What is Canola Oil? The Truth Exposed
Canola oil has gained popularity as a supposedly healthy cooking oil option. But is it truly as beneficial as it claims to be? In this blog post, we will uncover the truth behind canola oil, exploring its origins, processing methods, and potential health implications. Whether you’re health-conscious or simply curious about the foods you consume, this article will provide valuable insights into the world of canola oil.
Canola oil has already been banned in the EU for its link to various health concerns, the question remains as to why it is stilll allowed for consumption in the US? Unfortunately, canola oil isn’t the only thing that the FDA has let slip by. Check out our blog Foods that are Allowed in the U.S. but Banned by the E.U. to take a look at more foods that have been banned by the EU.
The Origins of Canola Oil
To understand canola oil, we must first delve into its origins. Surprisingly, there is no such thing as a canola plant. “Canola” is actually a shortened form of “canola oil low acid.” This term was coined by Canadian scientists who genetically engineered a variety of the rapeseed plant. The rapeseed plant, deemed inedible due to high levels of erucic acid and glucosinolates, underwent genetic modification to reduce these levels. However, this genetic modification required extensive processing, toxic chemicals, and exposure to high heat.
Glucosinolates are compounds found that have been linked to goiters, a thyroid disorder.
Erucic acid has been shown to cause heart damage in animals.
Glucosinolates are compounds linked to goiters, a thyroid disorder. Erucic acid, on the other hand, is linked to cause heart damage and disease. The rapeseed plant itself has been cultivated for centuries, primarily for industrial purposes due to its high erucic acid content. In fact, rapeseed oil was commonly used as a lubricant in the automotive industry rather than being consumed by humans. Nevertheless, with advancements in genetic engineering techniques, researchers were able to develop an edible version suitable for human consumption, known as canola oil. This new variety was introduced to the market in the 1970s.
Processing Methods of Canola Oil
The processing methods used to extract canola oil also play a significant role in its composition and potential health effects. Despite its transformation from industrial lubricant to cooking oil, canola oil still undergoes extensive processing before it reaches store shelves. The seeds are harvested from genetically modified rapeseed plants and crushed to extract their oils. This extraction process involves high heat and chemical solvents like hexane. Consequently, the oil loses essential nutrients and antioxidants, resulting in a highly refined product with low nutritional value.
The extraction process consists of several steps:
- Harvesting seeds from genetically modified rapeseed plants
- Extracting oils from the seeds using high heat and chemical solvents like hexane
- De-gumming the oil using sodium hydroxide
- Utilizing phospholipids, mucilaginous gums, free fatty acids, color pigments, and fine meal particles to ensure shelf stability
- Employing bleach to lighten the cloudy color caused by extensive processing
- Applying steam injection to remove the bitter smell
This processing method strips the oil of essential nutrients and antioxidants, leaving behind a highly refined product with limited nutritional value. Residual traces of the harmful chemicals used in the processing remain as byproducts. Additional chemicals are added to mask the negative effects of this processed oil. Furthermore, the high heat used in processing canola oil ignites the formation of of trans fats, which are linked to various health issues such as heart disease and inflammation. In addition, the heat and chemicals used in the manufacturing process oxidize these oils, create free radicals throughout the body that promote inflammation, heart disease, and cancer.
Processing Methods and Controversies
Despite its transformation from industrial lubricant to cooking oil, canola oil still undergoes significant processing before it reaches store shelves. The seeds are harvested from genetically modified rapeseed plants and then crushed to extract their oils. This extraction process involves high heat and chemical solvents like hexane.
Once extracted, the crude canola oil undergoes further refining processes to remove impurities and improve its shelf life. These processes include degumming (removal of phospholipids), neutralization (removal of free fatty acids), bleaching (removal of pigments and undesirable flavors), and deodorization. The final product is a refined canola oil that is pale in color, odorless, and ready for consumption. However, it’s been shown that these processes not only strip the oil of its natural nutrients, but also create new harmful byproduct additives.
Byproducts Produced in Processing Canola Oil
One of the primary concerns associated with canola oil is the presence of harmful substances in the final product. During the high-heat processing, detrimental compounds such as trans fats and glycidol begin to form. Additionally, traces of hexane (neurotoxin) remain in the oil that is sold at stores even post extraction, and this is a concern that poses major health risks.
- Glycidol is a chemical compound produced during the high-heat processing of this oil, and has been classified as a carcinogen
- Hexane is a neurotoxin, a hazardous air pollutant that can cause neurological and respiratory issues.
- Sodium Hydroxide is used in the de-gumming process, and is a highly caustic and corrosive industrial cleaning agent.
The health implications of consuming canola are absolutely undeniable amongst experts today. Despite previous claims of it being a healthy cooking oil, canola oil is not be as beneficial as it markets itself to be. Sure, it may contain some omega-3 fatty acids, but these omega 3’s are primarily in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is not as readily absorbed by the body compared to other sources of omega-3s found in fish or flaxseed. Moreover, the high levels of omega-6 fatty acids in canola oil create an imbalance in the body’s ratio of omega-3 to omega-6, ultimately leading to inflammation and other health issues.
Therefore, it is worth noting that the refining process can result in the formation of trans fats and the oxidation of omega-3 fatty acids present in the original oil. Trans fats have are associated with various health problems, including heart disease, while oxidized omega-3 fatty acids may offer reduced health benefits compared to their natural counterparts.
Furthermore, concerns have been raised about the genetic modification and processing methods employed in the production of canola oil, which has potential long-term health effects. Critics also express apprehension regarding the genetic modification involved in creating canola plants and the potential use of chemical solvents during extraction. It is undeniable that the processing methods employed in refining canola oil could potentially adversely affect its nutritional profile.
While some studies have suggested that canola oil may have benefits such as lowering cholesterol levels, others indicate that it may increase inflammation and contribute to chronic diseases. One study found that consuming a diet high in canola oil led to increased inflammation markers and reduced insulin sensitivity compared to a diet high in olive oil. Another study found that canola oil consumption may increase the risk of metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions that include high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and excess body fat around the waist.
Moreover, it is well known by now that there are superior alternatives to canola oil that offer proven health benefits. For example, extra virgin olive oil is rich in antioxidants and healthy monounsaturated fats. Avocado oil, coconut oil, and ghee are also popular choices for cooking due to their high smoke points and proven health advantages.
Healthier Cooking Alternatives to Oils
Making informed choices about cooking oils is essential for maintaining a healthy diet. If you’re concerned about genetically modified organisms or prefer minimally processed options, it’s time to explore alternatives like olive oil, avocado oil, or coconut oil.
There are a variety of healthier cooking alternatives to oils that you can incorporate into your culinary repertoire. For sautéing and stir-frying, try using broth, water, or vegetable stock instead. Baking, roasting, grilling, or steaming foods are also great alternatives to frying them in oil.
Butter and ghee (clarified butter) are flavorful options that can be used without relying on highly refined oils. Additionally, experiment with herbs, spices, and citrus juices to enhance the taste of your dishes, reducing the need for excessive oil.
Other healthy options for cooking oils include avocado oil, rich in monounsaturated fats with a high smoke point, and coconut oil, which has potential immune-boosting properties due to its medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs).
After discussing the potential health risks associated with consuming canola oil, it becomes clear that this seemingly harmless cooking oil is not as beneficial for our health as previously thought.
Despite its widespread use and availability, canola oil is undeniably been linked to negative effects such as inflammation, increased risk of heart disease, and even genetic modification concerns. In light of this information, we highly recommend making simple dietary changes to opt for alternative cooking oils that have a proven track record of being healthier choices. Some of these options include extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, or coconut oil.
Additionally, incorporating more whole, unprocessed foods into our meals will help reduce our reliance on oils altogether. By focusing on a balanced and varied diet, we ensure that our bodies receive the necessary nutrients.
In conclusion, although canola oil may be tempting due to its availability and lower cost, it’s important to consider the potential health risks associated with its consumption. By making simple changes in our diet and being mindful of the ingredients we use, we can make healthier choices for ourselves and our families. Let’s bid farewell to canola oil and embrace a healthier lifestyle. Remember, our health is invaluable, so let’s prioritize well-being over convenience or cost. Here’s to making informed decisions and enjoying a happier, healthier life!
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