Canola Oil: what it is and why I don't use it.
I am sure that lately you’ve been hearing a lot of different things about oils. All of the sudden oils became a #trending topic. In the midst of all the buzz, you may have heard that a lot of people are starting to put aside canola oil and maybe reach for avocado, olive, or coconut oil instead. And, while you may have also started doing this, maybe you don’t really know why you are, or maybe you do. Either way, I wanted to write this article to discuss the reasons why I personally don’t use Canola anymore, and maybe help you understand why you should try to not use it also.
Let’s start with the origin of canola oil. Canola oil was created in Canada when rapeseed oil was banned due to its toxic compounds called erucic acid and glucosinolates. They made an edible version of the rapeseed plant, and called it canola. Since then, different versions of the plant have been made to improve the seed quality, so this means that most canola plants are genetically modified. Research states that around 90% of the canola in the US is genetically modified (5).
Canola Oil Process
Moving on to how canola oil is made. The Canola Council of Canada lays out the steps like this:
Seed Cleaning: literally what it says
Seed Pre-Conditioning and Flaking: seeds are pre-heated and “flaked” to rupture seed coat, without effecting oil
Seed Cooking: cooked to rupture cells even more, also to denature an enzyme that hydrolyzes the small amount of glucosinolates present in canola (which I thought they got rid of?)
Pressing: used to remove oil, but only gets 50-60% of it
Solvent Extraction: since there is still oil left in the seed, they use a solvent (n-hexane) to extract the rest, about 18-20%
Meal Desolventizing and Toasting: now they have to remove the solvent they just used to extract the oil, they do this with a method of heating and steaming (they also let you know meal quality can be affected by temperature…)
Oil Refining: finally, the oil goes through a series of refining processes like water precipitation, bleaching, and deodorization.. yum
As you can see, it goes through a lot before it gets to the kitchen. There is, however, double pressed canola which does not use the solvent process, it is just pressed twice to extract the oil. This is a “better” version of canola oil since it doesn’t use the solvent method.
The “Fats” Topic
To recap, this is what we have discovered so far: most canola is GMO (90%) and it is highly refined. I haven’t covered the “fats” topic yet though. Without making this post super long and boring, here is the gist. Canola oil is low in saturated fat and contains a more monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat (3). The debate about whether saturated fat is good or bad is on going, but personally (this is my opinion) I do not think it is as bad as people make it out to be (that needs its own post). Getting back to canola, the polyunsaturated fat contains about 21% linoleic acid, or Omega-6 fatty acid, and 11% alpha-linoleic acid, or Omega-3 fatty acids. However, some of these fats become trans-fat due to heating, which (they don’t have to say there is trans fat in canola if its less than .5 g PER SERVING) (4). And we all know how bad trans fats are, so I won’t even go there. Also, the ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 in canola is worrisome because many people on the Western diet already get too much Omega-6 and the imbalance between the two fats can lead to inflammation, which could result in chronic disease.
I am going to stop with the science talk there, otherwise I would be discussing all the articles for pages and pages (if you want more articles let me know, I will send them to you). For the reasons mentioned above, I choose not to use canola oil. I am sure you could find a lot of studies in support of canola oil, but most of those are funded by the Canola Oil Council, or have some relationship with a compony supported by them. Always be sure you know where the research is coming from, friends.
Sensible Alternatives (Get it)
These are some oils I use instead of canola oil:
Avocado Oil: I use this the most because of the high smoke point, its also associated with reduced rate of metabolic syndrome (1).
Olive Oil: Use this if I know I don’t need too much heat. Has lots of anti-inflammatory properties (2).
Coconut Oil: Use this mostly for baking, also good for high heat. The saturated fats don’t concern me, but this is dependent on the individual (like i said, deserves its own blog post)
Ghee: when I want something to taste extraaa good
I hope you find all this information helpful. If you want more info, or have more questions feel free to reach out to me!
Fulgoni VL 3rd, Dreher M, Davenport AJ. Avocado consumption is associated with better diet quality and nutrient intake, and lower metabolic syndrome risk in US adults: results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2001-2008. Nutr J. 2013;12:1. Published 2013 Jan 2. doi:10.1186/1475-2891-12-1
Gorzynik-Debicka M, Przychodzen P, Cappello F, et al. Potential Health Benefits of Olive Oil and Plant Polyphenols. Int J Mol Sci. 2018;19(3):686. Published 2018 Feb 28. doi:10.3390/ijms19030686
Lin L, Allemekinders H, Dansby A, et al. Evidence of health benefits of canola oil. Nutr Rev. 2013;71(6):370–385. doi:10.1111/nure.12033
Przybylski R, Aladedunye FA. Formation of Trans Fats: During Food Preparation. Can J Diet Pract Res. 2012;73(2):98-101. doi:10.3148/73.2.2012.98
Schafer MG, Ross AA, Londo JP, et al. The establishment of genetically engineered canola populations in the U.S. PLoS One. 2011;6(10):e25736. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0025736