Table of Contents[Hide][Show]
- Canola Oil Con
- Rapeseed Oil Transforms to Canola Oil
- Canola One of the First Crops to Undergo Genetic Modification
- 6 Reasons to Avoid Canola Oil
- GMO Canola
- Heavily processed
- Canola in Animal Feed
- Hexane Contamination
- Partially Hydrogenated Canola
- Fatty Acid Profile Inappropriate for Cooking
- Canola: Hiding in Plain Sight
- Should You Use Canola?
6 reasons why canola oil is to be strictly avoided in the diet and has an unhealthy fatty acid profile even if cold-pressed and organic.
Canola oil remains one of the most popular fats today both at the health food store and the supermarket. It is also hands-down the preferred cooking oil in the restaurant industry. It has maintained this popularity for nearly two decades.
High in beneficial omega-3 and “Mediterranean” monounsaturated fats, it appeals to those who have a superficial knowledge of the importance of healthy fats in the diet. Low in saturated fats, canola oil also appeals to consumers (still?) following the fatally flawed Food Pyramid which inexplicably continues to recommend vegetable oils as heart-healthy.
On top of the wide range of consumers who believe canola oil to be healthy, it is ultra-cheap to produce, ship and store. Not surprisingly, this is a home run with food manufacturers. Finally, the mild taste of canola oil makes it a perfect choice to blend with more expensive olive oil.
This characteristic is why most restaurants use a cheap canola oil/olive oil blend instead of 100% olive oil. Cooking oil in professional kitchens is usually a mix of 25% olive oil to 75% canola oil.
Interestingly, if you ask what cooking oil is used in the kitchen, the answer is usually “olive oil” even when this is not completely true.
The result of canola’s appeal to a large segment of consumers and industry is that many processed foods at both the supermarket and health food stores contain canola.
- Prepared foods.
- Baked goods.
- Crackers and chips.
- Cereals and cookies.
Even Whole Foods defends its use of canola oil at store hot bars. (1)
- Healthy for your heart?
- Good for your waistline?
- Green for the planet?
Are these claims about canola oil really true when examined closely?
Canola Oil Con
The canola plant is a hybridized version of the rapeseed.
Rapeseed oil first appeared during the Industrial Revolution, where it served as a lubricant in ships, steam engines, and other machinery. Note that rapeseed oil is not to be confused with grapeseed oil.
While popular for industrial use, rapeseed as food was severely limited by certain potent anti-nutrients it contained, such as erucic acid.
Two-thirds of the omega-9 (monounsaturated) fats in rapeseed oil is, in fact, erucic acid.
Studies of this fat in the diet indicate problems.
One study of Chinese children consuming rapeseed oil indicated an association with Keshan’s disease, which causes fibrotic lesions on the heart. (2)
Other studies of animals indicated the cardiotoxicity, renal toxicity or hematological toxicity of erucic acid as well. (3, 4)
Rapeseed Oil Transforms to Canola Oil
Transforming dangerous rapeseed oil into a fat that could be safely consumed by both humans and livestock proved no easy task. Plant breeders in Canada finally hit upon the right formula in the late 1970s using seed splitting.
This technique of genetic manipulation produced a variety of rapeseed that is low in erucic acid. Even better, the hybrid is high in oleic acid, the beneficial monounsaturated fat in olive oil.
The initial name for this hybridized oil was LEAR (Low Erucic Acid Rapeseed) oil. But, this acronym didn’t prove catchy enough. Eventually, this new rapeseed hybrid was renamed CANOLA by combining the words CANADA and OIL. This acronym proved much more marketable.
Then, in 1985, the Canadian government obtained GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) status for canola after spending 50 million dollars.
With GRAS came the blessing of recipes using canola oil in popular health books by Andrew Weil and Barry Seals. (5)
If health gurus promote it in bestselling books, canola must be healthy, right?
The CON-OLA industry was born!
Canola One of the First Crops to Undergo Genetic Modification
In addition to the seed splitting, the canola plant was one of the first to get acceptance for genetic modification.
GMO crops are Roundup-ready, which means they can be liberally sprayed with the herbicide glyphosate without wilting and dying.
With the backing of Monsanto, the FDA, the Canadian government, and health gurus alike, this truly problematic crop was crowned King of Edible Oils by the processed food system.
The question is … have you been conned too? If you are still not sure about canola, here are six BIG reasons to avoid it in your diet.
6 Reasons to Avoid Canola Oil
Below are the six reasons to avoid the con of canola even if organic and cold-pressed.
Almost all canola on the market is genetically modified. This means that it is grown using obscene amounts of Roundup and other toxic Big Ag chemicals usually made by Monsanto.
Even if the heavy processing claims to remove all of the Roundup residues, it ends up in our air, water, and soil, and eventually, us. (6)
Canola oil is heavily processed to produce the final so-called edible oil product.
What is this processing like? If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the video below on how canola oil is made hopefully makes it abundantly clear that this supposedly healthy fat is anything but.
A 70-minute wash with a “solvent”? Seriously?
Did you see the “vegetable shortening” wax pressed out of the massive machine? Ugh! Yuck! It seems car tires are less processed than this stuff!
Here’s canola oil processing in a nutshell:
- Pressed again.
- BLEACHED (to lighten the color)
Please explain how butter made from real cream or tallow and lard from pastured animals is unhealthy compared with highly refined butter spreads like
stupid Smart Balance containing canola oil?
How is using all these pesticides, chemicals, and carcinogenic solvents good for our planet or our bodies?
Clearly, the only way canola gets away with its “healthy” reputation is by duping the consumers using millions spent on slick marketing full of half-truths and the stamp of approval from government agencies.
Canola in Animal Feed
Besides an eye-opening walkthrough of canola oil processing nastiness, the video above reminds us why meat from conventional animals is not a good idea either for ourselves or the planet.
These poor, abused animals are being fed primarily GMO feed containing canola, soy, and corn. If you enjoyed a steady diet of industrial byproducts, how healthy do you think you would be?
You are what you eat, and your meat is what it eats! Best to source these foods from humane, sustainable grass-fed farms.
University at Berkeley notes that canola may contain hexane residues. Hexane is some really bad stuff; it is a byproduct of gasoline refining.
While manufacturers claim that the hexane is removed, hexane has been found in processed soy foods, which undergo similar industrial processes to canola.
Unfortunately, the FDA seems out to lunch (probably on canola-laced foods no less) on this issue. So, there is conveniently little research on just how problematic hexane and other manufacturing residues and byproducts are in foods like canola. (7, 8)
These unknowns just serve as another reason to stay away from canola even if organic!
Partially Hydrogenated Canola
Thanks to the underhanded work of industry front groups like the Center for Science in the “Public Interest”, in the 1980s Americans had partially hydrogenated oils foisted on them as health foods.
Decades of ill health and chronic disease have been driven by the low-profit potential and nonpatentability of animal fats and other natural traditional oils.
Even though transfats now appear on food labels, these factory fats are still hiding on the label in most cases unbeknownst to the consumer.
According to the Weston Price Foundation:
Like all modern vegetable oils, canola oil goes through the process of refining, bleaching and degumming — all of which involve high temperatures or chemicals of questionable safety. And because canola oil is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which easily become rancid and foul-smelling when subjected to oxygen and high temperatures, it must be deodorized. The standard deodorization process removes a large portion of the omega-3 fatty acids by turning them into trans fatty acids. Although the Canadian government lists the trans content of canola at a minimal 0.2 percent, research at the University of Florida at Gainesville, found trans levels as high as 4.6 percent in commercial liquid oil. (9)
But wait, there’s more. How much hydrogenated canola oil is actually in those processed foods?
The trans contents were between 0.56% and 4.2% of the total fatty acids. Consumers will obtain isomerized essential fatty acids from vegetable oils currently marketed in the U. S… A large portion of canola oil used in processed food has been hardened through the hydrogenation process, which introduces levels of trans fatty acids into the final product as high as 40 percent. (10)
As these two sources discuss, trans fats are a health disaster.
They occur in far greater amounts than most people realize in the food supply and are often hiding on labels!
Fatty Acid Profile Inappropriate for Cooking
Don’t be fooled by claims that canola is good for you because it is low in saturated fat!
Here is the fatty acid profile of canola oil (not the same as saffola oil):
- Saturated: 7%
- Monounsaturated: 63%
- Polyunsaturated (PUFA): 28% (Omega-6 and Omega-3 around a 2:1 ratio)
While canola oil could certainly have a worse fatty acid profile, the PUFAs it contains are prone to rancidity even if organic. This is due to the heavy processing required to process the canola plant into canola oil. One of the few things it has going for it is a not-too-terrible omega 3:6 ratio.
You certainly should never cook let alone fry with canola oil!
It is completely inappropriate for this purpose. Heat creates free radicals from the 30% or so PUFA content (similar to peanut oil and sesame oil).
Compare this with the 3-15% PUFA content of olive oil, 4% for grass-fed beef tallow, 10% for pastured lard, and 12% for avocado oil. These fats are far healthier choices for cooking where omega-9 fatty acids are primary.
Canola: Hiding in Plain Sight
One of the biggest problems with canola oil is that it is in everything from Walmart to Whole Foods! Note that organic canola oil isn’t much different or better than conventional either.
Organic canola oil is still heavily processed with a not-so-great fatty acid profile. In short, most of the known health risks associated with regular canola oil are present with organic canola oil. Kind of like organic cheerios vs regular cheerios, a grade of D- or a grade of F. Is that much of an improvement?
So, while Whole Foods is right to defend its canola oil from claims of hexane and other forms of contamination, it is still, at the end of the day, canola oil!
It is just canola oil with fewer issues than its ickier GMO canola cousin. And note, just because Whole Foods or you use GMO-free canola, it still isn’t organic. It is still almost certainly sprayed with Roundup and grown with other industrial ag chemicals. It will also most likely have a fair bit of genetic contamination from being grown in the same regions as GM canola.
Should You Use Canola?
In the final analysis, there is really little to no redeeming value in consuming canola oil in the diet. Anyone who is remotely researched about the benefits of healthy fats quickly realizes this. It’s not really even a decent oil to consider for personal care uses like oil pulling either.
Even the Wall Street Journal once reported on the connection between cooking with canola oil and lung cancer! (WSJ, June 7, 1995, p. B6).
You have to wonder how that piece slipped past the industry-friendly eyes of the editors! Whoops!
Another very telling piece of scientific research made national headlines in 2017. Temple University Health System researchers found that canola oil consumption triggered worsened memory and learning ability in mice with Alzheimer’s disease. It is the first study to find that con-ola is bad for the brain. (11)
While it is shocking that most health food stores including Whole Foods continue to stock this oil in the “healthy oils” section and use it generously in popular “hot bar” foods, the slow erosion of support is underway.
Chefs in the know are abandoning olive oil “blends” that are mostly canola oil and returning to butter and 100% extra virgin olive oil. Some locally owned health food stores are refusing to stock it.
However, there is a long way to go to get this industrialized fat out of our food supply. The problem is many people are getting far more canola than they realize, since it is in so many foods, and still used so extensively in prepared foods and restaurants.
For your health and the health of your family, don’t get conned by canola oil!
(1) Are You Being Scammed by the Whole Foods Hot Bar?
(2) Fatty acid composition of blood lipids in Chinese children consuming high erucic acid rapeseed oil
(3) Myocardial diseases of animals
(4) Effects of erucic acid supplemented feeding on chronic doxorubucin toxicity in rats
(5) Know Your Fats, The Great Con-ola
(6) U.S. researchers find Roundup chemical in water, air
(7) Canola Oil Myths and Truths
(8) Is Your Veggie Burger Killing You?
(9) The Great Con-ola
(10) LEVELS OF TRANS GEOMETRICAL ISOMERS OF ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS IN SOME UNHYDROGENATED U. S. VEGETABLE OILS
(11) Canola oil linked to worsened memory and learning ability in Alzheimer’s
Saturated yes but a medium chain triglyceride fat not stored in the body as fat but used for energy.
Hi Sarah. Thanks a lot for the eye opener..a quick one are you saying coconut oil isnt safe for consumption too? Especially for weightloss fan like me? I ask because I make my own xoxonutnoil straight from my kitchen..no store bought!
Coconut oil is of course fine! It is mostly saturated fat and a very different oil in composition from canola, avocado or olive oil.
I’ve been advising family and friends not to use this oil for years now. Few people I know use it for home cooking but as you point out it is ubiquitous in store-bought food – even so called “organic” and whole food. It is impossible to buy a cookie or a snack without it containing this fat. One of the main reason why I cut out ready-made meals because I see it is in everything! Yet here in Europe the fields are yellow and rapeseed oil (as it is known here) grows everywhere. You also wrote a post on hay-fever. I’ve read elsewhere that the mass growing of this crop is one of the main causes of such sever hay-fever in modern populations. I’m not sure if there are any studies on this? I’ve also read that the honey which bees make from rape-seed oil is very granular and heavy. This honey is sold a lot in the UK given that it grows so widely here and elsewher in Europe. I wonder if you know of any studies linking the bees decline to the growth of rapeseed on such a large scale? Not just the use of pesticides (whcih is a real problem for the bees of course!) but whether the actual pollen affects their well being in the same way it does ours?
No more unnatural than the dairy industry. I’ll take it over butter or other animal products.
Clearly you have never visited a grassfed dairy farm.
Camille - Stacy Russell Nutritional Cleansing
Wow! I knew it was not the healthiest choice, but I had no idea of the very real (and mostly hidden) dangers of consuming this oil. Thanks so much for this very informative article. I’m now going to toss the bottle that’s in my pantry!
What about coconut oil?
Extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil more closely match canola oil as they are both mostly monounsaturated fat. Coconut oil is wonderful but it is mostly saturated fat.
Sorry to even ask this but what about organic, cold-pressed canola? Still evil?
Cold pressed, organic canola oil is certainly much better than most of the canola on the market, but still best to avoid it as the fatty acid profile is not very good. Also, remember ALL canola is a hybridized version of the toxic rapeseed. Why not just use extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil? They have a better overall fatty acid content, are unhybridized and much more nutritious!
Is corn oil better? I still need a vegetable oil to fry/cook food at higher temps…
Corn oil is not a good choice. It is usually GMO and very high in polyunsaturates and so is not suitable for cooking (or any other purpose). Avocado oil, ghee or expeller pressed coconut oil are good choices for cooking as is olive oil if it is at a lower temperature.
I can’t believe that video! The irony is that they are trying to promote how great canola oil is, but just by simply laying out the facts of how its produced, the video has the opposite effect. The narrator so chummily says things like “oh then the oil is bleached” and “then the oil is run through a solvent” as if that’s like not a huge problem!
Good article and nice video, thank you. The only thing is, the ‘Ads by Amazon’ beneath the article tries to sell me ‘All Natural Pure Canola Oil’…
LOL! Yes, that’a downside of that Amazon unit. It is very helpful and useful for most posts especially recipe ones, but for posts like this, it is quite comical.