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Saturday, March 3, 2012

So what about canola oil?

photo via
by Francine

We've heard it's good; we've heard it's bad. We've seen it labelled as appropriate for 'medium to high heat' cooking, and we've read that it is not fit for human consumption.

OK, let's take a closer look. . .

The FDA includes canola oil on its GRAS list. This means--literally--"generally recognized as safe." But what you need to know about this list is that the wording means that no evidence or not enough facts have come up to counter that assumption. In other words, "innocent until proven guilty." items on the list have not undergone any scrutiny beyond that.

So what's the big deal? Well, those who rail against the oil point the finger at erucic acid. And rapeseed oil, from which canola oil is made, is apparently full of the stuff--at least many species of rapeseed oil. And according to nutritionists and other health professionals who are concerned with diet, an excess of erucic acid is quite harmful to the human body--as in toxic.

But don't make any decisions yet. . . The substance that is sold as canola oil in your local Whole Foods Market, for instance, is not made from the kind of species that is running rampant with the nasty acid. In fact, it was extracted from cultivars of rapeseed oil that were bred specifically to have low levels of erucic acid.

So what are you going to do? Well, our suggestion is to use it, but don't go crazy with it. It happens to be a convenient oil for cooking in high heat (as is coconut oil, which will be the subject of my next post) and the lightness of the oil is another benefit in cooking. It's essentially tasteless and light on cholesterol as well. 

And what, besides the convenience of being able to cook with it in high heat, does canola oil offer? Well, for one thing--omega 6 polyunsaturated fats, along with Omega 3 are essential to human health. The two essential fatty acids that the human body cannot produce are the omega-3 fatty acid and omega-6 fatty acid, which are important for brain development, immune system function and blood pressure regulation. But here's the rub. Omega 6 should be present in a ratio of 2-4 times more Omega 3 ratio. We get both fatty acids from foods including meat, poultry and eggs as well as nut and plant-based oils, i.e. canola and sunflower oils. And this is precisely where the problem arises. The American diet is slanted in the wrong direction re: this ratio. In fact, according to, the typical North American diet contains way too much Omega 6--as in 11-30 times more than Omega 3, contributing to the rise in inflammatory disorders in the U.S.--including asthma and cancer, along with dyslexia, hyperactivity, obesity, and other disorders. Including the all-too pervasive arteriosclerosis.

In summation, the proper balance between Omega 6 and 3 is what you're after and canola oil is a great oil to use for high heat (wok, for example) cooking. But "not all canola oil is created equal." As quoted in, Andrew Weil, MD, advocates buying canola oil that is organic and expeller-pressed. "The lower-cost products sold in supermarkets have often been extracted with chemical solvents or high-speed presses that generate heat," says Weil. "Both methods alter the oil's fatty acid chemistry in undesirable ways," which can lead to adverse side effects. The article also states that he warns that high levels of pesticides are used by canola oil producers, opening the way for possible tainting of the finished product.

Global Healing Center


  1. I use Canola oil in our bran muffins, but I am using grapeseed oil for cooking, particularly sautéing crab cakes. High smoke point (421 °F) nice nutty flavor, increases HDL-C or "good cholesterol" levels and reduces LDL levels.

  2. "The article also states that he warns that high levels of pesticides are used by canola oil producers, opening the way for possible tainting of the finished product." NOT correct...

    GMO canola is only sprayed with low toxicity herbicides at low rates that breakdown readily in the environment.
    Chemicals are applied 60 days before harvest to small plants.

  3. This is great info. Thank you for posting. What is your source. We'd love to see if there is more we don't know.