You’ve seen it everywhere and in just about everything. Over the last 5-10 years Canola Oil has practically taken over as the food processing industry’s oil of choice. It is a common ingredient in all sorts of foods, everything from salad dressings to crackers.
What is Canola Oil?
Canola is a name given to the oil produced from the Rape plant (not a great name indeed), which is harvested primarily in Canada. Hence, the rebirth under the name Can-Ola (Canadian Oil). In order for rape seed to be used as an edible oil, in western societies, it was necessary to lower the concentration of erucic acid in the oil, which was suggested to be a health hazard after studies were conducted on several species of animals. It was found that the alcohols and glycosides in canola oil can shut down the body’s protective grid, in other words, the immune system. Unfortunately, it is feared by scientists who question the safety of Canola Oil, that the damage can take years to show up.
Some of the findings regarding Canola Oil and its safety…
“Rape seed oil used for stir-frying in China found to emit cancer causing chemicals. (Rapeseed oil smoke causes lung cancer)” Amal Kumar Maj. The Wall Street Journal June 7, 1995
“Canola oil is a health hazard to use as a cooking oil or salad oil. It is not the healthy oil we thought it was, it is not fit for human consumption, do not eat canola oil, it can hurt you. Polyunsaturated or not, this is a bad oil, do not use for cooking oil or salad oil. It is not a healthy oil at all.” John Thomas
OK. So, if there are actual health reasons not to use it, then why is it so widely used throughout the processed food industry?
Most likely, the answer comes down to money…
According to experts: “It is very inexpensive to grow and harvest. Insects won’t eat it.” (hmmm…if it’s not good enough for an insect to eat…why would it be good for us…?? – just thinking out loud here…)
It is also claimed that the Canadian government paid the FDA the sum of $50 million dollars to have canola oil placed on the GRAS list (Generally Recognized As Safe). Therefore, a new industry was created…and as per usual, with anything the FDA deems as “safe”, there were no further studies to prove otherwise. It seems that what the FDA says, goes.
If you pick up a processed food in the US, 9 times out of 10 you will see canola oil listed as one of the ingredients. It is in bread, cookies, crackers, they even add it to certain brands of butter. My rule of thumb for a food, that is supposed to come from nature, needs made-up name to make more “saleable”, it probably isn’t very healthy. I don’t know what the risks are of consuming “rape seed” oil, but after learning more about it, I’d rather not find out.
Alternatives to Canola
By choosing to avoid packaged items that contain Canola, you are doing yourself a service not only avoiding the Canola Oil, but the processed foods it comes in. Focus on as many whole fresh foods as possible and stick with oils that don’t have a made up name. Use pure organic, virgin, unprocessed olive oil in salads and on top of foods for flavor. And use organic coconut oil for all your cooking needs, it has a higher heat tolerance than other oils which makes it ideal for cooking.