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Friday, 27 July 2018

Is Canola Oil Healthy?

Though it is heavily marketed as the “heart healthy,” end-all-be-all cooking oil of America, and remains the preferred cooking oil in the restaurant industry, there are a number of reasons to steer clear of canola oil as much as possible.
On paper, canola oil looks like a healthy alternative to “fatty” oils like olive oil and butter. Proponents may point out its low percentages of saturated fat (7%) and high levels of beneficial polyunsaturated Omega-3 fatty acids (9-11%). In addition, canola oil contains significant amounts of phytosterols, a naturally-occurring, plant-derived compound that is structurally related to cholesterol, but actually reduces the absorption of cholesterol in the body.
These surface-level health benefits, combined with the fact that canola oil is outrageously cheap to produce, ship, and store, make canola oil the oil of choice in restaurants, in prepared foods, in baked goods, crackers, chips, cereals, cookies, and everything in between — a fine choice, because it’s good for your heart…right? Not so much. 

LET’S DIG A LITTLE DEEPER.


The canola plant is really just hybridized rapeseed.

Rapeseed oil first appeared during the Industrial Revolution, where it served primarily as an industrial oil and lubricant for ships, steam engines, and other heavy machinery. Back then, it was not permitted for human consumption, as it contains a number of dangerous anti-nutrients like erucic acid, a compound that is toxic to humansparticularly in relation to the heart.

Canola is almost exclusively GMO.

If you stay away from genetically modified foods, canola oil is definitely not something you want to be consuming. According to the Canola Council, close to 80% of canola grown in Canada has been genetically modified and 85% of canola grown in the United States is genetically modified, the vast majority of which is blasted with pesticides and herbicides.

Canola oil is heavily processed.

Canola oil (along with soybean, palm, sunflower, safflower, and corn oil) goes through some serious processing before it reaches your kitchen. After being heated through, canola seeds are pressed to extract the first bits of oil, then blasted with hexane, a cancer-causing byproduct of gasoline refining. After this, the canola is degummed, refined, oxidized, and chemically deodorized to remove any traces of its unique (*cough* chemical) taste.

The “healthy” fats in canola really aren’t that healthy.

It’s true that canola oil contains a balanced ratio of Omega-6 and Omega-3 fats. However, the Omega-3s in canola oil are Alpha Lineolic Acid (ALA), which is entirely useless until converted into the animal forms: EPA and DHA, the latter of which you are likely to be most familiar. The human body is not an efficient converter of ALA to EPA or DHA, so that high Omega-3 content that canola oil producers are bragging about may not be all that helpful in the end.

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