Canola Oil Beware

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What Exactly is Canola Oil?

Extra virgin  oil in a bottle with rapeseed flowersCanola Oil is an oil used as a food, moisturizer, and lubricant. It is made from the crushed seeds of the Canola plant.  The original botanical name of the Canola plant is the Rapeseed plant.  The difference between the original Rapeseed plant and the modern Canola plant is the content of erucic acid.  I will elaborate on this fact in the next paragraph.

The name Canola Oil is actually a trademark name for “Canadian Rapeseed Oil, low in erucic acid.”  Foods high in erucic acid are bad for human consumption. For this reason Rapeseed oil was banned by the Food and Drug Administration for human consumption prior to 1974. The word Canola is a contraction of the words Canada and ola, which translates to Canada Oil.  Yes, we need to thank our fellow Canadians for the word Canola.  This new Canola Oil  was produced by hybridizing the original Rape plant.  Indeed, this is a horrible name for a plant.  The new Canola plant created a new seed that produced an oil low in erucic acid.  As a result of  the lower erucic acid, the FDA permitted the use of Canola oil in 1974.

There is only one problem.  The processing of Canola Oil can make a healthy oil a TRICKY dangerous oil.

Canola Oil is Tricky and Secretive!

Trick#1, Fundamentally Canola Oil is a health monounsaturated fat, high in essential Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids.  I use the word “fundamentally” because most Canola Oil is processed in a high heat, chemical laden environment.  Processing Canola oil via a non cold pressed or expeller pressed method unfortunately includes extreme high heat and a chemical called hexane.  This process creates a grey awful smelling oil that needs to be chemically bleached, chemically deodorized and eventually dyed yellow to make the oil palatable to the consumer (yuck).  This awful smell is a clue that the high heat has tured the oil rancid.  As a result of processing, most people are consuming an oil that resembles Canola Oil. The processing oxidizes a lot of the beneficial Omega 3’s and Omega 6’s.  I’ve attached a video that shows the processing of the canola oil.  Note, ignore the information regarding saturated fat being bad for your health.  There is no evidence to support this theory.  There are a multitude of cultures around the planet that consume saturated fat and have little to no heart disease (we will save this discussion for another blog post).  Canola oil is a healthy monounsaturated fat IF processed by cold pressing or expeller pressed methods.

Trick #2, Canola is actually a plant called Rape which is a domesticated crop from the Brassicacae family, also know as the cabbage family, mustard family or the cruciferous vegetables. The word Rape is derived from the Latin word for turnip.  Canola is bright yellow and flowery and is actually aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

Trick #3, The original canola oil was actually called Rapeseed oil (remember the plant called Rape).  The original Rapeseed oil had two problems.  It was bitter and toxic.  Rapeseed oil is high in glucosinolates.  Glucosinolates are not necessarily bad for your health, however: they are responsible for bitter taste. Prolonged use of foods high in erucic acid is bad for human consuption. The high erucic acid led to the FDA ban on Canola Oil for human consumption in 1956.  Other uses for Rapeseed oil such as insecticide and industrial lubricant use continued.  It is interesting to note the Rapeseed Oil was not banned in other countries to include Japan, Europe and China.

Cooking with Canola Oil?

Canola oil has a high smoke point (425°F -475°F) which is great for preventing oxidation.  That being stated, I can only recommend non Genetically Modified (GMO Free), ORGANIC, cold pressed or expeller pressed Canola Oil.  Cold pressing or expeller pressing Canola oil avoids the use of heat oxidation processes that causes the oil to become rancid and a source of free radical damage as well as harsh chemical processing.  You should consider ingesting or using the typical bottle of main stream Canola Oil as personal and culinary suicide.

Summary

  • Use GMO free Organic Canola oil
  • Use cold pressed or expeller pressed
  • If cooking with Canola Oil, do not exceed the smoke point (425°F -475°F)

Sources

http://culinaryarts.about.com/od/culinaryreference/a/smokepoints.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rapeseed

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