Is Canola Oil Bad For You?
Canola oil is one of the most abundantly used vegetable oils on the market. The canola plant was actually created through crossbreeding to mimic the rapeseed plant, which contains toxic levels of erucic acid.
Although like other oils, canola oil doesn’t offer many vitamins and minerals. However, it’s low saturated fat content and high monounsaturated fat content makes it a better choice for heart health than some other oils.
Some experts recommend avoiding or limiting canola oil, because of concerns about how it is processed and potential effects on health. This article will go over some of the dangers of canola oil, whether or not it’s actually healthy, and some healthier oil alternatives.
Why is canola oil bad for you?
The biggest concern about canola oil stems from how it’s produced. The vast majority of canola plants are genetically modified, which some worry could cause health problems down the road. The process to create canola oil utilizes hexane for extraction. Although the concentration of hexane left in canola oil is relatively low, it’s presence is a concern for some. Making canola oil also involves applying high heat, which may produce other potentially harmful compounds.
Canola oil and heart health
When canola oil is processed, some trans fats are created. Artificial trans fat increases LDL, also known as “bad cholesterol.”
At the same time, trans fat decreases HDL, which is known as “good cholesterol.” The combination of these effects makes trans fat extremely detrimental to heart health. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that countries ban all artificial trans fats by 2023.
Canola oil and inflammation
Short-term or acute inflammation is a normal response to injury. Chronic inflammation poses a risk to long-term health.
Studies show that over time, inflammation increases the risk for diseases such as Alzheimer’s, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and cancer.
Some oils contain a ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids that are favorable for reducing chronic inflammation.
Canola oil seems to have this ratio, but the problem lies within the specific type of omega-3 fatty acids it contains.
This type of omega-3, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), may need to be converted to specific long-chain fatty acids in order to benefit the body. But very little ALA actually converts to those long-chain fatty acids. Research on the potential for ALA to reduce inflammation on its own is unclear.
What is the healthiest oil to cook with?
The best types of oils to cook with have the ability to withstand high-heat.
Highly processed oils exposed to high heat create dangerous chemicals that harm the body.
Less processed oils are much more stable under high heat, meaning less of those harmful chemicals are produced. Some examples of oils that remain more stable under high-heat cooking processes like sauteing include:
- Coconut oil
- Olive oil
- Avocado oil
In addition to withstanding heat, these oils provide antioxidants, decrease inflammation, and increase HDL cholesterol.
What are some healthy oils to include in my diet?
Oil in general used to have a bad reputation simply because fat was generally seen as unhealthy.
However, there is now a better understanding of the benefits of certain types of fat. Some oils are actually extremely healthy in the diet, including:
- MCT oil - Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) mostly come from coconut oil. We use it in our fat bombs, especially for people following a keto diet. MCT oil helps with weight loss and satiety, endurance, and brain function.
- Olive oil - A heart-healthy fat and a good source of antioxidants. Extra virgin olive oil is the least processed and highest quality.
- Avocado oil - Although it’s high in saturated fat, avocado oil is also high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fat and has a high smoke point.
- Flaxseed oil - High in omega-3 fatty acids, which most people don’t consume enough. It’s also a great option for vegans.
- Walnut oil - Another good source of omega-3 fatty acids. It’s best to buy unrefined walnut oil, although it may be more expensive.
Although canola oil is healthier than some other oils in terms of saturated fat, it is a heavily processed oil. It comes from a genetically modified plant and contains artificial trans fats because of the way it’s processed.
Canola oil has a high smoke point, making it popular for cooking and frying. Using it occasionally likely isn’t a problem, but it’s best to use healthier oils as often as possible. For situations involving heat like sauteing and baking, coconut oil and olive oil are good choices.