We were cruising the supermarkets last weekend when I saw that Canola oil was on sale. I’ve heard mixed things about canola oil – some say it’s healthy and good for you, some say it’s bad for you. If you read my blog, it’s obvious that I’m not a health nut and I’m not overly concerned with “good” or “bad” food. I just try to avoid the downright poisonous and really bad stuff. And I’ve been told that you need to use canola oil when making chiffon cakes. I’ve bought a liter or two over the years to use for baking and to try some recipes for making home-made mayo and salad dressings. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to buy the canola oil on sale and just let it be.
But after seeing the Canola oil on sale, it was nagging at me. Once and for all, I should find out if it’s good or bad, so I’ll know whether to rejoice (or not) when I see it on sale!
After reading the Canola wikipedia entry, I came to the conclusion that NO, I don’t want to use canola oil for any food I make, not anymore. Here’s some of the info that just leapt out at me:
- what we know as canola oil today is extracted from a low erucic rapeseed plant variety that was bred at the University of Manitoba in the 1970s
- the name “canola” was chosen by the board of the Rapeseed Association of Canada in the 1970s, the “Can” part stands for Canada and “ola” refers to oil.
- although rapeseed oil has been documented to have been used as old as 4,000 years ago, it was mainly used for fuel, like for oil lamps! NOT for human consumption!
- during the Industrial revolution (when they started making machines and factories sprung up), they used rapeseed oil as a machine/ engine lubricant!
- feed meal from rapeseed plant is not appealing to livestock (animals don’t like to eat it)
- a variety developed in 1998 is considered to be the most disease- and drought-resistant canola variety to date; this and other recent varieties have been produced using genetic engineering; in 2011, 26% of the acres sown were genetically modified (biotech) canola
Good lord, why are they still allowing this stuff to be sold as food?
- rapeseed oil was never really used as a food-grade oil by ancient civilizations – I’m sure those people experienced a lot of famine and scarcity, yet they never even considered rapeseed oil for food… makes you go hmmmm
- it was mainly used for fuel (oil lamps) and industrial applications
- they had to come up with a new name so people wouldn’t know what it really was – before reading up on it, I had no idea where canola oil came from… I would have guessed: canola plant?
- much of it now comes from genetically modified rapeseed
- it is extracted using hexanes – what are hexanes? glad you asked. it is basically what makes up gasoline; it is also used a lot in making glue for shoes, leather, roofing, etc.. it is toxic; too much exposure can cause hexane poisoning; do you really want these chemicals as a main component in processing the oil you are going to cook with?
Okay, I think I’ve read enough. The “good” and “healthy” things they say about canola won’t make up for the “eeek” factor. Sure, it contains omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. But would you really eat something ancient people didn’t eat, even though now it’s supposedly been cleaned up to make it fit for human consumption?
And the phrase “fit for human consumption” doesn’t really inspire a lot of confidence. Heck, according to standards, even poison is fit for human consumption if it’s diluted to a low enough dosage.
With all the confusing health information coming out, I don’t even know what to believe anymore. So I’m just sticking to the tried & tested route – if ancient people ate it, if people from a century ago ate it, if my grandparents’ generation can recognize it, I’ll eat it. Well, for the most part 🙂 Sometimes some sales and some food are just too good to pass up. But yeah, I try to eat “real food” vs. “fake food” as much as I can.
As for oils, I think we’re sticking with coconut oil, palm oil, olive oil, peanut oil, and butter. The good ones are a bit more expensive, and we can’t always get the good stuff, but WE WILL take advantage when they’re on sale 🙂 I think being able to get the good stuff once in a while is better than none at all. And obviously we should avoid the really bad stuff.
After reading all about canola oil, you can bet we’re never buying that again.
Do you have any suggestions for a “good” oil that is locally available and affordable? I mean for regular cooking like frying fish and chicken. I normally use olive oil for pasta sauces, and butter for vegetables but I don’t think olive oil will work for frying fish or chicken (and it will be too expensive)! We usually just use palm oil or corn oil from the supermarket. They’re probably bad too but hopefully not as bad as canola.
I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Please feel free to leave a comment below, I love hearing from you!