Ahh canola oil. If you haven’t heard of canola oil, then you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade. In recent years, this oil has exploded onto the scene to become the most popular cooking oil out there, to some extent replacing soybean oil and corn oil. It’s higher in monounsaturated fat, and it contains omega-3’s, so we’re told it’s healthier. But is it really a healthy choice?
Let’s start with a little history, just for context. The modern canola plant is the result of years and years of hybridization and genetic modification. There’s evidence of using the canola plant (then called rapeseed) that dates back about 4,000 years to India. No word on what it was used for. But more recently, in the 13th century, it was used as fuel for oil lamps. It was also used during World War II as a lubricant on steam engines. Until the 1970s though, it was basically inedible; it contained a highly toxic fat called “erucic acid”. The canola of today has been bred to have a low erucic acid content, which has allowed it to become a real, edible oil. Kinda weird huh? Formerly used to fuel oil lamps and as a lubricant on steam engines… now America’s darling cooking oil.
What about nutritionally? What about those healthy monounsaturated fats and the omega-3’s?
Well, the monounsaturated fats are great, but that doesn’t automatically make canola oil healthy. Oreos contain healthy dark chocolate, but that doesn’t make Oreos healthy, does it? No. What else is there to canola oil? You’ve heard it’s high in omega-3’s, but that’s a little misleading. Not all omega-3’s are equal, and the type in canola oil isn’t the type associated with all those health benefits… you can only get those healthy fats from fish. So that health claim is overhyped. It’s also pretty high in inflammatory omega-6 fats, although admittedly not as high as other vegetable oils like soybean and corn oils. In terms of healthy fat content, it’s average at best.
In addition, much of the canola oil in the store is genetically modified; if it’s not labeled organic, there’s a good chance it’s GMO. The effects of genetically modified foods on health are completely untested and unknown; I don’t advocate being the guinea pig.
And, although the FDA has approved canola oil as a safe food, it still prohibits its use in infant formula. What’s the deal with that? If it’s so healthy, why keep it from our babies? There seems to be something fishy going on there…
What about how canola oil is made? What can we learn from that? Is it a natural process?? You tell me…
It’s treated with chemicals, soaked in chemicals, and bleached. Not so natural is it? Nothing that needs that type of processing in order to become edible should even be considered food!
All in all, this is why I don’t believe in canola oil. It’s nutritionally neutral, it’s genetically modified, it’s suspiciously prohibited from infant formula, and it’s highly, highly processed. Remember the saying, don’t eat anything your grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food? Well, she sure would have a hard time recognizing canola oil! Unless maybe she had a steam engine to lubricate 😉