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Canola Oil Health Benefits

By Molly McAdams

Canola oil, made from the seeds of an edible form of the rapeseed plant, has slight health benefits when used in cooking and in salad dressings. The benefits of canola oil are mainly due to its alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) content. ALAs are essential fats that the body can use to make active forms of omega-3 fatty acids similar to the healthy fats found in fish oils. Though not as effective as fish oils, some of the health benefits of canola oil, such as protection against heart disease, are similar. The Institute of Medicine recommends 1.6 g omega-3 fatty acids per day for men over the age of 19, and 1.1 g daily for women over the age of 19. One tablespoon of canola oil contains 1.3 g of omega-3's.

Reduced Risk of Heart Disease

The omega-3 fatty acids formed from ALAs in canola oil can help reduce blood levels of triglycerides, which are fats that circulate in the blood and are used immediately for energy by muscle tissue, or stored in fat tissue for later use. High levels of triglycerides in the blood are considered a risk factor for the development of heart disease and acute pancreatitis. People who follow a diet that contains high levels of ALAs are also less likely to experience a fatal heart attack, according to University of Maryland Medical Center. The benefits of canola oil are seen when it is used to replace less healthful saturated fats in the diet, such as butter and tropical oils (like coconut and palm kernel oil) that are used in the food industry.

Reduced Inflammation

Canola oil health benefits include reduced joint tenderness and stiffness, and greater mobility for people who suffer from inflammation due to arthritis. ALAs in canola oil may also reduce inflammation associated with asthma. The health benefits of canola oil also may also extend to other inflammatory conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease and ulcerative colitis.

Vitamin E

Canola oil health benefits include its contribution of vitamin E to the diet. One tablespoon of canola oil contains 3.1 mg, or about 15 percent of the recommended daily value for vitamin E. Vitamin E is an antioxidant, which means it protects body cells from damage and destruction that can lead to chronic diseases. A 2008 review of the scientific literature regarding vitamin E, published in the journal, "Current Opinion in Lipidology," suggests that ample amounts of vitamin E in the diet throughout a lifetime will protect against the development of chronic disease and sudden death from heart attack.

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