfo

“How healthy is canola oil?” asks Enlightened Eater Facebook fan Gillian Mcdougall.

Gillian, many people wonder about canola’s oils health benefits, especially since rumours began circulating quite some time ago via cyberspace of its supposed dangers. You can name a health condition or disease and canola’s been blamed as the culprit behind it. The alleged risks of canola oil have even made it to Snopes.com, the place where urban legends are debunked.

Among  the other charges are those  that canola and rapeseed oil are used as lubricants, fuel, soap, paints and are not to be used as food.  But all vegetable oils including corn, soybean and flax can be used  to make these products.

Canola oil,  developed in Canada from the rapeseed plant, is part of the Brassica family (of which broccoli and cabbage are high profile members).  While rapeseed oil is toxic to humans, due to a particular compound called erucic acid,  scientists removed these toxic properties to produce  canola oil.  Some canola oils do come from genetically engineered plants  but there are also those free of GMOs. If this is an issue to you, look for organic canola oil.

As far as health benefits, canola oil, which is classified as a monounsaturated fat, has a stellar reputation as a heart healthy oil.  Not only  does it contain the least amount of  saturated fat of all vegetable oils but it also contains alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3-fatty acid and  one  which we fall short on.  It’s also an extremely versatile oil making it a smart choice for enlightened eaters.

Where regular canola oil is lacking, compared to oils such as extra virgin olive oil, is that because of its processing which may remove many beneficial compounds, there are fewer phytochemicals such as polyphenols contained.  Polyphenols offer a host of  benefits including heart health perks and anti-cancer action.

Cold pressed canola oil, which I have to admit I have not yet tasted, does offer these compounds but I’ve seen very little in the way of research assessing its benefits. But chances are, the unprocessed varieties will offer even more health perks than its processed counterpart.

For more information, check out CanolaInfo.

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What’s your cooking oil of choice? Please share in the comment section below.

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Categories: Your Questions Answered

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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2 Comments on “Your Facebook questions answered: How healthy is canola oil?”

  1. March 4, 2015 at 11:00 am #

    As a regular buyer of canola oil for basic cooking needs, I appreciated this positive overview, Rosie.

    But it’s disconcerting to see you list Canola Info as a resource for more information. I would never go to a corporate industry site like one run by the Canola Council of Canada and expect unbiased educational information. All such sites employ what researchers call ‘selective outcome reporting’ in order to maintain their only mandate – which is to maximize sales of the product they’re marketing.

  2. March 4, 2015 at 11:14 am #

    Thanks for your comments, Carolyn. I do understand what you are saying and in many cases, I would agree with you. But in a case such as this, because I agree with the information on this website and how it is presented, I don’t have a problem with it. They have included facts about canola but If the website included other issues or slam other oils, such as extra virgin olive oil, I would not recommend it. But I think each corporate industry site has to be evaluated on its own.

    If there is anything on the website you disagree with, I would appreciate hearing from you. It is possible that I did miss something but I did think I gave it a comprehensive look.

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