should you be using canola oil

I’ve done a fair bit of research to support the fact that I don’t like canola oil, don’t use it, and don’t recommend it. Organic or conventional.
The article below is from and pretty much sums up how I feel about canola oil.

Before you read the article.
What oils do I recommend? (when using fats derived from animal products, I recommend organic, as animals store chemicals such as pesticides, herbicides, etc; in their fat)
Read ‘Storage of Flax Products‘ for tips on storing oils.

for cooking:

  • raw, organic, virgin coconut oil
  • ghee made with organic butter (make your own as I have never seen organic ghee in a store – if you know of any, please let me know)
  • organic butter
  • I don’t recommend olive oil for cooking over temperatures of 250° as it becomes rancid at that point, producing free radicals
for baking:
  • raw, organic, virgin coconut oil
  • high-oleic safflower oil
for dressings, etc:
  • avocado oil
  • olive oil
  • safflower oil
  • sunflower oil
  • nut oils, ie walnut
  • flax oil
  • hemp oil

I know a lot of people who promote ‘healthy’ foods recommend using canola oil (organic or conventional), but I don’t.

Should you be consuming canola oil? The FDA seems to think so, allowing canola labels to claim it supports heart health and reduces the risk of coronary heart disease. Even some health food stores are on board with it. Proponents point out that canola is inexpensive, tastes good, and has the lowest saturated fat content of any common edible oil. Some health experts suggest a daily consumption of 1 1/2 tablespoons of canola oil. But evidence is mounting that canola oil actually promotes heart disease and is a hoax on the public rivaling the promotion of margarine. Leading experts on oils and fats see canola oil as a victory for a food processing industry that will not be happy until all traditional, real foods have been replaced by imitation foods.
Canola oil is a product of food technology

Peanut oil comes from peanuts, and soybean oil comes from soybeans, but there is no such thing a canola.Canolais a marketing name derived fromCanadian-oil. Canola oil comes from the rapeseed plant (Brassica napus), and belongs to the mustard family whose famous members include turnips and broccoli. As we know it today, canola oil is the result of the hybridization and genetic modification of the rapeseed plant to breed out its undesirable taste and its hazards to health.

Oil from the rapeseed plant as nature created it has been used in China, Japan and India for thousands of years as the poor man’s cooking oil. The oil contained a long-chain fatty acid callederucic acid which was irritating to mucous membranes, and glucosinolates which taste so bitter that animals will not eat feed containing it. Consumption of the original rapeseed oil was associated with high incidence of fibrotic heart lesions, known as Keshan’s disease, as well as disorders of the central nervous system, lung and prostate cancer, anemia, and constipation. These were the characteristics that Canadian geneticists diligently tried to get rid of in their efforts to morph rapeseed oil into canola oil. Some health professionals believe there is still too much erucic acid present in the oil for safe use.

The food technology industry has a long history of manipulating consumers

The food technology business operates on the Hegelian Principle. First a problem is created and blown out of proportion, and then a solution is offered. When food technologists got going right after World War II, one of their first efforts was to turn people against butter so they could be sold a concoction known as margarine. Eventually people woke up to the ill effects of margarine, and the food industry promoted their latest creation, polyunsaturated oils, as the new “healthy” alternative. But it quickly became clear that polyunsaturated oils, especially corn and soybean oils, caused numerous health problems.

Since the food industry had so effectively turned everyone against saturated fats, their only solution was to embrace the use of monounsaturated oils, with olive oil becoming the new darling. It was an easy switch, because the benefits of olive oil were documented in research and were associated with the health and longevity of people who ate the Mediterranean diet. The problem was that olive oil simply pressed from olives required no technological intervention, and olive oil was too expensive to be used in processed foods. The result was the birth of canola oil, newly named for the country where the majority of rapeseed plants are grown.

The name was not the only thing new. Genetic modification has made the already hybridized new rapeseed into a plant tolerant of the herbicide Roundup. This modification reduces the amount of chemical needed for weed control in the fields where the hybridized plants are grown making rapeseed a cheap crop to produce. Because all proteins are removed from oil during processing, canola oil made from genetically modified rapeseed plants is claimed by its promoters to be the same as canola oil produced from conventionally grown rapeseed plants; however, some countries have banned the sale of oil made from genetically modified seeds.

Nutrient content of genetically modified canola oil is altered

Researchers have discovered that industry claims are not true. A team from Food Quality and Safety Research in Peoria, Illinois studied oil derived from 12 different lines of genetically modified rapeseed varieties and analyzed each for phospholipids, tocopherols (Vitamin E), and phytosterols by various chromatographic techniques. As they have previously observed in genetically modified soybeans, there was a decrease in the content and composition of phosphatidic acid in three of the modified canola oils derived from the lines investigated.

Further analysis revealed variations in the phospholipid content of the major classes, despite few differences in their composition. Other data indicated that the molecular species distribution of phosphatidylethanolamine was significantly altered by genetic modification when compared to phosphatidylcholine. The impact of oilseed modification on the tocopherols content was variable. Phytosterol composition was markedly affected by genetic modification. Brassicasterol, campesterol, and beta sitosterol levels were consistently lower in one of the genotypes, whereas increased brassicasterol content was observed in another variety.

These findings mean that changes in composition resulting from genetic modification have significantly altered the synergy and balance created by nature. When natural balance is altered, the integrity of the plant is lost and it is no longer a proper food source. But this was no matter to a food industry that was thrilled with the new rapeseeds because they were loaded with monounsaturated fats, and low in toxic erucic acids and bitter tasting glucosinolates. And even better, the new rapeseed also contained about 10 percent omega-3 fatty acids. Canola oil was ready for marketing to a population that was just beginning to embrace healthy eating.

Most canola oil comes from genetically modified plants

Since its introduction in the fields of Canada in 1995, acreage devoted to the new rapeseed has steadily grown. Today more than 80 percent of the crop comes from genetically modified seed, making it illegal in Europe and a target of activists worldwide. Contamination of conventional rapeseed crops from neighboring genetically engineered fields has been a serious problem for Canadian farmers. In March, 2008, Monsanto’s Canadian unit settled out of court for clean-up costs of $660 for the contamination of one farmer’s field in a heavily publicized case of the little guy battling the corporate giant.

Canola oil surmounts one marketing challenge after another

The next marketing challenge for the Canola Council of Canada was the fact that rapeseed was never given GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) status by the USDA. Before canola oil could be marketed in the U.S., a change in regulation was required. Much rumor and speculation surrounds how this was achieved. When GRAS status was granted in 1985, word was that it cost the Canadian government $50 million to buy it, but this has never been proven.

Soon recipes began appearing in books sponsored by leading health gurus, such as Andrew Weil, and by diet books and newspaper columns promoting canola oil as the equivalent of olive oil. Today, sales of the oil have soared in many parts of the world. Canola oil is found in spreads, and used almost exclusively in processed and packaged foods. It is the oil of choice for most restaurants and is the primary cooking oil in many homes. Unfortunately, the science does not support the enthusiasm for canola oil.

Leading experts conclude canola oil is not safe

Even though canola oil has GRAS status, no long-term studies of its effects on humans have been done. Animal studies using oil from “improved” rapeseeds have challenged the health claims made for canola oil as well as undermined what has come to be traditional thinking on the link between types of fats eaten and heart disease.

Sally Fallon and Mary G. Enig, Ph.D. are North America’s leading experts on the subject of fats and oils. They have written extensively on the subject and many of their works can be found at the Weston A. Price Foundation website. The following is a summary of the research findings they consider relevant to the use of canola oil:

A study published in 1978 in the Netherlands investigated whether oil from hybridized rapeseed plants caused heart lesions in test animals. The scientists noted that in earlier studies, animals fed the high erucic-acid rapeseed oil showed growth retardation and undesirable changes in various organs, especially the heart, spurring development of hybridized versions of the seed. The results were mixed. Rats genetically selected to be prone to heart lesions developed more lesions on the hybridized rapeseed oil and also on flax oil than they did on olive oil or sunflower oil. This led researchers to speculate that omega-3 acids, not eurcic acid might be the culprit. But rats genetically selected to be resistant to heart lesions showed no significant difference between the oils tested, and the hybridized rapeseed oil was not shown to cause heart problems in mice, in contrast to the old, high erucic oil which induced severe cardiac necrosis.

In 1982, researchers at the Canadian Institute for Food Science and Technology looked at the interaction of saturated fats with rapeseed oil and soybean oil. When saturated fats in the form of cocoa butter were added to the diets, the rats in both groups had better growth and a significant lowering of heart lesions than when fed rapeseed oil alone. The results supported the conclusion that heart lesions in male rats were related to the balance of dietary fatty acids, not to cardio-toxic contaminants in the oils.

In 1997, after the appearance of the genetically modified rapeseed, Canadian researchers found that piglets fed milk replacement containing canola oil showed signs of vitamin E deficiency, even though the milk replacement contained adequate amounts of vitamin E. Piglets fed soybean oil-based replacement fortified with the same amount of vitamin E did not show vitamin E deficiency. This may be the result of the effects of genetic modification on vitamin E as documented in the Peoria, Illinois study.

In 1998, the same research group reported that piglets fed canola oil suffered from a decrease in platelet count and an increase in platelet size. Bleeding time was longer in piglets fed both the hybridized rapeseed oil and the new hybridized and genetically modified canola oil. These changes were mitigated by the addition of saturated fatty acids from either coca butter or coconut oil to the piglets’ diet. Another study a year later again found that canola oil suppressed the normal developmental increase in platelet count.

Studies at the Heath Research and Toxicology Research Divisions in Ottawa, Canada discovered that rats bred to have high blood pressure and proneness to stroke had shortened life-spans when fed canola oil as the only source of fat. The results of a later study suggested that the problem was the sterol compounds in the oil, which made cell membranes more rigid and contributed to the shortened life-span of the animals. Sterols were shown in the Peoria study to be markedly impacted by genetic modification of rapeseed.

Fallon and Enig conclude, “These studies all point in the same directions, that canola oil is definitely not healthy for the cardiovascular system. Like rapeseed oil, its predecessor, canola oil is associated with fibrotic lesions of the heart. It also causes vitamin E deficiency, undesirable changes in the blood platelets, and shortened life-span in stoke-prone rats when it was the only oil in the animals’ diet. Furthermore, it seems to retard growth which is why the FDA does not allow the use of canola oil in infant formula. When saturated fats are added to the diet, the undesirable effects of canola oil are mitigated.”

In his bookYoung Again: How to Reverse the Aging Process, health advisor John Thomas links rapeseed with the outbreak of mad cow disease that led to the wide scale destruction of animals in Great Britain in the early 1990s. According to Thomas, rapeseed oil was widely used in animal feeds from 1986 until the outbreak of the disease. Reports at the time blamed the bizarre behavior of livestock on the viral disease, scrapie. However, when rapeseed oil was removed from animal feed, the disease disappeared.

Thomas believes that glaucoma is the result of insufficient blood flow due to agglutination (clumping together) of red blood cells and waste buildup on the cells and intercellular fluids. He suggests that the ingestion of canola oil over time may cause the disease as well as other vision irregularities such as retinitis. He explains how the clumped red cells cannot squeeze through the tiny capillaries in the posterior of the eye, resulting in an inability of oxygen to be delivered to the mitochondria of cells in the retina.

Canola oil is an acetlycholinesterase inhibitor. Acetylcholine is critical to the transmission of signals from nerves to muscles. When the enzyme that catalyzes acetylcholine metabolism is compromised, nerve fibers cannot signal muscles to respond as desired, he says.

Processing of canola oil produces trans fat

Although the rapeseed has been a source for oil since ancient times due to its ease of extraction from the seed, modern processing adds a whole different dimension. Fallon and Enig have vividly described the procedure during which oil is removed by a combination of high temperature mechanical pressing and solvent extract, usually using hexane. Following considerable refining, traces of the solvent remain. And like all vegetable oils, canola oil goes through the process of caustic refining, bleaching and degumming, all of which involve high temperatures or the use of hazardous chemicals.

During this processing, the omega-3 content in the oil becomes rancid and smelly, and the oil must be deodorized. The foul omega-3 fatty acids are cleaned up by being largely turned into trans fatty acids. Although the Canadian government lists the trans fat content of canola oil at a minimal 0.2 percent, research at the University of Florida at Gainesville found trans fat levels as high as 4.6 in commercial liquid oil. In a time when almost everyone is aware of the tremendous health hazards posed by trans fats, people eating canola oil have no idea of the presence of trans fat in the oil they are consuming.

When canola oil is hardened through hydrogenation as it often is when used in food processing, the trans fat level can go as high as 40 percent. Because canola oil hydrogenates better than corn or soybean oils it is the first choice of processors. Higher levels of trans fat translates to longer self life for processed food, and greater profits for the food industry.

Common sense says stick with the tried and true

Food technologists and people claiming to be health experts have struck out twice already with their recommendation of margarine and polyunsaturated oil. It looks like strike three is canola oil. Given the complexity of plants, the total effect of a given plant derived food on human health is dependent upon its many chemical constituents and their interactions with the biochemical pathways in the body. The greater the alterations to the product as it was naturally created, the less that product maintains its integrity and the greater the chance for something to go very wrong.

At this point, common sense dictates the best alternative is to stick with fats and oils that have been in traditional use in various cultures for thousands of years and have not been known to cause disease.

Learn more:


Do you use canola oil?

I’m curious…

if you use canola oil, what do you use it for?

why do you use it over other oils?

where do you buy it?

do you believe it to be a healthy oil? why? why not?

I would love your feedback on these questions for 2 reasons:

1. seriously, I’m curious
2. I want to know if anyone really reads my posts

Thanks for your comments!

if a house falls in the city, does anybody care?

As anyone who follows me knows, I usually write about food and nutrition.
This, I had to write because I can’t seem to stop thinking about it. It haunts me.

I often take my dogs to Neville Park, in the east end of the Toronto. I walk along Neville Park Boulevard to get to the dog park. I’ve become familiar with some of the people who live on the street, as well as the lovely houses on Neville.
I even have some nicknames for the houses. The ‘tin can’, a cheap rebuild house, ‘my favourite house on the street’ and the ‘cat house’ (the lady who used to live there collected cats. There always seemed to be cats every where on her porch and on the property.
I remember walking past the ‘cat house’ and seeing the lady who owned the house sitting on her front porch reading the newspaper. It had a brilliant porch for that. Very large, with a great sight line to the street. All along, ‘her’ cats would be sitting on the porch with her or elsewhere on the property.
One of my favourite things about this house was the little studio at the end of the driveway. It had floor to ceiling windows on all sides. I fantasized about having a studio like that. How lovely it would be to be painting in there as the sun streamed though the windows.
One day I noticed one of those large metal containers on her driveway and I thought to myself, I guess she’s renovating.
Then I saw a FOR SALE sign on her front lawn. I thought, I guess she did the renovations to sell the house.
I found out from one of the residents on the street that the lady who owned that house had died of cancer. How sad, I thought.
As I do with many houses, I looked it up on Google to see the listing. The house was listed for $999,900.00. The pictures of the interior showed that it had a lot of wood trim, and if I remember correctly from the listing, a wooden Arts and Crafts looking pantry and cabinetry in the dining room and kitchen.
It was for sale for quite some time.
Then it sold.
Then it stood; sold, for a long time.
Just recently I heard it had been purchased by a man for his ’20 something’ son.
I thought, how lucky is this kid, to have such a beautiful house purchased for him.
That was until the bulldozer arrived.
I was walking my dogs on the street the day the bulldozer came to tear down the house.
I took pictures because I couldn’t believe it. My dogs were getting impatient as I clicked away, but I couldn’t stop. It saddened me so to see this house flattened.
In the windows on the second level of the house, the curtains still hung, as the claws of the bulldozer ripped through the roof and then through the windows.
I took my dogs to the park, upset over what I had just seen.
On the way home, I stopped again.
The demolition team of men were on the road watching the destruction of this lovely home, laughing. Laughing.
I couldn’t help myself – I told them how sad it was that this lovely house was being destroyed. It was as though no one had ever lived there before, that this house had no history before this. That the lady had never sat outside on the lovely porch with ‘her’ cats and that the studio never saw anyone use it to paint lovely pictures of flowers and nature.
How sad, how utterly sad.
Sad for the lady, for the house, for the little studio at the end of the driveway, for the misplaced cats who I still see hanging around forlornly at the neighbouring houses.
And so, so sad for the ’20 something kid’ who’s father believes that if it doesn’t suit you – just get rid of it. Tear it down and get something ‘better’.
I thought writing this might make me feel better, to get it off my chest. But it doesn’t.
I so miss seeing the lady reading her paper on the porch and I miss fantasizing about that little studio at the end of the driveway.

jewel salad

This salad is colourful, a great way to use kale and beets together and super easy to make.

2 cups of shredded raw beets

2 cups raw beet greens or kale, julienned

2 garlic cloves, minced

3 green onions, minced

1 carrot (I used a yellow one because that’s what I had)

1 parsnip

1 yellow pepper

1 hot red pepper

1 tbsp organic, grainy mustard

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1/8 cup apple cider

pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

sesame seeds

In a large bowl add the beets, garlic, green onions and kale.
In your food processor with the grating attachment, grate the carrot, parsnip, yellow and hot pepper.
Add to the large bowl with the other ingredients.
In a glass jar, add the mustard, olive oil vinegar and apple cider.
Put on the lid and give it a good shake.
Add this to the large bowl and mix everything together until well incorporated.
Garnish with pepitas and sesame seeds.

our flowers in a pumpkin project

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!
We had a lot of fun on Sunday making little flower arrangements for the Thanksgiving table. It’s such a simple project with such great results. I think the parents were very pleased with the outcome.

Here’s how we did it:
We cut the tops off of little pumpkins (supplied by Highmark Farms – thanks friends!).
Next came the fun part –  loosening the pumpkin guts, allowing kids to fling them onto the grass. As we explained, the guts are ‘good’ garbage so we’re allowed to throw them on the ground because they will biodegrade.
The hollowed out pumpkins were then filled with moist sand. An assortment of wild flowers were stuck in the sand and the pumpkin top was added to create a backdrop.
We had some amazing arrangements. Kids are so naturally artistic!
And I think some future flower arrangers were born!