Look at any packaged food in the grocery store and you’ll probably find canola, vegetable, soybean, corn or rapeseed oil somewhere on the ingredients list. In fact, many modern baking recipes, like pancakes, cakes and brownies, call for vegetable oils like canola. And why not? It’s a cheap, widely available, healthy oil, right? Wrong. While canola oil has long been considered the heart healthy, naturally neutral-flavored oil of choice for Americans, it is anything but. Let’s take a look at what’s so bad about canola oil:
It is not a whole food.
To make canola oil, rapeseeds are squeezed, bathed in a chemical solvent, washed in lye, separated in a vat using centrifugal forces and bleached to neutralize the unpleasant odor. So no, canola oil is by no means a whole food. It is a very highly processed, highly refined oil product. In fact, although canola oil is widely praised as being odorless and flavorless, the natural oil of the rapeseed is not flavorless and odorless by nature—that is the result of the immense chemical processing it must undergo.
It is inflammatory.
Canola oil is not a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, it contributes to omega-3 imbalances. As you may know, many of us consume far too many omega-6 fatty acids and far too few omega-3s. When the see-saw of omega fatty acids is too heavy on omega-6s, they overrun the body and become inflammatory. In fact, the inflammatory action of too many omega 6s is actually associated with all inflammatory disease,according to Chris Kresser. Many people believe that because canola oil is low in saturated fat, it must be heart healthy. While hopefully you know that saturated fats have been falsely demonized for years, the inflammatory action of this refined oil product is actually significantly more harmful than a wholesome, natural fat like grass-fed butter or coconut oil.
It is not heat stable.
According to Lauren Geertsen, NTP, canola oil is 28 percent polyunsaturated fat, 63 percent monounsaturated fat and only 7 percent saturated fat. While saturated fats are fairly heat stable, polyunsaturated fats are extremely unstable and will oxidize and go rancid when subjected to heat, rendering them nutritionally useless and inflammatory. Monounsaturates lie somewhere in the middle, tolerating small amount of heat. With its ratios, canola oil, along with all other vegetable oils, are not stable for heat. When you cook with canola, you are taking an already inflammatory oil and making it more inflammatory by bringing it past its low smoke point.
It is often riddled with GMOs.
Ninety percent of the canola grown in the U.S. is genetically modified. This also means that canola is riddled with pesticides. If for no other reason, it is smart to ditch canola oil to reduce the toxic load on both you and the environment.
Cheap vegetable oils like canola do not deserve a place in your pantry. What oils are better? Both coconut oil and ghee are extremely heat stable for cooking. For drizzling or low heat, extra virgin olive oil and avocado oil are excellent choices. If you’re just drizzling raw oil on finished dishes or salads, try cold-pressed walnut oil or flax oil.
Years ago, popcorn fiend that I am, I used to make stovetop popcorn in canola oil and I would always feel gross and greasy after I ate the bowl. When I switched over to using coconut oil, not only did the popcorn become less smoky and tastier, but I actually felt nourished and terrific afterward. The same goes for anything cooked at high heat. Choosing an oil that remains stable is essential for health and flavor. Not all oils are created equal.