Canola as Food

Is canola oil even good to eat?

Billions of dollars have been invested into marketing canola to tell you that it is one of the healthiest oils on the market.  And subsidies have sweetened the pitch by making it cheaper to buy.  The high praise for canola is propaganda put forth by the Canadian government because "canola," a hybridized rape plant, is one of that nation's chief export products.  In fact, the word canola is an amalgam of the words "Canada" (where it originated) and "oil."  Canola oil has also been powerfully marketed by the companies that sell canola and by the owners of patented canola seed like Monsanto.

Canola was developed from the rape seed, a member of the mustard family.  Rape seed [once more commonly used as a potent pesticide] is considered unsuited to human consumption, because it contains a long-chain fatty acid called erucic acid, which under some circumstances is associated with fibrotic heart lesions.  Canola oil was bred to contain little if any erucic acid and has drawn the attention of nutritionists because of its high oleic-acid content.  But there are some indications that canola oil presents dangers of its own.  It has a high sulphur content and goes rancid easily.  Baked goods made with canola oil develop mold very quickly.  During the deodorizing process, the omega-3 fatty acids of processed canola are transformed into trans fatty acids, similar to those in margarine and possibly more dangerous.[1]  A recent study indicates that “heart healthy” canola oil actually creates a deficiency of vitamin E, a vitamin required for a healthy cardiovascular system.[2]  Other studies indicate that even low-erucic-acid canola oil causes heart lesions, particularly when the diet is also low in saturated fat.[3]
- excerpted from Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon

Food grade canola oil is processed by using solvents (hexane) and chemicals to strip oils from the seeds.  The oil is then deodorized (from its natural stench) through a refining process that heats the oil at 300 degrees fahrenheit.  Any vegetable oil cooked to this temperature does not result in anything nutritious.  To demonstrate -  Research at the University of Florida– Gainsesville, determined that as much as 4.6% of all the fatty acids in canola are "trans" isomers (plastic) due to the refining process.

From 1986 until 1991, rapeseed was used in animal feed in England and Europe; its use was halted in 1991 when studies indicated health problems directly related to it. Problems subsided when it was no longer used.

In 1996, the Japanese announced an unpublished (but verified) study wherein a special canola oil diet had actually killed laboratory animals. Reacting to this startling information, a duplicate study was conducted by Canadian scientists using piglets and a canola oil based milk replacer diet.
In this second study [4], the researchers verified that canola oil somehow depleted the piglets of vitamin E to a dangerously low level.  In 1998, the same research group reported problems in platelet count and platelet size in the piglets on canola-based feed. They further clarified that other vegetable seed oils did not appear to cause the same problems in piglets as canola oil.
Furthermore, most canola is grown from genetically modified seeds and liberally doused with pesticides.  The amount of GM canola in the US and Canada is now estimated to be at over 90% of all canola grown.

What can you do to avoid canola?

Stop buying it.  Purchase oils that are good for you.  Olive oil (at low temperatures), palm oil (ethically harvested), coconut oil and raw butter (from grass-fed animals) are great, tasty alternatives.  Animal fats are also good alternatives as cooking oil.  All cooking oils should be derived from organic sources.  Know your fats.

Ask your favorite restaurants what oils they use.  Most restaurants these days use canola and cottonseed oils to cook their food because they are cheap.  Both oils are inherently unhealthy to eat.  They are also genetically modified and standard practice is to spray massive amounts of pesticides on both of these crops.

Patronize restaurants that don’t use canola in their food.


1. Personal Communication, Mary G. Enig, PhD
2. Sauer, FD, et al, Nutrition Research, 1997, 17:2:259-269
3. Kramer, J K G, et al, Lipids, 1982, 17:372-382; Trenholm, H L, et al, Canadian Institute Food Science Technology Journal, 1979, 12:189-193.
4. Published in Nutrition Research, 1997, v17