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Canola Oil - Not good for you

Anne Baker

canola-oil Well, this post has now become one of my most popular and has even caught the attention of some Canadian Students that have claimed I am unfairly branding canola oil as un-healthy and GMO'ed. I stand by my advocacy of other healthy oils, however I have included some links to further information you can view at the end of this post to make your own, informed decision.

It seems every time I give a health lecture the question about what oils are healthy comes up. People are usually surprised to learn that canola oil is not the healthy oil they were lead to believe. This is because canola is actually a very processed product that is derived from the rape seed which is a member of the mustard family, which also includes broccoli, kale, cabbage and mustard greens. It was "invented" in Canada and named by him.

Rape seed oil was used in Asia for many years and was never a health issue. Speculation about the reason for this is because in Asia the oil was processed at very low temperatures. What your buying in US markets is not the same product and it does not provide any essential fatty acids required by the body. Fatty acids are essential and analogous to the lock and key. You need the right fatty acid to unlock the door to the cells. Wrong or rancid oils like canola don't work.

Canola oil was genetically modified to have a fatty acid profile of 57% monounsaturated fat; 5% saturated fat; 24% omega-6 fat and 10% omega-3 fatty acids. Because there is a decent level of omega-3 fatty acids, it is not recommended that canola oil be heated above 120F or trans fats are formed. Considering the profile, canola oil looks like a decent product. However, there are some canola oils whose smoke point is 520 F - how did that happen? That is all from chemical manipulation of the chemical structure of the oil through refinement and processing. So, although there is a 2:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, unless canola oil is used cold, and even then there is controversy, it is of little use and the levels of trans fats are extremely high at 4.5%, more so than margarine.

Current processing goes something like this - the oil is removed from the seed by a combination of high temperature mechanical pressing and solvent extraction. This is a very inferior method of extraction and leaves traces of the solvent in the oil. Then, the oil is further refined, bleached and degummed, each step requiring exposure to high temperatures and chemicals. Since canola oil has a large amount of omega-3 fatty acids, these easily become rancid and foul smelling during these high heat processes. It therefore has to undergo another refining process called deodorization. This deodorization process removes a large portion of the omega-3 fatty acids by turning them into trans fats - which can be as high as 4.5%.

So now you begin to see why canola is not the healthy oil you were lead to believe.

Some Quick Facts:

  • Canola oil is genetically engineered rapeseed.

  • Canada paid the FDA the sum of $50 million to have rape registered and recognized as "safe" - this is a rumor so I cannot 100% guarantee it actually happened but seems plausible to me knowing what I know about how money talks.

  • Rapeseed is a lubricating oil used by small industry. It has never been meant for human consumption.

  • It is derived from the mustard family and is considered a toxic and poisonous weed, which when processed, becomes rancid very quickly.

  • It has been shown to cause lung cancer (Wall Street Journal: 6/7/95)

  • It is very inexpensive to grow and harvest. Insects won't eat it.

  • Some typical and possible side effects include loss of vision, disruption of the central nervous system, respiratory illness, anemia, constipation, increased incidence of heart disease and cancer, low birth weights in infants and irritability.

  • Generally rapeseed has a cumulative effect, taking almost 10 years before symptoms begin to manifest. It has a tendency to inhibit proper metabolism of foods and prohibits normal enzyme function. Canola contains Trans Fatty Acids. Trans fatty acids have been shown to have a direct link to cancer. shown to have a direct link to cancer.

The Good Oils:

These are the good guys - you'll notice they all come from REAL FOODS!

  • flax seed oil - do NOT cook with this and keep refrigerated

  • extra virgin cold pressed olive oil - medium heat

  • virgin coconut oil - medium heat

  • avocado & it's oil - medium heat

  • grape seed oil - medium to medium high heat

The very best way to eat these is raw. High quality oils are very sensitive to heat and it changes them into less healthy substances our body can't use. This is another reason not to over cook your food on high heat.

While the Canadian Canola oil manufactures go to great lengths to assure consumers there oil is not only "healthy" but safe and was not created through genetic modification I am not the only one who is skeptical of this claim and thus I do not consumer canola oil and will continue to advise against it in my practice. I continue to advocate for the use of healthy oils such as virgin coconut, olive and macadamia nut oils - that are from plants and are not refined as these have many health benefits. But do your own research and make your own conclusions.

More resources on canola oil, GMO's and the subject:

Non-GMO Shopping Guide

Eudo Erasmus on EFA's

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