Redwood Naturopathic Medicine
The Scoop on Canola Oil
Vegetable oils, such as canola oil, play a large role in the food we consume on a daily basis. Canola oil is in almost everything commercially made especially mayonnaise, salad dressings, cakes/cookies, chips, sauces, etc. If you look at the ingredient list of any random object in your grocery store, theres a high likelihood it contains canola oil (or another hydrogenated oil). This is good for the food companies because canola is cheap and has a long shelf life. But for the consumer eating the food, canola oil is actually quite detrimental to their health.
What is Canola Oil?
Before canola oil, there was rapeseed oil. But rapeseed oil contained high levels of erucic acid, which was found to cause damage to heart muscle. Rapeseed oil also had high levels of glucosinolates, which prevent the absorption of iodine. So a new cultivar of rapeseed oil was created with lover levels of glucosinolates and erucic acid. This is how canola oil was created. The original name for canola oil was called LEAR oil, low erucic acid rapeseed oil, but the name canola was later adopted for marketing purposes. Canola is a combination of Canadian Oil Low Acid -> Can-o-l-a. Canola is considered a type of vegetable oil and became so popular due to how inexpensive it is to use. Many processed and packaged foods caught on and now canola oil is in a large amount of the products on the shelves.
Over the last several decades there has been a large debate about whether refined vegetable oils like canola are healthy enough fats for people to be consuming on a regular basis. Here are some of our top reasons why you might want to consider finding another oil alternative to use daily.
What about Organic or Non GMO?
Though the farming practices used to produce canola seeds might be organic or non-GMO, this does not necessarily mean it is better for you health-wise. If the oil is labeled organic, the raw crops have not been treated with any pesticide or herbicide. If the oil is labeled non-GMO, this does mean that the crops have not been genetically modified in any way. It is also tough to find canola seeds that have not been genetically modified, as the canola seed was created through genetic modification. But the process to get canola seeds to canola oil sold on shelves is still the same. The refining process still strips away any beneficial nutrients from the oil and can change the molecular structure to increase shelf life and stability. So opting for organic or non-GMO canola oil is not the healthier option, but see below if you are looking for healthier options. We listed a few healthy alternatives that can be used in place of canola oil!
Dangers of Canola Oil
The process to extract oil from canola seeds is a long and involved procedure. It require physical and high temperature manipulation. The seeds are clean, flaked, cooked, and then pressed for the oil to come out. The remaining press cake also received chemical solvent extraction using hexane to fully draw all the oil from the seeds. The oil then goes through the standard RBD process: refined, bleached and deodorized. This is to remove any color, smell or impurities as well as increase the oils shelf life and smoke point. The refining process strips out all the nutrients and chemically alters the molecules within the oil to result in an oil that can last up to 2 years without going rancid.
In the 1990’s Monsanto developed and patented the first strain of round up immune genetically modified canola seed. Which means that the crops can be sprayed with the herbicide glyphosate (main ingredient in round up) and it will not harm the plant, but only the weeds around it. GMO canola is grown by nearly every country that produces canola crops. Under soy and corn, canola is the third runner up for the top genetically modified foods. About 90% of the canola oil sold and used in food products is genetically modified.
Glyphosate has been found to be a “probably human carcinogen” and is very harmful to humans, especially if consumed regularly over long periods of time. Currently there are no required procedure codes to test if GMO canola contains glyphosate residues.
The seeds used to make canola oil are naturally high in polyunsaturated fats: omega 6’s and omega 3’s. But the extensive refining process canola oil goes through is extremely damaging to the essential fatty acids due to the exposure to high heat and light.
According to an article published by Harvard, there are low levels of trans fats in canola oil due to the deodorizing process. All oils that have undergone deodorization will contain small levels of trans fats. Deodorization is the last step in the refining process to give the oil a bland taste. Also due too the exposure to high temperatures, a small amount of unsaturated fatty acids are transformed into trans-fatty acids. These trans fats are especially prevalent in partially hydrogenated canola oil with products such as shortening and margarine.
Instead of relying on canola oil as a main oil there are plenty of other oils that offer more health benefits, such as extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil and coconut oil. If you are looking for an oil you can use at high heats, opt for avocado oil. If you are still itching to use canola oil, opt for the USDA certified organic and non-GMO options. Though these are the “better” options between canola oils, the organic and non-GMO options still go through extensive processing and refining which does chemically alter the oil molecules. So it is best to avoid canola oil as much as possible and opt for extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil or coconut oil instead.