What Is Canola Oil?
Canola oil is oil made from crushed canola seeds. One of the best oils for heart health, canola oil has less saturated fat than any other oil commonly used in the U.S. Cutting down on saturated fats helps cut your cholesterol levels.
Canola Oil Benefits
Canola oil is also very high in healthier unsaturated fats. It's higher in the omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) than any other oil except flaxseed oil. ALA is particularly important to have in your diet because your body can't make it.
Studies show that ALA may help protect the heart through its effects on blood pressure, cholesterol, and inflammation. The FDA allows canola oil makers to label their products with a qualified health claim that there’s "limited and not conclusive" scientific evidence that switching out saturated fat for the same amount of canola oil may reduce risk of heart disease.
Cooking With Canola Oil
Because of its light flavor, high smoke point, 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, like:
- As a cooking oil for sauteing, stir-frying, grilling, and baking
- In salad dressings, sauces, and marinades
- To coat your pans for nonstick baking
- Instead of solid fats (such as margarine and butter) in recipes
Canola Oil Disadvantages
Because canola oil is rich in omega-6 fats which are common in many foods, it can add to the amount of omega-6 in your diet compared to the amount of omega-3. Some studies show that a high ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 can raise your risk of certain diseases and conditions, such as Alzheimer’s, obesity, and heart disease.
Canola oil is also highly refined. This means it goes through a process that uses heat and chemicals to extract the oil. This can reduce the amount of nutrients it has to offer.
Some internet sites claim that canola oil has high levels of erucic acid, a substance that can be toxic to humans and can lead to ailments ranging from respiratory distress to blindness. But, in fact, it’s levels of erucic acid are well below the FDA's standards.
Canola Oil Nutrition
In addition to canola oil’s hearty helping of omega-3 fats (9%-11%), it’s also very high in monounsaturated fat (63%), a healthy fat. Another bonus: Canola oil contains phytosterols, molecules that reduce the absorption of cholesterol in your body.
When it comes to saturated fat, canola oil is lowest compared to other oils:
- Canola oil is 7% saturated fat
- Sunflower oil is 9% saturated fat
- Corn oil is 13% saturated fat
- Olive oil is 14% saturated fat
Canola Oil Alternatives
If you’re unsure about canola oil, there are other options you can try instead. When you’re cooking with heat, consider:
For recipes that don’t involve heat, such as salad dressings, try:
- Flaxseed oil
- Walnut oil
- Hemp seed oil