You know that olive oil comes from olives, and that sesame seed oil comes from sesame seeds. It would make sense that canola oil comes from canola seeds, right? Well, there’s actually no such thing.
It’s important to know the facts about Canola oil. A genetically modified product, canola oil is a Canadian invention that is backed by their government, cheap to manufacture, and many processed or packaged foods contain it.
Canola oil was first created in the early 1970s as a natural oil, but in 1995, Monsanto created a genetically modified version of canola oil. As of 2005, 87 percent of canola grown in the U.S. was genetically modified and by 2009, 90 percent of the Canadian crop was genetically engineered.
What is Canola Oil Made From?
Canola oil is actually made from the rapeseed. The name of canola oil was originally LEAR (Low Erucic Acid Rapeseed) but for marketing purposes was changed to canola oil. This word was derived from the combination of “Canada” and “ola,” meaning oil. (01) Canola oil is a much more appealing name than LEAR oil or rape oil, but should you be using it in your foods?
Canola oil is produced from the rapeseed plant, which is a part of the mustard family. It works well as an industrial oil, not a food, and has been used in candles, soaps, lipsticks, lubricants, inks, biofuels and even insecticides.
Once the powers that be figured out how to genetically modify rapeseed oil, it began being sold as an edible product. Hence, it’s been brought to market with the claim that it’s a wonder oil, low in saturated fats and has omega-3 fatty acids. But in its hybridized and modified state, it can cause a large number of health issues that you will see below.
Why is Canola Oil Bad for You?
Originally, rapeseed oil may not have had so many negative health effects. But for two main reasons, most canola oil today is harmful to your body:
1. Over 90 percent of canola oil is genetically modified
2. Canola oil is a partially hydrogenated oil
It’s for these two reasons that I recommend you switch to healthier oil alternatives that I list at the conclusion of this article.
What can it do to you? There have been NO long-term, viable studies done on GMO canola oil, but there are reports that it has caused many kidney, liver and neurological health issues. This would make sense since there are other reports that GMO products like corn and soy also can cause negative health effects.
Canola Oil Dangers
The side effects of GMOs in general cannot be overstated. In a 2011 review published in Environmental Sciences Europe, 19 studies of mammals fed GMO soybeans and corn were evaluated. The 90-day long trials indicated liver and kidney problems as a result of GMO foods. Kidney’s were disrupted by 43.5 percent and liver by 30.8 percent.
A monounsaturated oil, rapeseed oil has high levels of erucic acid. Erucic acid is a fatty acid that is associated with heart damage, specifically Heshan’s Disease, a disease that manifests itself with fibrotic lesions of the heart.
In the 1970′s, food manufacturers came up with a method to genetically modify the rapeseed plant by seed splitting. This process produced a canola oil with less erucic acid, and higher amounts of oleic acid, which lead to additional concerns with canola oil, like:
- Blood platelet abnormalities
- Retards normal growth (why it’s illegal to use in infant formulas)
- Free radical damage
- Higher cancer risks due to the hydrogenation process
It’s also important to understand that this new processed oil goes through many steps, most of which harm the nutritional value and actually change the oil’s structure, causing it to become hydrogenated oil.
According to the Weston A. Price foundation and Fat Experts Sally Fallon and Mary Enig state:
Like all modern vegetable oils, canola oil goes through the process of refining, bleaching and degumming — all of which involve high temperatures or chemicals of questionable safety. And because canola oil is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which easily become rancid and foul-smelling when subjected to oxygen and high temperatures, it must be deodorized. The standard deodorization process removes a large portion of the omega-3 fatty acids by turning them into trans fatty acids. Although the Canadian government lists the trans content of canola at a minimal 0.2 percent, research at the University of Florida at Gainesville, found trans levels as high as 4.6 percent in commercial liquid oil. The consumer has no clue about the presence of trans fatty acids in canola oil because they are not listed on the label.
Those are the types of oils you want to avoid like the plague: hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils!
Trans fatty acids are the result of this hydrogenation process. These are hazardous by-products and are health destroyers. In fact, if you’re doing so, you should stop cooking with these oils as well: corn oil, safflower oil, soy oil and vegetable oil.
Although many states are fighting for GMO labeling, food manufacturers are still not required by law to tell you if their products contain GMO’s. It’s up to us to be well-informed and read the labels. Monsanto has been incorporating genetically modified organisms in its canola oil seeds, and now we know that Monsanto has also been selling GMO seeds for the following plants:
How to Choose a Good Olive Oil
When you’re buying olive oil, consider these things:
- Choose a “cold-pressed” or “extra-virgin” type of olive oil
- It should be available in glass containers
- The bottle should be a dark color and kept in a dark place once opened
- Make sure it’s GMO-free (many inferior olive oils are actually mixed with cheaper, GMO vegetable oils)
- Go with organic
What does “extra-virgin” mean? It’s simply another way of referring to “cold-pressed,” which means that the oil was made by using pressure to extract the oil from the seeds, grains, nuts, etc., and there was no heat utilized during the processing. Heat causes a degrading of the nutritional value of the oil. Extra virgin also means that no chemical solvent was used, nor was it deodorized or altered in any way.
What to Substitute for Canola Oil
So, what are the best oils for cooking? Here are the top oils I personally use as a substitute for canola oil:
Coconut Oil – coconut oil is best when it’s cold-pressed and virgin. Do NOT buy refined coconut oil. Your coconut oil should smell like you’re on a beach in the Caribbean. It has a high heat threshold and contains medium-chain fatty acids that can support both fat loss and your nervous system.
Olive Oil – I don’t recommend olive oil for cooking, but it has tremendous health benefits and is at the heart of the Mediterranean diet. Look for extra-virgin olive oil and use it on salads and other cold dishes.
Organic Pastured Butter / Ghee – Contains ALA and CLA which can promote weight loss. Also, contains healthy short chain fatty acids and has a higher heat threshold. Stick with Organic only when buying butter.
Red Palm Oil — Red palm oil is made from the palm fruit instead of the palm kernel, and in its unrefined state, it is high in vitamin E and beta-carotene. It’s also stable under high heat and great for cooking. Make sure when buying palm oil that it is certified sustainable.
Now that you’re armed with the facts, use them to guard your health! Stay clear of Canola Oil, and all GMO foods.
Read Next: 20 Coconut Oil Benefits (#5 is Life-Saving)
Sources and resources:
Look for foods with the Non-GMO label. More info here: nongmoproject.org
Check out the Non-GMO Shopping guide here: nongmoshoppingguide.com
Beckie, Hugh et al (Autumn 2011) GM Canola: The Canadian Experience Farm Policy Journal, Volume 8 Number 8, Autumn Quarter 2011. Retrieved 20 August 2012.
“Richard Keith Downey: Genetics”. science.ca. 2007. Retrieved 2008-12-29.
MG Enig, Trans Fatty Acids in the Food Supply: A Comprehensive Report Covering 60 Years of Research, 2nd Edition, Enig Associates, Inc., Silver Spring, MD, 1995.
S O’Keefe and others. Levels of Trans Geometrical Isomers of Essential Fatty Acids in Some Unhydrogenated US Vegetable Oils. Journal of Food Lipids 1994;1:165-176.
JL Sebedio and WW Christie, eds. Trans Fatty Acids in Human Nutrition, The Oily Press, Dundee, Scotland, 1998, pp 49-50.
Storgaard, AK (2008). “Stefansson, Baldur Rosmund”. The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2008-12-29.
Seralini GE, Clair E, Mesnage R, Gress S, Defarge N, Malatesta M, Hennequin D, Vendomois JS. Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize. Food and Chemical Toxicology.2012;50(11):4221-4231