Pros and Cons: What You Need to Know About Canola Oil

Canola Oil Facts You Need to Know

Canola oil is a staple in kitchens across America, but it has recently garnered quite a bit of media attention now that researchers at the University of Georgia announced they have unlocked canola’s genome sequence illuminating an “evolutionary love triangle.” Here are some of my favorite canola oil facts that will help you decide if you want to use canola oil in your cooking.

Pros and Cons of Canola Oil

Bible Health Club_JesusPaleo

Professor Andrew Paterson, director of UGA's Plant Genome Mapping Laboratory and co-corresponding author for the study said, (1)

“This genome sequence opens new doors to accelerating the improvement of canola. We can use this knowledge to tailor the plant's flowering time, make it more resistant to disease and improve a myriad of other traits that will make it more profitable for production in Georgia and across the country.”

As studies like this get more and more common, the Great Canola Oil Debate reignites and consumers wind more and more bewildered.

What is all the confusion about?

Since there are two exceptionally passionate sides to this debate, it can be a challenge to find the underlying cause of it all.

On one side of the argument, the detractors say canola oil is poison and that is contains “the infamous chemical warfare agent mustard gas,” and is responsible for most maladies from mad cow disease to blindness. (2)

Then you have the canola supporters who say the oil is one of the healthiest to be found because it contains high levels of omega-3s, is an excellent source of oleic acid, and is low in saturated fat. While these arguments might both be true, there is a whole lot more to story …

The 411: Canola Oil Facts

Let’s just put it out there: Canola is a big industry. In fact, the canola industry is so big, it has an impact on United States’ GPD. Here are seven facts from the U.S. Department of Agriculture: (3)

  • Canola oil is the third most produced vegetable oil
  • The canola oil industry manufactured 30.8 million metric tons of “canola meal” in 2009
  • Canola meal is one of the most common protein meals on the planet, second only to soy.
  • The industry just in the U.S. hit a value of $270 million in 2009
  • Globally, canola oil is worth in the neighborhood of $2 billion-plus
  • Canola oil has gradually grown from the 6th biggest oil crop in the world to the 2nd over the past 40 years.

Over a 10 year period from 1999 – 2009, canola equaled 10-15 percent of the total oil production globally.

Interestingly, there is no such thing as “canola meal” because the canola plant doesn’t actually exist. Canola is actually derived from the rapeseed plant, a member of the mustard family known for being inedible. But the researchers, after years of probing, found out how to chemically engineer rapeseed to meet the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards for human consumption. The canola industry then doubled down with a brilliant marketing campaign and the rest is history.

Similar to how brands like Xerox and Kleenex have become household names synonymous with their products, the Canola Oil brand, by default, has come to stand for edible rapeseed. Why should you care? Because rapeseed has significant health risks associated with it due to high levels of erucic acid, a monosaturated omega-9 fatty acid. Rapeseed has also been linked to heart disease. (4)

Now, nearly all canola oil manufacturers use some variety of chemically modified edible rapeseed. And while you probably assume canola is only used cooking oils and animal feed, you may be shocked to discover that canola can also be found in soap, printer ink, lipstick, lip gloss, lotion and de-icing agents. But to really explore the misconceptions surround the health benefits of canola, you have to look at the oil’s telling history.

An Inconvenient Truth: The History of Canola

“During WWII, inedible rapeseed oil was used as a high-temperature lubricant on steam ships, but with the switch to diesel engines in the following decade, industrial demand declined,” according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. (5)

Because of the elevated levels of erucic acid and the fact that rapeseed oil was poisonous and banned by the FDA, the demand for it was low in the years immediately following WWII. Also, due to toxic levels of glucosinolates, a composition that slows animal growth, rapeseed as an animal feed also saw low demand.

However, by the time the swinging 70s arrived, scientists and plant breeders were already toiling around engineering several varieties of Low-Erucic Acid Rapeseed (LEAR). These engineered versions allegedly contained lower levels of glucosinolate. For marketing purposes, these altered strands were registered under the “canola” name by the Western Canadian Oilseed Crushers Association in 1978.

It was in 1985 that the FDA got around to granting the oil derived from these LEAR varieties its coveted “GRAS” (Generally Recognized as Safe) moniker. This paved the way for marketers to tout the oil – with its low saturated fat – as a “health food.”

Just the (Nutrition) Facts, Ma’am

Like any product in the grocery store, the only way to truly understand the nutritional value of canola is to check the nutrition facts. Here’s the nutritional value of one serving of canola oil: (6)

  • Calories (1927)
  • Trans Fat (1g), however, some reports claim that number is much higher (7)
  • Saturated Fat (16g – 80% RDV)
  • Total Fat (218g – 335% recommended daily value)
  • Vitamin K (155mcg – 194% RDV)
  • Vitamin E (38.1mg – 190% RDV)

Once we dissect those 218 grams of fat, we start to get a clearer picture of canola oil:

  • Polysaturated Fat (61.4g)
  • Monosaturated Fat (138g)
  • Saturated Fat (16.1g)
  • Omega-3 fatty acids (19,921 mg)
  • Omega-6 fatty acids (40,646 mg)

Look, it ultimately comes down to this: Not only is canola high is trans fats, which we know are a leading cause of heart disease, but it also contains high levels of Omega-6 fatty acids and is one of the largest contributors to Omega-3 and Omega-6 imbalance. (8)

Inflammation and Other Side Effects of Consuming Canola Oil

Unfortunately, in America and other industrialized nations, excess consumption of omega-6 fatty acids has caused a deficiency of omega-3. While the typical Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acid ratio should be 2:1, it is actually more like 20:1. These discrepancies can be associated with inflammation and other chronic diseases all throughout the body.

In fact, symptoms of severe Omega-3 deficiency include:

Autoimmune Diseases

Those suffering the most from Omega-3 deficiencies tend to be those with poor diets, which contain abnormal amounts of processed foods, hydrogenated oils and large amounts of canola oil. If that’s not bad enough, here are a few more side effects of excessive canola consumption:

  • Elevated risks of cancer associated with the hydrogenation process
  • Growth retardation
  • Irregularities in blood platelets
  • Damage to free radicals
  • Liver and kidney breakdown

Safety First: Picking a Healthy Cooking Oil

When discussing whether or not canola and other vegetable oils are safe for human consumption, you have to look at the production process. For example, many of the vegetable oils available to consumers go through an extremely unnatural processing method that requires high heat, deodorization and the poisonous solvent hexane. It is because of this trifecta that higher levels of trans fats are created. (9)

In fact, when an evaluation between soybean and canola oils was conducted in the U.S., researchers found that the, “The trans contents were between 0.56% and 4.2% of the total fatty acids,” according to an article in the Journal of Food Lipids. (7)

Another option is cold pressed organic oils, which do not go through the same process and are safer for consumption.

On the other hand, cold-pressed and organic oil, do not undergo the same process and are safer to consume because they won’t contain as many oxidized fats or trans fats.

At the end of the day, canola is not as bad as other vegetable oils, but it’s still quite harmful for you to consume; especially on a regular basis. It’s my hope that you’ll never use canola oil again and, instead, use coconut oil or palm oil for your cooking needs.



This post currently has 26 comments.

  1. Linda
    May 29, 2017

    What’s wrong with avocado oil

      Reply
    • Dr. Z
      May 30, 2017

      Nothing at all.

      My apologies, I was responding to another comment and didn’t see the question about avocado oil. I just edited my response… 🙂

        Reply
  2. Susan
    May 29, 2017

    I’m confused about your comment that avocado oil is junk. According to Dr. Axe, it’s one of the healthiest oils available. Can you explain why you feel that avocado oil is so terrible?

      Reply
    • Dr. Z
      May 30, 2017

      My apologies, I was responding to another comment and didn’t see the question about avocado oil. I just edited my response… 🙂

        Reply
  3. vee
    May 28, 2017

    You might send this information to Whole Foods as they put the poison ‘Canola Oil’ in most of their prepared foods–even in some of the soup they have prepared.

    I have been complaining about them using this terrible oil in their prepared foods for years and years and year.

    I even gave them information why it is so terrible for the body but they STILL use this horrible product.

    Hopefully you will add your information so they will consider to stop using this product–I am sure they use it because it is ‘cheap’ to use as it seems they are only interested in ‘money’ and not people’s health.

    V Frierdich

      Reply
    • Dr. Z
      May 29, 2017

      I know, very sad indeed…

        Reply
  4. Louise Pavan
    May 28, 2017

    How about olive oil?

      Reply
    • Dr. Z
      May 29, 2017

      Next on my list to report on! 70+% of the olive oil on the market (like essential oils) is adulterated. Such a shame…

      Home test: put your olive oil in the fridge. The pure components will harden. 😉

        Reply
      • Gudrun
        May 30, 2017

        sadly this is not a true test 🙁 (per some olive oil reviews)

          Reply
        • Dr. Z
          May 30, 2017

          It’s interesting you say that because I recently spoke to a local olive oil retailer and, being an expert in the field, I took their word for it. He told me this is a very reliable test. I was like we need to reach out to the chemistry folks now! 😉

            Reply
  5. Sylvia
    May 28, 2017

    We use coconut oil for most cooking and EVO for salads. What are your opinions on Grapeseed oil, as hubby likes this for cooking his sunny side up eggs! It comes from Italy and is a light oil.

      Reply
    • Dr. Z
      May 29, 2017

      Yum!

        Reply
  6. Janene Hale McMorris
    May 28, 2017

    Wow! Thanks for the info. I have stopped using canola long ago. We cook mostly with Coconut Oil (Organic).

      Reply
    • Dr. Z
      May 29, 2017

      Awesome!

        Reply
  7. lea
    May 28, 2017

    I knew canola was bad, but not this bad!
    I use alot of avocado oil, how would that compare to coconut and palm oil?

      Reply
    • Dr. Z
      May 29, 2017

      Canola oil is junk. So sad so many people use it all the time…

      Regarding avocado oil, I treat myself to some potato chips that are cooked in it, but I have not used it in my kitchen extensively. I cannot speak to the specific health benefits, but from what I know it is better than most.

      We use high-grade olive oil, grapeseed oil and coconut oil simply because they’re easy to find relatively cost-effective.

        Reply
      • Jeannette
        May 30, 2017

        Are you saying “avocado oil” is junk? I have read it is a very healthy oil and has a high smoking point.

          Reply
        • Dr. Z
          May 30, 2017

          No, not at all. My apologies, I was responding to another comment and didn’t see the question about avocado oil. I just edited my response… 🙂

            Reply
  8. Barbara
    May 28, 2017

    Thank you for the information on canola oil. I have been using it for years.My parents used it for years. I was always told it was better than regular vegetable oil.

      Reply
    • Dr. Z
      May 29, 2017

      They’re all toxic. Better to use a safer alternative! 🙂

        Reply
  9. Jean Johnson
    May 28, 2017

    Wow! That is really sick. I am so angry (righteous anger!) that our FDA and government has allowed this type of manipulation of our food. Can you write an article for vegetable oils also? I would like to know the history of it also.
    I want to also thank you and ask God to bless you richly for providing all this valuable information for free. We are a one income family, as I homeschool my daughter. Thank you so much! It has been a blessing.

      Reply
    • Dr. Z
      May 29, 2017

      Thanks Jean. I’ll try to fit it in, but the story is similar. Vegetable oil is trash. Simply put…

        Reply
  10. Beth
    May 28, 2017

    I am no fan of Canola oil, but these numbers don’t help your case. There is no way that 218 grams is a serving, since that provides about a full day’s worth of calories by itself. If you have to inflate the serving size that much to get 1 gram of transfat, it is highly unreasonable to call it “high in transfat”. No one is likely to consume this much Canola oil (or any other oil) in one day, much less in one serving. “Just the facts” like these hurt our case against rapeseed oil, rather than helping it.

      Reply
  11. Susan
    May 28, 2017

    Thank you for the informative article, Dr.Z. How about rice bran oil? Is it a healthier alternative?

      Reply
    • Dr. Z
      May 29, 2017

      Yes in that it is non-GMO as far as I understand, the big part of Chipotle using it, but it’s still an industrial oil. Safer than most at your local restaurant, but I wouldn’t use it every day in my cooking

        Reply

Leave a Reply

Biblical Health