Canola oil confusion: the good, the bad, the ugly

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Goodness gracious am I confused… confused about canola oil.

I’m assuming that as you’re reading this, you’re falling into one of two camps, the 1) “Why is she even talking about canola oil? That stuff is toxic!” camp, or the 2) “Oh, canola oil! I use it all the time!” camp.

I’ve been stuck somewhere in between and couldn’t find my way out!

Now I’ve actually never used canola oil. I use coconut oil for mostly everything, olive oil for low-heat cooking and dressings, and butter for low-heat breakfast and baking.¬†But I’ve recently been forced to face canola oil head on, and finally get to the bottom of my confusion: so is canola oil healthy or is it unhealthy?

The good

Canola oil has been touted as one of the healthiest cooking oils for a few chief reasons:

  • Canola oil is high in both healthy omega-3 and omega-9 fatty acids.
  • Canola oil is low in saturated fat and high in monounsaturated fat, like olive oil.
  • Canola oil has a high burning point, making it ideal for high-heat cooking.

The bad

  • Canola oil is high in polyusaturated fatty acid (PFUA), which is highly unstable and readily oxides in heat, creating free-radicals and having an inflammatory effect on the body.¬†Excessive PUFA intake is rampant nowadays due to its high use in processed foods (and remember, 80% of the average American’s grocery bill goes towards processed foods). Canola oil consists of 21% PUFA while olive oil consists of 10% and coconut oil and butter consist of just 2%.
  • Canola oil has high levels of omega-6 fatty acids, which also contribute to chronic inflammation. The average individual consumes 9% of her calories from these oils; omega-6 toxicity begins at 4% intake. This is a big problem.
  • The canola oil extraction and refining process typically involves high heat, intense pressure, and toxic petroleum solvents such as hexane, which is known to cause nerve-damage. Additionally, the high heat and pressure transform some of the omega-3 fats into trans fats, which are always to be avoided.
  • Most non-organic canola oil is likely produced from GMO rape seed.
  • Last but not least, there have been no long-term studies conducted to determine the health effects of regular canola oil consumption on humans.

The ugly

There are a number of rumors circulating about canola oil that have only muddled my confusion more! But it seems that these are unfounded:

  • Although rape seed is a member of the mustard family, it is not the source of mustard gas (used in chemical warfare).
  • While canola oil does have industrial uses, so do most other fats and oils. In fact, traditional healthy fats like coconut oil, olive oil, and tallow each have industrial uses. This in no way makes them dangerous for human consumption.

Clarity at last!

After weighing the good the good and the bad, and discrediting the ugly, I’ve decided that I ought to be wary of canola oil. There are a number of alternatives (which I already use) with known health benefits, and so there is really just no need for canola oil.


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  1. Well non-organic canola oil is very likely genetically modified, but the reasons to stay away from even organic canola oil are under “the bad.” These properties of the oil are consistent for both GMO and non-GMO canola oil.

  2. still confused about organic canola oil. isn’t canola genetically modified so not good no matter what?