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Q: I've heard that high-oleic canola oil is being used in some processed foods in place of partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. What is high-oleic canola oil?

A: High-oleic (or high-stability) canola oil was developed for use in commercial-scale food production because it is shelf stable and does not break down under high heat. Unlike partially hydrogenated vegetable oils found in many processed foods such as cookies and crackers, high-stability canola oil does not contain any cholesterol-raising trans fats. It actually has an impressive nutrition profile with about 70% heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, 20% polyunsaturated fats, 6% saturated fats, and 4% omega-3 fats.

New labeling regulations went into effect in January 2006 requiring food manufacturers to list the amount of trans fats in their products. This seems to have encouraged the use of healthier oils including high-stability canola oil -- good news for all of us! So although you won't find bottles of this new oil in your grocery store, expect to see more high-stability canola oil in everything from commercial baked goods to chicken pot pies.

Q: A friend told me that canola oil is not healthy because it is made from rapeseed oil that is toxic for human consumption. What's the story? You recommend canola oil in your book- have you researched this?

A: My coauthor and I did extensive research into canola oil when we wrote The Moms' Guide to Meal Makeovers. We too had heard rumors that canola oil was made from toxic rapeseed. What we learned was that canola oil comes from the seed of the canola plant, not from the rapeseed plant.

Confusion about canola may be due to the fact that the canola plant shares its botanical roots with the rapeseed plant. Rapeseed oil does indeed contain compounds called erucic acid and glucosinolates, which may be toxic to human health. In the 1970s, plant breeders, using traditional plant breeding techniques, developed a new plant that they named canola. The canola plant produces an oil that shares a similar healthy fatty acid profile with rapeseed but without the toxic compounds.

In 1985 the U.S. Food & Drug Administration granted canola oil GRAS status (generally recognized as safe). This versatile oil has gained popularity ever since as people learn more about its nutritional attributes. I feel good about using canola myself and recommend it to others.

Question of the Week

Q: Dear Lisa, how do I determine different qualities of retail canola oil? Yes, the no-name oil from Superstore is cheaper, but it seems very light coloured and "light" compared to the last product I bought.  Is it "you get what you pay for" or is the no-name just as good for less?

A: Thank you for your inquiry to CanolaInfo. All canola oil on the market is high quality and nutritious. Differences in colour are most likely due to slight differences in processing methods or variations depending on the climatic conditions where the canola is grown. In short, you can feel equally confident with either product, so buy the one you prefer in the kitchen.

Q: Dear Lisa, is canola oil gluten free?

A:  Canola oil is naturally gluten free.  Even though it may be grown on fields that wheat has been previously grown on, when canola seed is delivered to the crushing plant, it is extensively cleaned before processing. Due to the massive difference in seed size between a wheat kernel and a canola seed, if there was any contamination, it would be removed at this stage. Furthermore, after canola is crushed and refined, repeated testing has proven that there are no detectable levels of protein in refined canola oil when it goes out to the supermarket shelves. 

Q: Dear Lisa, do omega-3 fatty acids raise HDL?

A: Thank you for your inquiry to CanolaInfo. There are some newer clinical studies that indicate ALA (the plant-based omega 3 fatty acid found in canola) raises HDL levels, but these results are inconsistent. Most studies indicate that canola oil lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol without affecting HDL (good) levels.

Q: Dear Lisa, how would you rate the health benefits of canola oil vs regular olive oil and extra virgin olive oil?

A: Canola oil is a very healthy oil. When comparing directly to olive oil, it has half the saturated fat and is a source of alpha linolenic acid (an omega 3 fatty acid). Extra virgin olive oil (but not refined olive
oil) would contain polyphenols not found in canola oil.

Q: Dear Lisa, which oil (s) are the safest to deep fry or stir fry?

A: The first rule of thumb when choosing an oil for deep frying or stirfrying, is to choose one with a high smoke point, well over the standard frying temperature of 375 F. Canola oil has a smoke point of 468 F. To compare the smoke points of some common cooking oils, please click on the link below.

Canola oil has been shown to be safe and healthy in a variety of high heat cooking applications such as stir frying, deep frying and baking.  We also have a resource which outlines deep frying practices, as well as how to safely filter, store and reuse oil, click here to see the resource.

I hope this information is helpful to you. Happy cooking!

Warm regards, Lisa


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