Canola Oil Cooking Benefits
Health experts say you can significantly reduce your risk of heart disease -- the leading cause of death in the United States -- by changing your diet, particularly by lowering your intake of saturated fats (which can raise artery-clogging cholesterol levels) and by increasing your intake of healthier unsaturated fats and essential fatty acids.
One way to reshape your diet is by choosing heart-healthy oils. Canola oil, which is made from the crushed seeds of the canola plant, is among the healthiest of cooking oils. It has the lowest saturated fat content of any oil commonly consumed in the U.S., at just 7%. By comparison, sunflower oil has 12% saturated fat, corn oil has 13%, and olive oil has 15%.
Although it's low in saturated fat, canola oil is very high in healthy unsaturated fats. It's an excellent source of the omega-6 fatty acid, linolenic acid, and it is higher in the omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) than any other oil commonly used. These fats are particularly important in the diet because the human body can't produce them.
Health Benefits of Canola Oil
Studies show that alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA, may help protect the heart by its effect on blood pressure, cholesterol, and inflammation. There is enough evidence of canola oil's heart benefits that the FDA allows canola oil manufacturers to label their products with this qualified health claim:
"Limited and not conclusive scientific evidence suggests that eating about 1 1/2 tablespoons (19 grams) of canola oil daily may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease due to the unsaturated fat content in canola oil. To achieve this possible benefit, canola oil is to [sic] replace a similar amount of saturated fat and not increase the total number of calories you eat in a day. One serving of this product contains [x] grams of canola oil."
Substituting canola oil for other fats in your diet is an easy way to help you eat healthier. One study shows that completely substituting canola oil and canola oil-based margarine for other oils and spreads can help adults meet the daily dietary recommendations for saturated and unsaturated fat. Switching to only canola-based products could reduce your saturated fat intake by almost 10%, and increase your ALA intake by nearly 73%, shows the study, published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.
Debunking Canola Oil Myths
Stories have been circulating on the Internet claiming that canola oil is made from the rapeseed plant, and contains substances that are toxic to humans. The rumor claims that these toxins can lead to ailments ranging from respiratory distress to blindness in humans.
Canola is often confused with rapeseed. The rapeseed plant contains high levels of erucic acid, a substance that in large quantities can be toxic to humans. However, canola is produced from the canola plant, which contains levels of erucic acid well below the FDA's standards.
Cooking With Canola Oil
Because of its light flavor and smooth texture, canola oil is one of the most versatile cooking oils. You can use it in a number of dishes and cooking methods.
Here are a few ideas for cooking with canola oil:
- Use as a cooking oil for sauteing, stir-frying, grilling, and baking.
- Add it to salad dressings, sauces, and marinades.
- Use it to coat your pans for nonstick baking.
- Replace it for solid fats (such as margarine and butter) in recipes.