There has been a lot of controversy as to whether canola oil is good or bad for you, but most of it is based on misinformation. With so many conflicting opinions out there, it is hard to find the facts! We hope this article will clear it all up.
First off, what is Canola oil, anyway?
Canola, or Low Erucic Acid rapeseed, is a bright yellow flowering member of the Brassicaeae family, the same botanical family as turnips, rutabaga, cabbage, cauliflower and mustard.
In the early 1970s, in response to evidence that the erucic acid content of rapeseed oil was unhealthy in high amounts, researchers from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada at the University of Manitoba used traditional cross breeding techniques to combine two rapeseed cultivars with the most desirable traits. The result was a seed that was lower in erucic acid and lower in glucosinolates (that give rapeseed oil a bitter taste). Canola looks almost the same as rapeseed but a different plant thanks to its new nutritional makeup.
How is Canola oil made?
The bright yellow Canola flower blooms in the summer. When the flower naturally dies off, the seeds are harvested from the pods. From there, the seeds are taken to a crushing facility where the oil contained within the seed is extracted. It is then refined to remove impurities and to make it more palatable for consumption.
Canola oil is 100% Canadian!1
The word canola is a contraction of the words Canada and ola (meaning oil). Developed in Manitoba, Canola is a “Made in Canada” innovation.2
Canola production is a large contributor to the Canadian economy. The canola oil industry employs over 250,000 Canadians and contributes $26.7 billion to the Canadian economy every year!3
There are 43,000 canola farmers in Canada4 . Also, at 23 million acres of seeded area, canola is the largest Canadian crop.5
Canola is considered environmentally sustainable because the remaining canola seed material from processing, called canola meal, is used as a protein source for animal feed around the world. It can be used as cattle, swine, poultry and fish feed.6
Canadian canola production also produces 42% less greenhouse gas, compared to international canola growing competitors.7
You will also be glad to know that canola fields provide habitat for over 2,000 beneficial insects. Canola is an ideal habitat and food source for our precious honeybees.8
Is Canola oil bad for your health?
No, it is not. There is a lot of confusion as to whether canola oil is good or bad for you. Some of this confusion comes from myths about the canola crop.
Some people think canola oil is bad for you because the canola seed is often confused with rapeseed. Rapeseed, however, is not used for human consumption. Canola is not rapeseed; it may look the same, but it is very different on the inside with its own unique biological composition.
In fact, Canola oil is a protected name for this specific vegetable oilseed. For an oil to be called Canola, it must meet an internationally regulated standard.9
Sometimes, Canola oil gets a bad reputation because most of the canola plant grown in Canada is genetically modified to make it tolerant to some herbicides.
There has been a lot of confusion around GMOs (genetically modified organisms). The consensus among scientists are that foods containing GMOs are safe to eat and do not pose a risk to your health.10
According to the Canola Council of Canada11 only one protein has been modified in the Canola plant and this protein is removed during processing.12
So, if you are concerned, remember that Canola oil itself does not contain any genetically modified ingredients.13
Finally, it is important to know that Health Canada approves the use of canola oil as a food ingredient, and therefore recognizes its safety for the Canadian population.
So, Canola oil isn’t bad for you, but is Canola oil good for you?
Yes, canola oil is good for you when consumed in moderation as part of a healthy diet. Canada’s Food Guide recommends including a small amount of unsaturated fat in your diet each day and to use vegetable oils such as canola, olive and soybean. They also recommend that you limit saturated fats such as butter, hard margarine, lard and shortening.
While canola oil contains the same amount of fat and calories of all commercial oils, it has the lowest amount of saturated fat.
Is dietary fat needed anyway?
Yes, it is. We need dietary fat in our diet for our bodies to function properly.14
Dietary fats and oils are important component of the diet and as they provide energy and support body growth. In addition, they help with the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.15 Some also are good sources of two essential fatty acids—linoleic acid and α-linolenic acid.16
There are different types of fats: some are “good fats” and are the ones that can be beneficial for your body and be an important part of a healthy diet. These are the ones recommended by our national dietary guidelines and include canola oil. Some other fats, the “bad fats” should be limited.
To understand which dietary fats are good or bad for your health, we will need a quick lesson on types of fat.
Saturated and trans fats:
Excess consumption of both trans and saturated fats can raise the levels of LDL cholesterol (otherwise known as “bad cholesterol”) in the blood.
This type of fat is known as a “good fat” because it lowers LDL cholesterol when it replaces saturated fat. and is also essential to your health. This fat contains Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, which are “essential” nutrients because your body cannot make them in sufficient amounts.17
This is also known as one of the “good fats”. Monounsaturated fat is found in canola and olive oils, as well as in avocado and some nuts. According to Health Canada, replacing saturated fat with monounsaturated fat (and polyunsaturated fat, as mentioned above) can help reduce LDL cholesterol levels in the blood.
Monounsaturated fat is more stable during cooking than polyunsaturated fat. Canola oil is primarily made up of this type of fat (62%). This is why canola oil is a recommended oil for cooking. At 71% monounsaturated fat, olive oil is also a good choice.
How does canola oil compare to other vegetable oils?
It is first important to remember that the daily inclusion of two to three tablespoons of any liquid vegetable oils that contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats is recommended by Health Canada, while the consumption of solid fat is recommended to be kept low.
Canola oil vs. soybean oil
Soybean oil contains 15% saturated fat, while Canola has 7%, less than half that of soybean oil. Soybean is higher in omega-6 while canola is higher in omega-3 fatty acids.
Canola oil vs. olive oil
Canola oil and olive oils have a similar composition as they are both high in monounsaturated fat and they are recommended for cooking. Olive oil is a Mediterranean favourite, but it contains more saturated fat (14%) than canola oil (7%). However, extra-virgin olive oil may have additional benefits for the heart (as it contains additional bioactives/plant-based compounds).
Canola oil vs. corn oil and sunflower oil
Corn and sunflower oils contain more polyunsaturated fat than canola oil, but they also contain higher levels of saturated fat.
Canola oil vs. coconut oil
Lately, coconut oil has garnered a reputation of being the hero of all oils but it’s difficult to understand its popularity. Coconut oil contains over 90% saturated fat, so it’s a mystery why anyone would use coconut oil instead of canola oil!
Canada’s Food Guide recommends limiting solid fat such as coconut oil, and choose oils higher in unsaturated fat such as canola oil.
When we consider the potential health benefits, fat content and versatility, canola oil is an ideal choice for your health…and don’t forget, it’s a Canadian innovation!