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What Is Wrong with Canola Oil?

By Gord Kerr

Concerns about the safety of eating canola oil arise from the belief that it is produced from the rapeseed plant. Rapeseed oil contains very high levels of erucic acid, a fatty acid that may be responsible for raising liver and heart lipids and can be toxic in large amounts. Before deciding if there is something wrong with canola oil, consider all the facts concerning how it is made, the health risks and benefits.

Identification

Canola oil is produced by pressing the seeds from canola plants, not rapeseed plants. Although the canola plant was developed in Canada by natural crossbreeding of the rapeseed plant in the early 1970s, its nutritional profile differs from traditional rapeseed by its reduced levels of the fatty acid, erucic acid, and anti-nutritional compounds called glucosinolates, according to the Canola Oil Info website.

Safety

Canola oil is recognized as "generally regarded as safe," or GRAS, by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It issued a qualified claim in 2006 stating that 1.5 tablespoons of canola daily may reduce the risk of heart disease. Canola oil is the only vegetable oil high in unsaturated fatty acids that the FDA has issued a qualified health claim for. Canola oil has long-chained fatty acids, which are typically classified as healthier than foods containing short-chains like meat fat.

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Nutrition

The American Heart Association considers canola oil to be a healthy oil because it contains the lowest level of saturated fat of any vegetable oil, 4 grams of polyunsaturated and 9 grams of monounsaturated fats per tablespoon. These proportions of healthy fats may lower LDL, the “bad” cholesterol and maintain HDL, the "good" cholesterol. Fat provides energy to every cell in the body and aids in absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins -- A, D, E and K -- and beta-carotene. Canola oil contains omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids that may contribute to brain growth and development. With 124 calories per tablespoon, canola provides 2.44 milligrams of the antioxidant vitamin E and 10 micrograms of vitamin K, according to USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory.

Health

Canola oil is a good source of ALA, or alpha-linolenic acid, which is an essential fatty acid that helps protect against heart disease, the leading cause of death in North America, according to Canola Info. Canola oil provides 1.3 grams per tablespoon, which is the recommended daily intake for women and 80 percent of the RDA for men. A specialty type of canola oil has a high oleic and low linolenic content, which provides high stability for frying and does not require hydrogenation. This oil is an even healthier option for food companies to reduce the amount of trans fat in the food they produce.

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