Oh Canola Canola

So, initially, I was a huge supporter of canola oil because it’s one of the healthiest choices in terms of fat breakdown. It’s a good source of monounsaturated fats that can help reduce “bad” cholesterol and lower the risk of heart disease. It’s also the richest cooking-oil source of ALA, the omega-3 fat that has been linked to heart health. But most importantly, it was my “go-to” oil since it is so versatile- the taste is neutral, it has a medium-high smoke point (meaning I can cook it above 300F unlike olive oil), and I could use it for baking as well as sautéing! But, when I finally got around to doing my research, I discovered a few disappointing facts:
  1. Canola is not a seed, plant, or nut; it’s a made up word composed from “Canada” and “Oil” i.e. Canadian Oil.
  2. It is, however, made from the rapeseed plant (part of the mustard family), which by nature can be toxic in large quantities, and engineered to be “canola.” Granted, since 1991, rapeseed production has shifted to rapeseed “double zero” that has low content of the toxin erucid acid. And canola oil is not genetically engineered like soy or corn oil, but selectively bred to enhance certain desirable traits, much like Fuji apples.
  3. Manufacturers say it is safe to use, but it has been linked to respiratory distress, constipation, anemia, irritability, and even Mad Cow Disease (rapeseed was being given as animal feed, until humans started getting sick). The research is a little iffy on this, so it’s simply speculation, but still!
  4. Rapeseed oils have been naturally used for industrial purposes such as insect repellent, lubricants, fuel, soap, plastics, and synthetic rubber. Yet canola is altered rapeseed oil.  
I honestly do not buy canola oil anymore. This decision has led me to venture out and try other, more natural oils. If you have canola in your cupboard, don’t throw it out, but think about a healthier alternative on your next cooking oil-run.
The below are equally versatile, healthy oils. They are listed from high (>400F) to medium smoke points:
  • Almond (high smoke)
  • Avocado (unrefined raw)
  • Hazulnut (very nutty)
  • Sunflower (high oleic)
  • Peanut (perfect for stir fry)
  • Sesame (nutty, keep refrigerated)
  • Walnut (high in omega-3)
  • Flaxseed (*no heat oil!) 

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