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.
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!