What Is Canola Oil – Canola Oil Uses And Benefits
Canola oil is likely a product that you use or ingest on a daily basis, but what exactly is canola oil? Canola oil has many uses and quite a history. Read on to for some fascinating canola plant facts and other canola oil information.
What is Canola Oil?
Canola refers to edible oilseed rape, a plant species in the mustard family. Relatives of rapeseed plant have been cultivated for food for millennia and were used as both food and fuel oil since the 13th century throughout Europe.
Rapeseed oil production peaked in North America during the World War II. It was found that the oil adhered well to moist metal, ideal for use on marine engines crucial to the war effort.
Canola Oil Information
The name ‘canola’ was registered by the Western Canadian Oilseed Crushers Association in 1979. It is used to describe “double-low” varieties of rape oilseed. During the early ’60’s, Canadian plant breeders sought to isolate single lines free from erucic acid and to develop “double-low” varieties.
Prior to this traditional pedigree hybrid propagation, original rapeseed plants were high in erucic acid, a fatty acid with negative health effects related to heart disease when ingested. The new canola oil contained less than 1% erucic acid, thereby making it palatable and safe to consume. Another name for canola oil is LEAR – Low Eeucic Acid Rapeseed oil.
Today, canola ranks 5th in production amongst the world’s oilseed crops behind soybean, sunflower, peanut, and cotton seed.
Canola Plant Facts
Just like soybeans, canola has not only high oil content but is also high in protein. Once the oil is crushed from the seeds, the resulting meal contains a minimum or 34% protein, which is sold as mash or pellets to be used to feed livestock and to fertilizer mushroom farms. Historically, canola plants were used as forage for field raised poultry and swine.
Both spring and fall types of canola are grown. Flowers begin to form and last from 14-21 days. Three to five blooms open each day and some develop pods. While the petals fall from the blossoms, pods continue to fill out. When 30-40% of the seeds have changed color, the crop is harvested.
How to Use Canola Oil
In 1985, the FDA ruled that canola is safe for human consumption. Because canola oil is low in erucic acid, it can be used as cooking oil, but there are many other canola oil uses as well. As cooking oil, canola contains 6% saturate fat, the lowest of any other vegetable oil. It also contains two polyunsaturated fatty acids that are essential to the human diet.
Canola oil can be found typically in margarine, mayonnaise and shortening, but it is also used to make suntan oil, hydraulic fluids, and biodiesel. Canola is used in the manufacture of cosmetics, fabrics, and printing ink too.
The protein rich meal that is the residual product left after pressing for oil is used to feed livestock, fish, and people – and as a fertilizer. In the case of human consumption, the meal can be found in bread, cake mixes, and frozen foods.
Kitchen Cleanout: Uses for Canola Oil (Hint: Eating is Not One of Them!)
Health can be an overwhelming concept. There’s so much information to digest, and so many rules of things to do and not to do that it sometimes becomes cumbersome.
And if you’re like me, the first thing you realize when you discover anything about health is just how UNhealthy so many of your household products are! And what do many people recommend you do with those things?
Throw them away!
I understand how expensive things can be, and I understand living on a very tight budget (I’m a college student, believe me, I know a thing or two about that!). So I know that the idea of throwing away $5-$15 dollars of toxic cooking oil in the trash can sometimes hurt your wallet, and it may sometimes hurt your heart to see some things go.
However, we hopefully now know that things like vegetable oil can hurt much more than just your heart, and are better to be out of your system entirely. (There are some healthy oils to cook with, Canola Oil ain’t one of them.)
But here’s the thing:
How do we keep toxins out of our bodies without throwing away everything in our house we spent well-earned money on?
Luckily, for the franken-oil that is Canola Oil, there are plenty of other ways to get rid of it without putting in in your body. And, if you haven’t already been convinced, some of these alternative uses just may show you how incompatible this oil is with our bodies.
Canola is an agronomic crop grown in many countries for production of vegetable oil and meal. Demand for canola oil continues to increase worldwide. People consume canola oil and consider it to be a healthy oil with low levels of saturated fats. More recently, there also is intense interest in using canola oil to produce biodiesel to replace diesel fuel. Canola meal is normally fed to poultry and livestock as a source of protein.
Canola was grown commercially in Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina and northern Florida from the late 1980s through about 2000 with a peak production of about 25,000 acres. Commercial production stopped during the early 2000s with the loss of markets. Interest in production of canola in this region has been renewed by the development of on-farm crush facilities that now provide a local markets. Over the past several years acreage has steadily grown to more than 35,000 acres in the region.
Past experience shows that canola can be produced profitably in Georgia. In 1997, canola production averaged 27 bushels per acre, but many growers had fields that yielded more than 50 bushels per acre. Analysis at that time indicated that 30 bushels per acre was needed to cover production costs. With proper management, growers can expect yields of more than 40 bushels per acre.
An important consideration in producing canola is the ability to sell it at a convenient local market for a good price. Producers should find a buyer before committing to produce the crop and find out how canola will be priced.
Growing canola profitably takes planning and good management. All aspects of production from seed selection to harvest to marketing must be taken into account if the grower is to make a profit with this crop. Land preparation, fertility management, weed and other pest control, and timely harvest and marketing are all components of a good canola production package. Before you grow canola, dedicate yourself to make "best management practices" a part of your production system.
The Hidden Dangers Of Canola Oil
A lot of families are cooking with an artificial product that could cause serious health problems, and they don’t even realize it. To make matters worse, that artificial product is widely touted as a “healthy choice” and is even promoted by some health experts.
So what is this product? It’s canola oil yes, that’s right, canola oil, which most health food cookbooks tell you to cook with because it’s a “low-fat” choice and unsaturated. That part is true, but there are some things about canola oil that you probably don’t realize. When you read the truth about canola oil, you might never use it again. Unfortunately, the food industry has gone to great lengths to suppress the facts about canola.
What Canola Oil Is Really Made Of
Canola oil is actually made from the rapeseed plant, which is poisonous to humans and other mammals. It has to be industrially processed in order to be made into cooking oil. In fact, when canola oil was first developed back in the mid-1980s, the Food and Drug Administration refused to allow it into the United States because rapeseed was regarded as poisonous.
Rapeseed is actually so poisonous that it was used as a pesticide at one time. In its natural form, the rapeseed plant can be toxic to humans. Rapeseed is a toxic and noxious weed. It’s so toxic that insects will not eat it. So how did rapeseed oil appear in your kitchen?
Well, back in the 1970s, the agribusiness giant, Cargill, had a problem its corn and soybean oils had been found to clog arteries and cause heart disease. It needed an alternative, and it found one in something called Low Erucic Acid Rapeseed, or LEAR, a genetically modified version of rapeseed that could be processed into unsaturated cooking oil.
Cargill had a number of problems, not the least of which was the product’s name. First it created the name “canola” (which is an acronym for Canadian Oil Low Acid) to cover up what the food was actually made from. The name “canola” was created by marketing experts in order to fool the public.
Canola Oil Is Made from a Toxic Plant
It’s easy to see why they wanted to cover up the fact they were using rapeseed. In its natural form, rapeseed could cause some serious problems.
Here are some interesting facts about rapeseed you might not like:
- In its natural form, rapeseed is high in erucic acid, which has been shown to cause Keshan’s disease, which creates fibrous lesions in the heart. Supposedly, Cargill’s genetically engineered rapeseed is low in erucic acid, so this doesn’t happen.
- The use of rapeseed as livestock feed was banned in Europe because pigs, sheep, and cattle that ate it went crazy and attacked people. This erratic behavior was originally blamed on the viral disease “scrapie.” However, when rapeseed was removed from the feed and the equation, the “scrapie” disappeared (although scientists still say the rapeseed had nothing to do with the behavior of the animals).
- Rapeseed has also been shown to cause brain and nervous system damage in humans.
- Rapeseed has been shown to cause breathing problems, including emphysema, in animals and humans.
- Rapeseed has been linked to higher incidents of lung cancer in people.
Here’s something else you might not realize canola oil actually has a very high level of transfat, sometimes as high as 40%. The process used to manufacture it involves hexane, an industrial solvent that might or might not be toxic.
To be fair, there is no evidence that canola oil has these toxic side effects, but we should be aware of the fact that the oil is made from a toxic plant. Although, it should be pointed out that canola oil has only been around for less than 30 years. We simply don’t know what effects its long-term consumption could have on human beings.
That’s right canola oil has only been around for less than 30 years. There’s no way to tell what canola oil consumption can do to the human body long term because it is so new. What’s really bothersome is that not many long-term studies on canola’s effects have been done.
The few studies done turned up some bothersome side effects, such as the fact that canola oil consumption caused vitamin E deficiencies in piglets. Among other things, this caused excessive bleeding and anemia in the pigs. Another study on rats done by the Health Research and Toxicology Division of the Canadian Ministry of Agriculture found that consumption of canola oil actually shortened the lives of rats with high blood pressure.
Two scientists that reviewed the research on canola oil, Sally Fallon and Mary G. Enig, found that research indicates “that canola oil is definitely not healthy for the cardiovascular system.” In other words, the supposedly heart healthy food might be bad for the heart.
How Canola Oil Got into Your Cabinet
Another problem is the questionable way in which canola was approved for human consumption by the FDA. When it first appeared in 1985, the FDA was actually very reluctant to approve its use. The FDA’s scientists were apparently bothered by the idea of promoting a toxic weed as cooking oil.
That changed when an organization called the Canola Council of Canada and the Canadian government began putting pressure on the FDA to approve canola oil for human consumption. The Canadian government got involved because rapeseed is grown in Canada, and canola’s approval would be a windfall for Canadian farmers. Some reports indicate that the Canadian government spent $50 million of the taxpayers’ dollars to get the oil approved.
Interestingly enough, the FDA does not allow the use of canola oil in baby formulas because its scientists consider canola oil toxic to babies. The reason for this may be that it can cause vitamin E deficiencies. Health experts are telling you to cook with something the FDA considers too dangerous for babies to eat.
Since then, publicists for the canola industry have worked hard to get canola listed as a favored ingredient in cookbooks. It also sponsored or worked through scientific conferences to get canola oil on the menu. Part of the reason why many health experts push canola oil is that they are paid to.
There is no evidence that canola oil is actually toxic, but given its questionable history, it might be a good idea to remove it from your diet or limit its use. A better alternative to cooking with canola is to simply limit the amount of fried food in your family’s diet.
If you must fry or use oil, use olive oil or coconut oil, both of which are more expensive. Coconut oil can also be used in place of canola oil in baking and some other purposes. If you use olive oil, be careful because some of the cheaper brands of olive oil on the market are actually a mixture of olive and canola oil.
Beyond that, try avoiding those products that are most likely to have high levels of canola oil, such as commercial baked goods, frozen foods, and cooking sprays. Try cooking from scratch and eating healthy organic foods instead. Read the label of everything that you buy because some foods labeled olive oil actually contain canola oil.
Try limiting canola consumption at home, but don’t get too hysterical. Small amounts of the oil are probably not harmful, but constant exposure to it might be. The truth is that we simply don’t know enough about canola oil to know whether it’s safe or not. Like other genetically modified foods, this artificial ingredient may have hidden health risks that we are not aware of. Do you really want to expose your family to those risks?
Best Oils to Substitute for Canola Oil
So which oils can you use? It depends on what you’re using it for!
1. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is best when it is cold-pressed and virgin. Try your best to avoid refined coconut oil. Coconut oil has a high heat threshold, meaning it doesn’t turn into trans-fatty acids when heated. Coconut oil contains medium-chain fatty acids, too, which support a healthy nervous system, and also encourage fat loss.
2. Olive Oil
While I would never personally cook with olive oil (due to its delicate nature), it makes a great non-cooking option. Look for an organic extra-virgin or cold-pressed olive oil that’s available in dark-colored glass. Some fake olive oils are mixed with cheaper, GMO vegetable oils, so always make sure it is GMO-free and organic.
3. Avocado Oil
Avocado oil has a high smoke point like coconut oil, so it can safely be cooked with at high temperatures. Alternatively, you can also use this oil in its raw form on salads and the like.
4. Sesame Oil
Sesame oil is another great option to cook with. It has a high melting point and isn’t hybridized like canola and other vegetable oils. Sesame oil works great in stir-frys and makes a great salad dressing with coconut aminos and some ginger!