I feel a pit in my stomach any time I go to visit a friend or family member and see a huge plastic bottle of canola oil sitting on their counter top. I find it interesting that on a societal level, we’re locked in a battle between low-fat and high-fat. Some people advocate Keto, while others fiercely defend a plant-based diet. But seldom do we hear people discussing the quality of the fats we consume.
To give some perspective, let’s take a look at the Canola oil manufacturing process.
A flowering plant known as rapeseed is grown commercially to produce canola oil. More than 90% of these plants grown in the U.S. are genetically modified (GMO) crops. This genetic modification allows the plants to resist toxic pesticides. While the plant is unharmed, some of the pesticide residue remains. The most prevalent of these pesticides is called glyphosate (Roundup) and has been shown to cause cancer and chronic diseases like Celiac disease.
To extract oil from the plant, it has to be heated, increasing levels of trans fats and free radicals, which also cause cancer. A secondary process known as “deodorization” further increases trans fat content. Canola oil also often undergoes another process known as “hydrogenation” which allows it to have a higher melting point for use in a wider range of processed foods. This process of hydrogenation changes the fatty acid composition to include more unhealthy trans fats. Again, more cancer, heart disease and stroke.
Even with the trans fats created during the extraction and hydrogenation processes, you likely won’t see this reflected on the label. Convenient workarounds allow companies to claim “zero trans fat” if the amount per tablespoon is less than 0.5 grams. If you use Canola oil regularly, consume processed foods using hydrogenated oil, or eat out at restaurants (who sometimes use it to dilute healthy oils like olive oil to save money), those trans fats can add up quickly.
Even if your canola oil at home is unhydrogenated, the heating of the oil during cooking releases toxic chemicals, including formaldehyde. For those of you who are unfamiliar, formaldehyde has been identified as a carcinogen by the EPA. Oh, and it’s used in the embalming process. My dark sense of humor finds this quite ironic, since bad oils like these lead to an early grave.
On paper, canola oil and other similar vegetable oils seem like healthy alternatives to saturated fats like butter. But there are no clinical studies showing that this is the case. In fact, the Minnesota Coronary Experiment found that a low-saturated fat diet combined with vegetable oil had no effect on total mortality rates in adults.
Whether you believe in high-fat, low-fat, or a balance between the two, consider where your fats are coming from, and how close they are to nature.