Canola oil: How safe is it to consume this popular cooking oil?

canola oil cooking

Last Updated December 20th, 2021

What is canola oil??

Canola oil is an edible vegetable oil derived from rapeseeds. To make it an edible oil, the following compounds have been removed:

  • Erucic acid (a toxic monounsaturated fatty acid)
  • Glucosinolates (bitter compounds that give a bad taste to the oil)

Nutritional composition of canola oil

Nutritional compositionValue per 100 g of canola oil
Energy884 g
Total lipid (fat)100 g
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)17.46 mg
Vitamin K (phylloquinone)71.3 µg
Fatty acids, total saturated7.365 g
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated63.276 g
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated28.142 g
Fatty acids, total trans0.395 g

The history behind canola oil

Canola is derived from the term Canadian Oil and some people believe it represents Canada Oil, Low Acid). Canola oil is derived from rapeseeds and was first used as a lubricant for ships and steam engines. This oil was cheaper in price too. Unlike other oils, it sticks to wet metals. It actually was used as industrial oil but due to the increase in demands after World War II. Since then, the scientists began working on transforming it into an edible. Around 90% of the world’s canola crop today, is genetically modified.

How is it made?

The processing of canola oil is very invasive. The following are the steps involved in canola oil manufacture:

  • The seed is thoroughly sterilized.
  • Then, the seeds are subjected to a pre-conditioning step with heat. The seed is flaked using rollers (this helps in rupturing the cells to enable oil extraction).
  • The flaked seeds are cooked and subjected to a mild pressing process in the expeller.
  • Some amount of the oil is expelled and the seeds are compressed into large chunks (cake fragments).
  • The cake fragments are subjected to further processing and the remaining oil gets removed.
  • The oil is extracted further using hexane as the solvent.
  • From the extractor, the oil is processed according to the requirement. Here the color and the odor are erased via various processing methods.
  • The meal is transformed into pellets or left as a loose mash.

Canola oil health benefits

canola oil cookingCanola oil is rich in the following fatty acids. These fatty acids are not synthesized by the body and that is why they are essential.

  • Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)– provides protection from heart attacks and strokes by decreasing the bad cholesterol levels.
  • Linoleic acid (LA) – It is an omega-6 fatty acid. It has anti-inflammatory properties. This fatty acid is important for brain development and also for the growth and developments of infants.

Here the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 in canola oil is 2:1. This combination is nutritionally ideal and good. Monounsaturated fatty acids are good for the heart. In fact, a combination of high in omega-3 fats and monounsaturated fat is effective in reducing cholesterol levels. It helps in controlling high blood pressure. Canola oil is rich in vitamin E and low in the bad cholesterol content. This helps in minimizing the risk of cancer, heart disease, and even memory loss.

Canola oil versus vegetable oils

  • Canola oil produced by conventional methods is not healthy.
  • It is safe to consume the organic, cold-pressed canola oil as it does not have high amounts of rancid or useless compounds.
  • A 100 g of canola oil yields 884 calories energy.
  • Conventionally processed canola oil contains decreased nutrients and more amount of oxidized omega-6 fats, and trans fats. The amount of omega-3 fatty acids is so low that it is of no use.
  • This is not very harmful, but it is still far from being healthy.
  • Canola has a better quality of the essential fatty acids than corn oil.
  • It is also lower in unhealthy saturated fats (1.031 grams per tablespoon) but corn oil contains 1.761 grams per tablespoon.
  • Flaxseed oil contains more amounts of omega-3 fatty acids than canola oil.
  • Canola oil has more content of beneficial monounsaturated fats than corn oil. That is why canola oil is anti-inflammatory in nature. The monounsaturated content in canola oil is about 8.859 grams per tablespoon and for corn oil, it is 3.750 grams per tablespoon.
  • Canola oil contains 12% of the daily value of vitamin K. This vitamin helps in blood clotting. On the other hand, corn oil is completely devoid of this vitamin.
  • Researches show that canola oil decreased the tumor volumes more effectively than corn oil.

Culinary benefits of canola oil

canola oil processsingIt is very effective to be used along with spices and herbs (to make vinaigrettes – salad dressing of oil, wine vinegar, and seasoning).

  • The intricate tastes of baking products get enhanced and the flavor of the food is retained.
  • Canola oil also has a high smoke point (it has a high-temperature tolerance).
  • Because of its high oleic acid content, it reduces the need for hydrogenation (a process where hydrogen is added to oils to make them more solid or spreadable).

Culinary applications of canola oil

  • Scientists studied the effect on canola oil for baking, stir-frying and deep-frying. It was reported that the baking temperatures do not affect the unsaturated fatty acids in canola nor do they result in the development of trans fatty acids.
  • Heating the canola oil to its smoke point resulted in reduced levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids (linoleic and linolenic acids) due to oxidative degradation.
  • Cooking in smoking point is not advisable and must not be made into a cooking practice.

Upon using canola oil for deep frying, the scientists came down to the following conclusion:

  • The production of trans fatty acids was nil.
  • There will be only a slight loss of linolenic acid.

Does canola oil cause allergy?

  • Canola oil does not contain proteins and it causes any allergic reactions.
  • Gluten is a grain protein found in wheat, rye, and Soy is one of the most common food allergies. Here, canola oil is both gluten-free and soy free. So there will be no incidence of an allergic reaction.

Canola oil for your hair

Canola oil is used for hydrating hair masks and also has anti-dandruff properties. Since it has anti-inflammatory properties, it lessens the irritation on the scalp caused due to inflammation. This will eventually stimulate hair growth.

Drawbacks of canola oil

canola oil clogged arteryIt is processed in the presence of high heat. The polyunsaturated fats in canola oil are sensitive to high heat. These fats tend to become rancid, spoilt or oxidized due to the high heat processing.

Reports show the presence of trace amounts of hexane in canola oil. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry classifies hexane as a toxin that affects the nervous system.

Some studies in the U.S highlight that some of the fatty acids (about 56% to 4.2%)were found to be toxic in nature. This could probably be because of invasive processing. These details are not included in the product label. On the other hand, the processing of cold-pressed and organic canola oil is not as invasive as the conventional type. Cold processed canola oil does not contain any rancid substances. Do not consume more of canola oil as it increases the intake of polyunsaturated fats to an unnatural level. They get incorporated into the cells and make the cells prone to oxygen-related.

Few facts to be careful about

Canola oil is GMO

You should know that more than 90 percent of all canola that is cultivated in the United States is genetically modified. In fact, all canola plants are genetically modified to make them resistant to the herbicide Roundup. These herbicides are toxins and disrupt the sex hormones, cause fertility problems, miscarriages, thyroid and neurological damages, cancer, and heart disease. Also, post the oil extraction, the residual oil cake or meal is used as an animal feed. This is not healthy to the animals and by consuming such animal-related products such as meat, cheese, and eggs you will consume these toxins as well.

Presence of hexane

Hexane that is used for solvent extraction is a solvent from petroleum or crude oil. This solvent is considered as:

  • An air pollutant by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • A neurotoxin by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

The manufacturers falsely claim that hexane is removed completely. In fact, even the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not monitor hexanes in food or food products. In general, during the oil manufacture process, all the vegetable oils (including canola) go through a deodorization process. This processing helps in creating a bland taste to suit the needs of all consumers. During the deodorization, canola oil is heated at very high temperatures. At high temperatures, the beneficial or the good fatty acids get converted into dangerous trans fatty acids.

On the whole, is canola oil good or bad?

Canola oils are obtained from rapeseeds that are genetically modified to contain less of undesirable compounds. Industrially they undergo rigorous processing and are extracted with hexane. Canola oil is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids which is healthy for your body in terms of its cardioprotective aspect. It is good for cooking as it has a high smoking point.

The fact that it is heavily processed and is also from genetically modified plants cannot be dodged. You must consider all these parameters before you think of consuming this oil. Cold processed canola oil is a better choice.

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