Canola oil has a mild flavor and is considered to be a great choice for cooking baking, dressings, and sauces. There have been strong health claims made about Canola, but there are also a number of critics out there that claim the opposite. The information isn’t necessarily conclusive either way, yet it’s important to acknowledge various viewpoints on a product that is used regularly in the average North American home.
Canola oil is a man-made product developed in Canada by breeding rapeseed plants to produce lower levels of euric acid. The traditional rapeseed plant which contained much higher levels of this acid was considered to be harmful for human consumption. Given the traditional Rapeseed plant, there have been a number of rumors claiming that the consumption of Canola Oil is dangerous.
The Food and Drug Administration recognizes Canola Oil as generally safe for human consumption. In fact, Canola oil is considered to be one of the healthier oil choices given that is very low in saturated fat and has a high proportion of monounsaturated fats. It is also said to be a good source of Vitamin E (another point of contention), and is low in cholesterol and sodium. Finally, the ratio of Omegas 6 to Omega 3 fatty acids is actually a very healthy 2:1, which ranks it amongst the healthiest cooking oils.
Regardless of these health claims, there have been few if any tests done to determine the effects of canola oil on humans. Animal testing that has been done has shown some negative results such as a Vitamin E deficiency in rats. The problem may ironically stem from the Omega 3 fatty acids themselves because they become rancid and create a bad odor during the high heat refining method in the manufacturing process. The deodorizing process then turns the Omega 3 fatty acids into trans fats.
That being said, the Canadian government says that the trans fat content of Canola oil is 0.2%, yet there have been conflicting studies that have found the trans fat content of Canola oil to be as high as 4.6%. Canola oil critics claim that the health benefits associated with Canola oil is actually Canadian government propaganda since Canola is a key export product.
As always, various perspectives make it difficult to know what we should and shouldn’t be feeding our families. Moderation is key, and being a knowledgeable consumer arms us with the ability to make informed decisions about the foods we eat!