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. Canola is a made-up word which stands for “Canadian oil low acid”, and is a genetically modified product. It is a Canadian invention that is backed by the government. It’s a cheap product to manufacture, and many processed or packaged foods contain canola oil.
Canola oil was first bred in the early 1970′s as a natural oil, but in 1995 Monsanto created a genetically modified version of canola oil. By 2009, 90% of the Canadian crop was genetically engineered and as of 2005, 87% of canola grown in the United States was genetically modified.
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 the phrase, “Canadian oil.” Canola oil is a much more appealing name than LEAR oil or rape oil. But is the oil appealing for you and 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 and biofuels. In it’s hybridized and modified state it can cause a large number of health issues that you will see below.
Now that we have figured out how to genetically modify rapeseed oil, we sell it as an edible product. It has been brought to market with the claim that it is a wonder oil, that is low in saturated fats, and has omega-3 fatty acids.
Why is Canola Oil Bad for You?
Originally, rapeseed oil may not have had so many negative health effects. But for two main reason’s most canola oil today is harmful to you body:
#1 Over 90% of canola oil is genetically modified
#2 Canola oil is a partially hydrogenated oil
It’s for these two reasons 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 on the internet 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 canola oil cannot be overstated. A 2011 review published in Environmental Sciences Europe, 19 studies of mammals fed GMO soybeans and corn were evaluated. The 90-day long trials indicate liver and kidney problems as a result of GMO foods. Kidney’s were disrupted by 43.5% and liver by 30.8%.
Rapeseed Oil is a monounsaturated oil, and 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 (Illegal 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. As you can see canola oil dangers are immense!
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. You should stop cooking with these oils as well: Corn Oils, Safflower Oils, Soy Oils, and Vegetable Oil.
Food manufacturers are 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 Oil
So, what are the best oils for cooking? When you’re buying a cooking oil, consider these things:
- Choose a “Cold Pressed” or “Extra Virgin” type.
- Should be available in glass containers.
- The bottle should be a dark color for olive oil, and kept in a dark place once opened.
- Make sure it is GMO-free.
- 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
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 MCFA’s Medium Chain Fatty Acids that can support 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 salad’s 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.
What type of oil do you use for cooking? What is your favorite healthy oil?
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