The Cunning Canola Plant: Learn the Truth About Canola Oil

Canola Flower

I just walked out of Whole Foods without hummus, which was one of the things on my shopping list. Why, because I am avoiding canola oil. Like soy, it has permeated into our food industry and it’s very hard to find processed food (you know, cereal, crackers, chips, hummus) without it. Okay, I admit, I’m not a great cook so whipping up some hummus isn’t so easy for me, and well, quite frankly, I can’t always leave the house ready with lunch prepared, so out of convenience I stopped at the store to buy some lunch things and well, hummus is a healthy enough choice to add to a meal.

 Do you remember hearing that canola oil is healthy oil? I do, and so I believed it for a long, long, long time. However, when I started reading about off-the-beaten-path-nutrition then I came to realize that canola oil is a marketing gimmick and really quite unhealthy.

 Canola oil is derived from the rapeseed plant. Rapeseed has been used as an insect killer and natural lubricant. It is not safe for human consumption because it is high in erucic acid, which can cause cardiotoxicity (1). The “canola” plant was developed from a hybridized rape plant in Canada in the 1970s. Traditional breeding was used to reduce the erucic acid and glucosinolates found in the original rape plant. The name is a contraction for Canada and ola, which means oil low acid. (definition) The Canadian canola council likes to call the plant the canola plant. Trademarked canola products must contain less than 2% erucic acid and 30 micromoles glucosinolates— whatever that means!

 Let us not forget that, according to the Canola Council of Canada (2), 80% of canola plants are from genetically engineered seeds. They state that it is the plant that is genetically engineered not the oil (nice spin!) so it is as good as conventional— ahem, that’s a dirty word in my mind.

Canola oil is said to have a high omega 3 count and low in saturated fat and all the marketing points us into believing that. Maybe you’ve read what I’ve read, and so you know that saturated fats are not the culprit of heart disease: refined oils, fats, sugars and flours are the problem. Speaking of heart disease, is it higher in women because women eat lower fat diets? Furthermore, heart disease rose in the 20th century, while medicine improved lowering death from infectious disease— diets changed too, people started eating less butter and more margarine. Also, and who is with me on this one, isn’t canola oil part of Big-Ag (big agriculture)? Something tells me corporate farming is in it for their profits not for my well-being.

 Canola oil, touted as healthier oil than other highly processed hydrogenated oils, is found in many, many products in health food stores. I would recommend using only organic expeller-pressed canola oil (or any oil for that matter) if you are going to use it.

 I, now, believe that if a product is marketed as “healthy” then it probably isn’t. Unless oil is expeller-pressed, the seeds are extracted using hexane, a petroleum product that must leave a chemical residue. Opponents, such as Mary G. Enig, PhD, an expert in the field of lipid biochemistry, say that, in animal studies, the Vitamin E in canola is drastically depleted through processing. In addition, because of its high sulphur count, it goes rancid quite easily and so food cooked with it can go moldy quickly. Therefore, “Further manufacturing, called refining, improves the color, flavour and shelf life of canola oil….” (“facts”). You know what that means.

 Now that I’ve dispelled the myth of yet another oil, what are healthy oils, if there is such a thing, anyway? Furthermore, which ones are safe to cook with? Basically, according to the Weston A Price Foundation, traditional animals fats like butter, lard, tallow, and chicken, goose or duck fat and palm oil and coconut oil are safe for cooking with, and extra virgin olive oil which is also OK— but use with caution it can’t be cooked on high heat. Their list of fats can be found here: Weston A Price know-your-fats.

 By the way, you can look for it coming to infant formulas soon (FDA PDF).

 I do hope my husband will see my point of view and not just think I have gone overboard again. Then again, maybe I have, I don’t think so though. Time will tell; he has started to believe me on some of this stuff.

 Again, I have a hard time cooking and baking everything myself so I have to be diligent when it comes to what products I buy and canola oil has made my list. (Margarine, trans-fat, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, low-fat foods, processed soy products…)

 What do you think about Canola Oil? Are you skeptical about the health claims and start eliminating it, or do you limit your intake of processed foods in the first place? Don’t forget that your child’s favorite crackers and chips at the health food store probably have canola oil in the list of ingredients, although, I do see it being phased out of many products now; which, is a good thing….

Further Reading and Sources:





4 thoughts on “The Cunning Canola Plant: Learn the Truth About Canola Oil

  1. You are so right about this! Canola is just a big marketing scheme cooked up by the seed-oil industry–a cheaper way to produce “edible” oil. One of the big problems with Canola actually lies in the fact that it does have a high percentage of omega-3s (initially, before processing). Omega-3 fatty acids oxidize at very low temperatures, and (as with all unsaturated oils) are also very sensitive to light. Have you ever smelled rancid oil? You can’t miss it;no one in their right mind would want to eat it. So, they have to deodorize canola oil also, yet another form of processing it goes through. The list of bad news about canola is endless! Thanks for this post. Keep up the good work!

  2. Thanks, Elena for the extra details about the Omega-3′s and oxidation. I definitely wouldn’t want to smell rancid oil, it would put me off it for life I think. It’s hard to imagine that the oil sold in stores is anything like what they claim it is as far as being healthy. Thanks for commenting.

  3. i had no idea re the canola statistic you provided. we like to think that here in canada we’re safer than those in the american food system – the troubling thing is that the bad conglomerates in the states are multi-national….which means they’re here too. aye.

    i do appreciate of course, the suggestion as to what fats we SHOULD be eating. too often we doom and gloom the crap out of everyone without offering an alternative. i limit my consumption of processed food quite a bit and when cooking, i usually use butter or duck fat. though olive oil certainly makes it’s way into the pan from time to time. of course, we have to be careful about which olive oil we’re using to make sure it’s REAL and quality olive oil. Sarafino does a great job of explaining how to tell the difference.

    thank you for taking the time to share with us at The Wednesday Fresh Foods Blog Hop – we hope to see you again this week with more incredible posts! xo, kristy

    • Hi Kristy,

      I always felt that Canada was better at things like this than here, but I’m not really sure, and I have heard of certain pesticides on produce from Canada that should be avoided (but I couldn’t tell you what at the moment). It’s probably true in most parts of the world that bigger corporations or producers are probably not the safest for us.

      I know what you mean, I’ll read how something is so bad for you and leave it feeling like there is no solution. I really appreciate you saying so. That’s great that you cook mainly with butter or duck fat, I’m not even sure where I would get duck fat around here.

      I agree with you on the olive oil, I haven’t heard of Sarafino, but I look for it here. I will check out their site. I like to buy organic from the co-op usually.

      Thanks for the kind words about the blog hop, I will definitely keep in touch with your website.

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