If you currently use a lot of oil in your cooking then you are knowingly adding fats to your diet, and this of course is an area where you could improve your health. One suggestion that many websites and fans rave about is ‘canola oil’, but what exactly is canola oil? Is it safe? And how does it measure up against old fashioned olive oil?
What Is Canola Oil?
Canola comes from the cultivar of rapeseed or field mustard. The seeds are then used to produce an edible oil which can be used in cooking, or interestingly as biodiesel. The name ‘canola oil’ actually comes from the fact that canola oil is so low in erucic acid – with Canola standing for ‘Canadian oil, low acid’. The canola oil is made by crushing the seeds of which 43% is oil.
Canola oil is low in saturated fat (under 7%) and trans fat (under 0.4%) as well as being low in various other acids. However it still includes the beneficial omega 3 fatty acid which is an important antioxidant able to help protect our cells and thus prevent cancer and aging effects. It is high however in oleic acid and linoleic acid at 61% and 21% respectively.
Canola oil is recognized for its health benefits by the American Dietetic Association, the American Heart Association and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Because canola oil contains less saturated fat which can clog our arteries this means it’s less likely to increase bad ‘LDL’ cholesterol and so cause heart problems and stokes. Canola oil then is particularly beneficial for those with high cholesterol, but for anyone it can be a good way to help avoid getting high cholesterol in the first place.
How Does Olive Oil Compare?
The question though, when choosing which oil to cook with, is how olive oil compared in terms of its fat index. Well the good news for olive oil is that it actually contains considerably more of the healthy fatty acids like omega 3 which can result in longer lifespans and various other health benefits. The bad news? It also contains more of the ‘bad’ fats – the saturated fat – around 3 times as much in fact. So if you’re using a lot of it it’s worth making the change to canola oil and getting your antioxidants elsewhere (they’re found everywhere from tomatoes to tuna fish).
While canola oil is generally considered a healthier alternative to olive oil and other cooking fats, there is also some concern around the amount of erucic acid which is a known toxin. This concern comes from the fact that rapeseed oil in its natural form contains this oil in high amounts – however the cultivar used to create commercial canola oil has been bred to contain less than 2% erucic acid which is not believed to cause any harm in humans. Research so far has found no evidence that this causes any problems, and so despite some rumors there is no reason to suspect canola oil of being harmful at this point.