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is canola oil bad for you

Is canola oil bad for you? Canola oil vs vegetable oil and animal fat

Is canola oil bad for you?

Beautiful fields of yellow Canola flowers cover 2 million acres of American soil and an unbelievable 21 million acres in Canada.  We do have Canada to thank for Canola oil (“canada” and “ola”) whose farmers began developing this crop in the 1960s.  With such a new crop, I think it’s fair to ask is Canola oil bad for you?

Canola oil is made from the seeds of the Rapeseed plant.  Rapeseed plants are highly toxic to humans, having extremely high levels of Erucic acid and Glucosinolates.  Rapeseed is so toxic to us that the FDA banned the use of the plant in 1956.

To combat this toxicity, Canadian plant breeders developed a modern form of the Rapeseed plant with low levels of these two toxic chemicals.  They trademarked this breed of the Rapeseed plant in 1970 as Canola.

Canola oil is made from its seeds

Once the beautiful yellow flowers of the Canola plant die and fall off, seed pods grow.  These seed pods contain 20-30 seeds, which are around 45% oil.  Canola oil is currently the third most used edible oil in the world.

is canola oil bad for you

Canola must be certified

For a rapeseed plant to qualify as a certified and trademarked Canola plant, it must test for low levels of toxic Erucic acid and Glucosinolates.  Canola plants can only have 2% Erucic acid and 30 micro moles of glucosinolates.

Is canola oil bad for you?

When we look to determine if canola oil is bad for you, there are certain factors that may or may not be convincing.  

For instance, the majority of Canola crops are genetically modified.  There are many people who believe GMOs are bad for you, but there isn’t definitive research leaving GMOs as a huge debate.  

On the other hand, nobody doubts the danger of pesticides.

Because canola is a GMO plant, it enables farmers to use high amounts of pesticides and herbicides to keep their canola plant safe from bugs and weeds.

Nutrition canola oil

Plant Sterols

high level of plant sterols, which inhibits the absorption of cholesterol.

Cholesterol is necessary for human life and hasn’t been found to cause heart disease, so is it really a good thing to inhibit the absorption of cholesterol?

Trans Fat

Canola oil has lower levels of trans fat than even natural animal fat and we all know that trans fats are bad for us.  So bad in fact that many countries have banned their use.

However, research has shown that natural trans fats are much safer for us than the artificial trans fats you would find in Canola Oil.  Artificial trans fats are harmful even in small amounts and the World Health Organization has called for a global ban of trans fat use by 2023.

Omega Fatty Acids

Canola manufacturers claim Canola oil to be one of the healthiest oils available on the market today because Canola oil has an omega 6 to omega 3 essential fatty acid ratio of 2:1 with 21% Omega 6 and 11% Omega 3.  

That would be great except for the fact that plant based essential fatty acids are highly inefficient in the conversion from plant Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA) to the version we get from meat and which us humans use-DHA and EPA.

ALA is very sensitive to the heat used in getting canola oil from its seeds.  ALA is also very sensitive to high heat cooking like frying.  You may come away from eating canola with hardly any omega acids whatsoever.

Canola oil smoke point

Ironically, one of the big selling points for canola oil is the canola oil high smoke point.  Oil smoke point is the temperature where oil begins to burn, and therefore smoke, and the oil begins to degrade, loose nutrients and develop toxins.  

Smoke point is important because it tells you how hot you can get the oil to and this will enable you or prevent you from deep frying.  You don’t want to exceed the smoke point because once you do, you begin to create Trans Fat.

Trans fat in Canola oil

Trans fat is basically plastic.  When fat is heated up past a certain temperature (the smoke point), trans fats begin to form.  Because Canola oil has such a high smoke point of 450 degrees, it can safely be used to fry foods with high temperatures.  Even more, a study found that Olive oil does not produce a significant amount of Trans Fats even somewhat beyond the smoke point. This is probably the biggest advantage of using Canola oil vs vegetable oils.

Substitute for canola oil

Canola oil vs vegetable oil

Vegetable oil is not canola oil although canola oil is a type of vegetable oil.

Vegetable oil is often a blend of plant based oils: sunflower, safflower, corn, soy.  Each of these have potential health issues and with a blended vegetable oil, you have no control over the types of fats you’re eating.

Vegetable oil is cheap and has a neutral flavor, making it popular for cooking.

In the Canola oil vs vegetable oil debate, Canola oil is probably a better choice so that you know what you’re getting.

All vegetable oils, canola oil included, are refined and processed.  This process strips it of its flavor so that it doesn’t affect food taste, but it also strips it of its nutrients.  

Vegetable oil is highly processed and this processing pushes the oils past its heat tolerance, increasing the production of Trans Fats as well as causing rancidity.

Vegetable oils are called that so that the manufacturers can use whatever commodity oil is most profitable without having to print a new label.

Canola oil vs olive oil

Olive oil is highly recommended over Canola oil although there are two limitations that make olive oil the loser in canola oil vs olive oil.  

Olive oil is very flavorful.  This makes it wonderful on salads and bread, but you may not like it on your pancakes (although I do).  Vegetable oils such as canola, are flavorless unlike olive oil.

Extra virgin Olive oil also has a relatively low smoke point of 350-410 degrees.

However, in a test where various oils were heated in a deep fryer and kept over their smoke point for 20 minutes, extra virgin olive oil displayed the greatest oxidative stability, producing lower levels of polar compounds, trans fats and other byproducts when compared with other oils that had higher smoke points.

In other words, the smoke point of olive oil doesn’t really matter because it’s such an awesome oil.

Coconut oil and Avocado oil weren’t far behind.

Animal fat

Evil animal fat also has a high smoke point (beef tallow is 400 degrees) and high oxidative stability.  

Meaning that it doesn’t break down into Trans Fats when overheated.

Animal fat is also full of nutrients and omega fatty acids, especially when the animal was pasture raised.  All fats have some level of Trans Fats, but natural Trans Fats such as those found in lard and tallow are much healthier for people than manmade vegetable oil trans fats.

Interestingly, we didn’t initially become anti fat because of any studies that said fat, and animal fat in particular, were bad for us.  We became a fat paranoid society because of a huge marketing campaign by the cotton industry.  

They had cotton seeds they didn’t know what to do with and discovered they could make something that ‘resembled’ fat.  This is what we call shortening today (e.g. Crisco).  A fake fat that is all Trans fat.

The cotton industry paid more money for the time period than any marketing campaign before or since.  What was their goal?  To make us afraid of animal fat so that we would buy shortening instead.

What oil should you use depending on how you cook?

If you’re cooking or baking at high temperatures, make sure you’re using oil with a smoke point above 400.

  • For Searing: For searing, you heat the meat quickly in order to get that wonderfully tasty brown outside.  You generally want a neutral tasting oil with a high smoke point.  My suggestion is Lard.  It is a flavor-neutral product that has a high smoke point, giving it a wide range of uses in cooking and baking.  I use lard or olive oil since, as mentioned above, even though olive oil has a lower smoke point, it is more stable and doesn’t begin to degrade when it is smoking.
  • For Sautéing: Sauteing uses lower heat. While searing requires the oil to just start smoking before you use it, sautéing doesn’t require the oil to get that hot.  Medium smoke point oils are fine.  You can still use lard, but olive oil and coconut oil are also fine for sauteing. 
  • For Deep-Frying: Deep frying requires a high smoke point oil.  As the olive oil study shows, even though olive oil has the low smoke point, it can handle deep frying without oxidizing.  Lard and beef tallow are other good choices for deep frying.  Back when MacDonald’s fries tasted amazing, they used to deep fry them in beef tallow.
  • For Stir-Frying: Stir-frying is very similar to searing.  You want high temperatures to cook fast and brown the ingredients without cooking all the way through.  Like searing, lard and olive oil are both great choices.

Summary: Is Canola oil bad for you?

I feel comfortable to say for myself that canola oil is bad for you or at the very least that there are other fats out there that are much more natural and healthier. This is my personal conclusion based on the research I have read.

Canola oil is usually GMO, usually sprayed with toxic chemicals, contains artificial Trans fats and is inefficient in providing us with Omega three fatty acids.

I personally choose to use lard, coconut oil or olive oil.

What do you think about using canola oil and other vegetable oils? Do you use animal fat as oils in your cooking?

Read about why you should be eating lard.

Hey! This post might have some affiliate links. That means if you click a link and buy something, we make money-and it doesn’t even cost you anything! Pretty cool right?

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