Canola oil is extracted from the seeds of the canola plant, which is actually a cultivar of the rapeseed plant. But unlike rapeseed oil, canola oil does not contain a high level of erucic acid, and is also known to have some health benefits, which are discussed here.
Canola is a cultivar of the rapeseed plant, which is a member of the mustard family. Rapeseed oil contains erucic acid, which can have some negative health effects if taken in high levels. For this reason, rapeseed oil was declared unfit for human consumption.
However, rapeseed oil has been used for cooking in many parts of the world, including India, China, and Japan.
The canola plant was developed in order to produce an edible oil that contains much lower levels of erucic acid than rapeseed oil. So, canola oil, derived from the seeds of the canola plant or the genetically engineered rapeseed plant, has been considered suitable for human consumption.
Eventually, some studies have revealed that canola oil contains some important nutrients that can have several benefits for human health.
Canola Oil Nutrition Facts
About 218 g of canola oil contains
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-6 fatty acids
Canola Oil Health Benefits
Most of its known health benefits can be attributed to the presence of high levels of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Unsaturated fatty acids are known for their beneficial effects on the human heart. These fatty acids are known to reduce the risk of heart and cardiovascular diseases.
Canola oil can also provide a significant amount of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids that may increase the levels of good HDL cholesterol in the body.
These essential fatty acids may also improve immune functions and promote brain health.
Canola oil contains a high level of plant sterols, especially beta-sitosterol and campesterols. Phytosterols are known to inhibit the absorption of cholesterol in the gut and thus may help lower the risk of heart disease.
Canola oil contains a small quantity of saturated fats, which is much lower than what is found in many other cooking oils.
Possible Side Effects
Canola oil and its entire manufacturing process has become a subject of debate; some praising the oil for its health benefits, others pointing out some possible side effects. This oil is mainly criticized for being derived from a hybrid of rapeseed plant, which is known to contain erucic acid.
This is the reason why this oil is seen with suspicion, though food grade canola oil actually contains less than 2% erucic acid. Such a low level of erucic acid is not believed to pose any health risk. Moreover, the consumption of food-grade canola oil has been generally recognized as safe by the FDA.
Another point of debate is the presence of trans fats in canola oil, which are believed to have an association with the increased risk of heart disease. Some critics have questioned the entire manufacturing process of canola oil, as it involves the use of solvents like hexane.
They suspect that traces of hexane may remain in the oil even after considerable refining, which may have adverse effects on human health. Apart from these, it is suspected that the manufacturing process may alter the content of omega-3-fatty acids, to which much of the health benefits of this oil has been attributed.
While manufacturers and marketers highlight the health benefits and nutrition facts of canola oil, critics elaboate on its possible side effects. The result of all these controversies is that consumers are yet to know the truth about canola oil. Nevertheless, it is the number one vegetable oil in Canada and Japan, and number two in the United States.
Overall, it is the third most widely consumed vegetable oil in the world. What makes canola oil so popular is its neutral taste, light texture, and high smoke point, which make it ideal for any type of cooking, right from salad dressings and sautéing, to baking, stir-frying, grilling, and even deep-frying.