Food & Fitness

What they don’t tell you about canola oil (and why you should stop using it)

canola oil

It’s hard to believe that something as pretty as this can be so dangerous – but it’s true.

Health guru after health guru will tell you to opt for canola oil over margarine and butter since it’s so much lower in saturated fat. Even one of my nutrition text books recommends canola oil for its higher content of omega-3 fatty acids. But I’m going to refute all of that right now! Canola oil is not a good choice to make, and here’s why:

  • Rapeseed oil (which is what canola oil comes from and used to be called), contains high quantities of both erucic acid and gluconsinolates, which are harmful to humans and livestock, respectively. Although canola oil has had those two substances removed, the process of doing so means that canola oil is heavily refined.
  • Rapeseed oil has been used as fuel and as a pesticide: it is a toxic substance.
  • Canola oil isn’t even a natural substance. It was genetically engineered. And we don’t have enough information on genetically modified organisms to say whether they are safe or not.
  • Since canola oil is so resistant to pesticides and has been genetically modified to grow quickly, it also spreads very fast. This means that the GMOs are infecting other natural crops. It’s a huge problem for farmers who wish to avoid growing genetically modified crops.
  • Some countries, such as Australia, have actually banned Canadian exports of canola oil because it is genetically modified.
  • There have been reports of health problems associated with canola oil use (although I was unable to find hard evidence of that), and there have also apparently been studies to show canola oil damaging animals when tested in a lab.

Sadly, I must acknowledge that the word canola comes from the word Canada, and it is one of our major exports. I’m not proud of that.

If canola oil isn’t a good choice, what is?

One of the good things about canola oil is that it is very versatile and can be heated to high temperatures (hello, stir fries!). Never fear! There are many other substitutions which work equally as well for heating to high temperatures. They include:

  • Butter – mmm. Is there anything much better than butter? It lends wonderful flavour and is a very traditional form of cooking fat. Not suitable for vegans, however, since it is an animal fat.
  • Coconut oil – it has a lot of nutrients in it (don’t be afraid of the higher levels of saturated fat!), but it can leave a coconutty flavour, so that might be a deterrent.
  • Grapeseed oil – my personal favourite, although it is more processed than something like butter. Suitable for vegans, vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike, this one can be used in just about any recipe. Grapeseed oil is not to be confused with canola oil’s previous name, rapeseed oil.

extra virgin olive oil

If you aren’t heating your food to a high temperature, cold-pressed oils are a great choice (such as flax or hemp). Extra virgin olive oil is, of course, a classic staple.

Do you use canola oil? Do you try to avoid GMO foods? What’s your favourite fat for cooking at higher temperatures? Share in the comments section below!

17 Comments

  1. Pingback: The dangers of canola oil | Living Healthy in the Real World | Organic Rapeseed Oil

  2. the Bag Lady

    Good points, Sagan.
    Most canola available to farmers now is manufactured by Monsanto, and is “Round-up Ready”, which means it needs to be sprayed with that particular herbicide in order for it to ripen. Yum.

    The other consideration is an ethical one (for those of us in the agricultural industry, anyway)– Monsanto has ‘patented’ canola, and is diligent about prosecuting any farmer who has ‘their’ product growing in their fields without permission from Monsanto, regardless of whether the seeds blew there by accident. Thanks to the United States government, Monsanto will soon have a stranglehold on all of the world’s grain crops because they have been allowed to patent many of them. (In fact, they probably already do have that stranglehold….)

    Do some research into wheat now, too, ‘kay? I heard an interesting program on CBC radio recently regarding the modifications made to wheat and how those modifications are what’s causing the upsurge in people who are sensitive to gluten.

  3. anony-mum

    Thanks for the great info Sagan and the Bag Lady. I have been living in my own little bubble and have not paid much attention to farming practices since I stopped being a large animal (read: “farm”)vet many years ago. Methinks I need to start paying more attention. Who knew you could patent a grain crop!
    Scary indeed.

  4. Richard

    Sorry, this one bugged me a little.

    Rapeseed is first of all NOT the same as canola. There was a process that changed it. Yes, Canola is a derivative, but it’s not the same. That’s like saying I’m the same person as my parents because I inherited their genes (well, not quite, but not a completely unfair analogy). This means saying that rapeseed was used as a pesticide is a bad and dishonest rhetorical move because you haven’t shown in any way that this is true of Canola. Just because something came from a potentially dangerous source doesn’t make the substance itself dangerous, or necessary to abandon.

    Canola was originally bred without modern scientific techniques. It was quite modern breeding techniques at the time, but does not involve things like gene splicing, as is commonly the GMO issue of today. That being say, the complaint internationally about Canada’s Canola oil is that it is almost impossible to find that original, natural breed of Canola as the GMO versions have pretty much entirely wiped them out. They may be an argument against GMOs, but you’ve presented it badly and I would claim dishonestly.

    Next, if you looked over your evidence you’ve said the on the subject your argument boils down to: A) It was once Rapeseed, which is bad and dangerous. B) It’s a GMO, and thus probably bad. True, it hasn’t been thoroughly tested but you show no scientific evidence even showing studies giving hints of that. How easily is that just paranoia? The reason places like Australia and I assume all of the EU won’t trade in Canola is because they are passing progressive laws slowly banning any and all GMOs.

    Now I agree that GMOs need significantly heavier testing before put out into our ecosystems, yes, but I think considering rising food prices and starvation, with the world populations hitting 7 billion this week, to give up on a powerful and useful plant just because it’s been modified is irresponsible to the human race. I will gladly continue to eat “Frankenfruit” if it means saving human lives. That is, however, only assuming more thorough scientific testing is done on new products. Similarly thorough as any animal integration testing would be from foreign species. If we wouldn’t be allowed to import it alive, we shouldn’t be allowed to grow it.

    Also sorry, a bit longer than I intended.

    1. Sagan Morrow

      I said that canola comes from rapeseed – not that it IS rapeseed.

      And true, I haven’t included my article sources. Oversight on my part – I’ll remedy that next time.

      Frankenfood is not necessary to save human lives. For one thing, I’ve heard multiple times from reputable sources that there’s more than enough food for everyone in the world, but it’s a problem of DISTRIBUTION (I don’t have any specific sources at the ready at the moment, but I’m sure I can find them for you if you like). And for another thing, can you say that modified foods are saving human lives if people end up diseased from those foods?

      Also, the scientific testing is a major problem with GMOs. There HASN’T been a great deal of testing with it to determine the actual consequences of consuming GMOs.

      No need to apologize – and it’s nice to know you’re still reading the blog!

      1. Richard

        Eh, not often. Most just when a title catches my eye. It’s true that Frankenfood probably isn’t necessary. It’s just the fastest solution we have in an already starving world. The rate it’s being introduced in some places is a little terrifying and could damage delicate ecosystems beyond repair. It’s still, to me, not a reason to abandon the concept entirely.

        And if you have solid scientific evidence of people being diseased from any of the mass scale GMOs I’d love for you to show me. I have yet to see one. I’ve seen persuasive arguments towards them being dangerous towards environments, but as of yet little evidence of direct harm to human health.

  5. JavaChick

    I would be careful using butter at high temperatures – it will burn – but I believe that butter definitely has a place in the kitchen. We are stocked with butter, olive oil, coconut oil, peanut oil and safflower oil. We like to cook. :)

  6. Pingback: Vegan Lemon Vanilla Cupcakes (Recipe Revisit)

  7. billybob

    i crush it the virgin is nothing like store bought I watched this person put it in their hair she said you just save me an hour If your hair is kinke and stiff it works greet. What I do know I do potable water on fires your hands are in bleach water allday to sanatize every thing you get little crakes in your hands I used canola oil that i crushed It healed the cuts & the crakes in the fingers when winter comes my hand dry out and hurt works greet for that so try must be virgin

  8. Bo

    Where is the scientific evidence it should not be healthy.In Europe you can get it coldpressed and it is not genetically manipulated.It has a perfect ratio of omega 3/6/9 It is low in saturated fats,a lot of monosaturated fats which is considered good for health.It has very little PUFA which is also very good.It has a smok point of 204 degrees.Why should you heat oils more.Health awareness is very low in the US and that is why 2 thirds of you are overweight.Use your coconut oil and die young.

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