Conflicting Information on Canola Oil – Good or Bad?

April 6, 2009 · 49 comments

Yes, I know I posted on this topic recently (Read what Nina Planck says about Canola Oil), but someone wrote to me about her frustration with all the conflicting information on canola oil, so I thought that hitting it one more time for clarity might not hurt.  Here’s the email from a reader:

Hey Kelly,

I needed to email you personally on this one.

OK – researching, researching, researching.  So much conflicting information on this one product.  If it doesn’t have soy or soy lecithin (which I’ve found out we don’t really want to be eating either), then it’s Canola Oil.  I stumbled upon this that refutes a lot of what the Weston A. Price article says.

Canola Oil Good or Bad?

Your thoughts?

I am really trying to find healthy substitutes for my family, but am finding it VERY hard based on all the conflicting information.  I never really looked at Canola Oil before, but now that I’m label reading like crazy………

Help!

My reply:

Hi Jen,

I have a really easy way to help you…

I read through the article, and still wasn’t swayed.  This is why:  it’s a NEW oil.  I trust the traditional fats, not the new, highly processed ones.

Besides, all Canola (or almost all) is genetically modified.  And anytime you use this oil, that means you’re not using one of the much more nutrient-dense animal fats!

Hope that info helps you, simple as it is.  Just think about what has been around for hundreds of years, and go with that, no matter what it is you’re researching.  If you’re like me, you won’t always be successful at this (far from it!), but at least you’ll have a clear goal.  :)

Email anytime!

She emailed back:

Actually, that makes ABSOLUTE sense.  I knew I would get a good perspective from you.  Canola Oil issue – done and gone.

Do you agree or disagree with me? Do you think I’ve over-simplified the issue?

photo by Apreche
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  • { 49 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 Lindsay April 6, 2009 at 8:53 am

    I think simple reasoning here is definitely best. Anything that has to be intensely processed for its creation is probably best to leave alone. We always get caught up thinking we humans have all these choice, oh what will we choose? But 100% of the time we only have two choices: we go with what’s best for us, or we don’t period. My mom would call it “Choosing Light.” Because whenever you choose “right” and you know it in your gut, you lighten up. :) Plus good Choices always illuminate us, don’t they?

    Lindsay

    Reply

    2 Rosy April 6, 2009 at 9:43 am

    I love fried food, with every ounce of my soul! I would get an upset tummy when I used Veggie oil aka soybean oil. So I switched to canola. I weighed 125lbs, and at 5 foot that was a nice size. Now I weigh 155, and it has stayed that way. I blame the canola oil. I would eat eggs fried in bacon grease, and the fatty chunks off meat. When I got tummy issues I couldn’t stomache any fat. The canola didn’t bother me, so I thought, It just made me baloon up! I have lots of stretch marks and no baby to show for them! I would say stick with what works, and pay attention to your body. Most people will gain weight to store toxins that the body can’t get rid of. Listen to your body! Listen to your heart!

    Reply

    3 cheeseslave April 6, 2009 at 9:57 am

    Another thing to remember that 80% of the canola crops are genetically modified.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canola#Genetic_modification

    For me, that is the biggest reason to avoid it.

    Here’s another article about canola oil that is worth reading:

    http://www.westonaprice.org/knowyourfats/conola.html

    cheeseslave

    Reply

    4 Claudia Gold September 22, 2013 at 8:09 pm

    I actually think that this is a good reason to choose non-GMO canola oil, not a reason to avoid canola oil. If we stop eating any crop once it’s 80% GMO, then pretty soon we won’t have many vegetables or fruits left to eat. We need to support the few farmers who are actually going out of their way to get non-GMO sources.

    Reply

    5 Emily April 6, 2009 at 10:11 am

    Something that has been confusing me is that canola oil (also known as rapeseed or mustard oil) is one of the traditional cooking oils in India. See here for a little info under “Rapeseed Oil in Traditional Diets”: http://www.westonaprice.org/knowyourfats/conola.html. I don’t use it a lot, but I keep it in my pantry (along with coconut and olive oils, butter, duck fat, and lard) for occasional use.

    Reply

    6 John April 6, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    This is a topic of great interest to me.
    Whenever I used to eat canola oil I would get a variety of health problems. Constipation, gout and nasty cysts in my groin, armpits and behind my ears that could persist for weeks. I now completely avoid canola (which makes me un-popular at dinner parties) but it’s the price I must pay for my health. I use butter or olive and am slim and fit. My concern is that it seems that it is indigestible for me. I also find it strange that it is often referred to as low-calorie but you can run a tractor with it?

    John

    Reply

    7 Local Nourishment April 6, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    The whole fat issue tripped me up for a long time. I mean, fats aren’t naturally occurring in nature apart from their host. So, yes, there is fat in meat, but it is marbled throughout the meat and requires some “processing” to get to separately. Same with milk. Butterfat is there in the whole product, but it requires some “processing” to get to as a separate entity.

    I guess if I had my druthers, I’d eat only the naturally occurring fats in the foods I eat. But, cooking without fat sure makes a mess in the pan! I’m still not comfortable with the amount of rationalization I have to do to get to coconut oil as my preferred fat. Yeah, I know the nutritional profile, but nutritionism is something I am working against. Other than coconut oil, I try to stick with the least processed fat possible, that is, tallow and lard rendered when I am cooking and homemade butter from my whole, raw milk.

    Local Nourishment

    Reply

    8 Lolaloves13 April 6, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    Another reason to stay away from it is because it is probably genetically modified. Corn, soy, canola, and cotton are the four major crops that are.

    Reply

    9 Martha April 6, 2009 at 1:50 pm

    Refering to Local Nourishment’s comment, Kelly, have you ever done a post on rendering tallow and lard, or do you know where I could find instructions on how to do it? I assumed it would be in NT, but couldn’t find it there.

    I like your reasoning on the Canola oil. I’m off to read the link on Rapeseed referenced above.

    Reply

    10 Rosy April 6, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    Emily, that was an interesting article, I really enjoyed it. Thank you for the link. I always thought of rapeseed oil as the oil in paints. That was the traditional oil used by the artists back in the days before the petroleum boom.

    Reply

    11 Kelly April 6, 2009 at 8:45 pm

    Emily, I suppose what is especially NEW about Canola oil then, is how it is so highly processed and from GMO crops (as Lola said, too).

    Rosy & John, for me, it’s anything but the traditional fats that cause issues. I can’t eat fried foods anywhere but home or I pay for it.

    Martha, for now you’ll need to Google it (for info on rendering lard), or buy it like I do mine. See this post for info on my fiasco… http://kellythekitchenkop.com/2009/03/fish-fried-in-tallow-a-real-traditional-fat.html

    Thanks everyone! I love your comments! :)

    Reply

    12 Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship April 6, 2009 at 10:46 pm

    My big hang-up, even if it’s not a nutritious oil, is what to use in baking recipes when I am working fast and need a liquid oil that won’t leave an aftertaste, like olive oil (which my poor husband actually used to make a boxed cake mix once to surprise me…). Any thoughts? Occasional use ok?

    Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship

    Reply

    13 Lindsay April 6, 2009 at 10:50 pm

    Katie –

    My mom and I use Extra-Light Olive Oil, even in chocolate cakes, with no taste issues to be reported yet.http://www.starfinefoods.com/oliveoil.html

    Lindsay

    Reply

    14 Kelly April 6, 2009 at 11:24 pm

    Katie, I use melted (or softened) butter in all my baked goods! They turn out great! I also sometimes use Spectrum Naturals palm oil shortening.

    Reply

    15 Lindsay April 6, 2009 at 11:30 pm

    well of course butter! :)

    Lindsay

    Reply

    16 Andrea April 7, 2009 at 1:08 pm

    Canola oil is completely genetically modified.
    Rapeseed contains a high percentage of euric acid, which was thought to be toxic to humans due to animal studies. So, canola oil is from a genetically modified version of rapeseed, created in Canada, to contain lower levels of euric acid. Therefore, rapeseed oil may have been used by some traditional cultures (going off the above post), but canola oil certainly hasn’t.
    It also goes through a process to make it “clean”, odorless, tasteless, and have a longer shelf-life, as do many oils bought at the grocery store.

    I’ll stick with coconut oil and butter!

    Reply

    17 Jen April 7, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    I’ve been using pastured butter, olive oil and coconut oil for all my cooking recently. After reading this post, the remaining canola oil, corn oil and vegetable shortening from my pantry went into the garbage. Good riddance!

    Reply

    18 GARTA May 17, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    You all are so naive: there is no real scientific research on canola oil, only speculations. I actually lost 15 pounds in 3 months using only canola oil. OMG LARD ARE YOU SERIOUS? YOU’RE PLAYING WITH YOUR LIFE!

    Reply

    19 Heather March 23, 2010 at 12:48 am

    Well Garta if that is the case you are one of the few lucky ones. Although I probably have lost weight when I eat canola because I suffer from vomiting and/or diarrhea when I consume ANYTHING made with it.

    The bottom line is there has been what I would consider “little to no” scientific study on it. Check the FDA’s site, the longest testing only lasted 6 months, and most averaged 4 weeks.

    So say what you will, really it depends on the person, some can eat it and be fine, some eat it and get violently ill and trying to tell people that get sick from it is just silly.

    It took us years of research to find out what CAUSED the issue in the first place. If you would like more research, please invite me over for dinner and I will happily re-color your bathroom.

    Reply

    20 GARTA May 17, 2009 at 3:31 pm

    A lot of the “danger” of canola is pure hype. A simple version of the myth busting can be found in this Ask Alice! short:
    http://www.goaskalice.columbia.edu/2325.html

    Reply

    21 GARTA May 17, 2009 at 3:49 pm
    22 Linda May 18, 2009 at 11:59 am

    I totally agree with Garta. Canola oil is the cheapest source of OMEGA 3 that we all need…& the GM is the protein in genetic code of the rapeseed plant & oil contain 0% proteins. So this panic is for “dummies” who can’t see a difference between lipids(oil) & proteins…

    Reply

    23 CHEESESLAVE May 18, 2009 at 5:45 pm

    “Cheap food is an illusion” — Michael Pollan

    You get what you pay for. Consume cheap food and pay more in health care when you end up sick and diseased.

    Plenty of omega 3s in good, wholesome grass-fed dairy, meats and poultry, also fish and cod liver oil. Whole foods that nourish the body and the mind.

    Canola oil is a cheap modern food that has no business in the human diet. Even if it were not genetically modified, it would still be bad for you.

    I have a hard time believing that the GMOs don’t transfer into the oil. But let’s just say you’re right and they don’t — does it still make it OK to eat? GM crops are the #1 biggest threat to our environment. 1,500 farmers in India committed mass suicide last month thanks to GM crops ruining them financially.

    Sure it might seem like a good cheap source of omega 3s — but there is a cost. Our health, the planet, the lives of Indian farmers.

    A cost I am not willing to pay.

    CHEESESLAVE

    Reply

    24 Lindsay May 18, 2009 at 5:49 pm

    well, Linda & Garta, according to your links, Canola oil was developed, read: hybridized in the last 30 years in Canada in the 1960′s-70′s. One of the biggest concerns of Traditional Diets is to eat foods that have been in the nutritional history for longer than the last century. It also goes rancid extremely quickly. Flax seed in bulk is also very cheap. It may be good for you guys to do some research into food history and ask why for thousands of years we ate traditional food with no heart disease, cancer, diabetes, etc. But since 1900 when vegetable oils became the rage… all degenerative and inflammation diseases sky-rocket…

    Reply

    25 Lindsay May 18, 2009 at 5:50 pm

    And thank you CheeseSlave!!

    Reply

    26 CHEESESLAVE May 18, 2009 at 5:51 pm

    Katie – I am having great luck with expeller-pressed coconut oil for frying. I have had success with french fries, fried chicken and chicken nuggets so far. They all came out delicious.

    Absolutely no coconut taste whatsoever and you get most of the benefits of coconut oil — not all since it is refined and not raw. But it’s still very good for you.

    I also use beef tallow for french fries and onion rings and lard or duck fat too.

    CHEESESLAVE

    Reply

    27 Jenny @ NourishedKitchen May 18, 2009 at 6:12 pm

    I couldn’t agree more with Kelly on this one. Canola oil is a new food – it is not a food that nourished human evolution. It was developed in the 1960s, so it’s been used for only about 40 years at best. Moreover, canola oil is most often extracted through modern methods through high heat in excess of 150F, high pressure or using solvents. That process denatures those delicate polyunsaturated fats introducing oxidation and free radicals into the end product – that’s a serious problem when it comes to health.

    And, Garta, in defense of lard, are you aware that lard is actually primarily a monounsaturated fat? Monounsaturated fats are heralded by even the conventional medical establishment as “heart healthy.” Remember, these are the fats in avocado and olive oil and – LARD! It might behoove you to read Kelly’s site further and do a little more investigation on your own.

    Jenny @ NourishedKitchen

    Reply

    28 NonGMOTalk May 18, 2009 at 6:46 pm

    A new position paper published – just today – by the American Academy of Environmental Medicine calls for a moratorium of all GM foods.

    Unless the bottle says organic: Canola, Corn, Cottonseed and non-organic Vegetable Oils are most likely genetically modified and should be avoided. Substitute olive oil, grape seed oil or sunflower oil.

    Reply

    29 Sheri May 18, 2009 at 6:53 pm

    Our family doctor was telling me last week that canola oil is dark when first pressed so not only are getting GMO’s, but they use lots of chemicals to lighten it, so you’re getting traces of that too. Makes me glad we use olive and coconut oil now.

    Reply

    30 Kimberly May 18, 2009 at 7:45 pm

    I avoid Canola in favor of whole food fats like butter, coconut oil and lard. Recently, I discovered that lard from pasture raised or forest fed pork is very high in vitamin D. This is a little know fact that I found changes my whole perspective on this much demonized fat.

    By the way, I used to avoid lard like the plague, but after reading Mary Enig’s book Know Your Fats, I now know that we will benefit by a return to more traditional fats, rather than these modern fats that have displaced more natural fats in our American diet.

    Kimberly

    Kimberly

    Reply

    31 Local Nourishment May 18, 2009 at 7:46 pm

    Attacking persons as being naive dummies is hardly intelligent or worthy of refuting. That’s called an ad hominem attack and is often used by those who have a hard time coming up with legitimate, logical rebuttal.

    Whether GMOs are present in the final form of the oil is a consideration for me, but possible dangers in the final product are as yet unproven.

    Already proven: We know GMO crops are invasive. We know they require more pesticide, not less, to insure high yields. We know this increased herbicide/pesticide load is killing our soil and insect life. They also encourage monocropping, which is not a healthy way to steward our planet. These are undisputed facts and should be enough evidence for a ban on GMO crops in the U.S. as much of Europe is moving toward.

    Because GMO crops have so many strikes against them, whether they cause harm to those eating them is just another reason to avoid them. So far, I’ve not heard a single logical, compelling reason I should consume them, including the provided links.

    Local Nourishment

    Reply

    32 Cathy Payne May 18, 2009 at 8:50 pm

    I won’t eat anything with canola oil in it. It tends to go rancid easily, it’s heavily processed, and is almost always genetically modified. I don’t understand why it is in half the prepared food products at Whole Foods. For fats I love the ones I “could” or do make myself – butter, lard, duck fat, beef tallow, and ghee. Rendering fat is very easy but if you want instructions get a good basic book such as Julia Child. Olive oil and coconut oils are some I would not make myself but have been used for thousands of years.

    Reply

    33 CHEESESLAVE May 18, 2009 at 11:16 pm

    Cathy – That is a good point about Whole Foods — I wonder why that is? I won’t buy any of their prepared foods with canola oil.

    CHEESESLAVE

    Reply

    34 Kelly May 22, 2009 at 1:57 am

    The last couple comments remind me of something you & I talked about when I was there in L.A., Ann Marie – Trader Joe’s told my friend, Sue, that their whole store was GMO-free, but they have products with Canola oil, so I wonder how they can say that???

    Reply

    35 Julie May 25, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    We don’t use canola oil and although I’m sure there is something small we eat that may canola oil in it, I’ve worked really hard to remove it from our diet. I am not in any way convinced it’s good for us. I agree that sticking to traditional oils is best. I also like to think of it this way…if I couldn’t make this myself (albeit with a lot of time and skill), then I probably shouldn’t be eating it. I could for example make olive oil myself if I knew how.

    I find the GMO-free thing to be an interesting claim by Trader Joe’s. There is HFCS is quite a bit of their sweets (cookies, baklava, etc.) and it’s not listed as organic so we all know what that means. As prevalent as GMO’s are, I would be shocked if any store that carries any non-organic food could honestly make that claim. Nice thought though.

    Julie

    Reply

    36 Rose July 1, 2009 at 8:55 am

    Thanks for the info–I’ve been conflicted about canola oil, I don’t use it very often though. I’ll be looking out for coconut oil!

    Reply

    37 Mark F November 24, 2009 at 9:16 pm

    You say that you don’t trust canola because it’s a NEW oil. Computers and the Internet are new, yet you use them to post your blog. The Hubble telescope is new, yet it provides us with amazing images of objects never seen before. Hybrid cars are new, yet they help lower levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

    There is actually nothing “new” about rapeseed oil. It has been a staple in the cuisines of China, Japan, India and Europe for centuries. Because it’s new to you doesn’t mean it’s new to the world. The former problem with canola oil was its high erucic acid content. This has been bred out of the plant. If you don’t like the oil for some other reason, I respect that, but “new” is hardly a valid objection. Especially since it doesn’t apply in this case.

    Reply

    38 Mark F November 24, 2009 at 9:40 pm

    PS: The reason I became interested in canola oil in the first place is because my father recently suffered a heart attack, followed by a quadruple bypass, followed by a stroke, followed by months of rehabilitation. Prior to his heart attack, he played golf nearly every day, worked out for an hour every morning and had nearly perfect levels of cholesterol. People who care about their health owe it to themselves (and their loved ones) to learn about the importance of a proper Omega 3/Omega 6 balance in their diet (Google it), and the devastating effects of saturated fats like butter, lard, tallow, palm oil and coconut oil. Heart disease is a severe problem in America, and it needn’t be so. A proper balance of Omega 3/6, coupled with healthy exercise like walking can make all the difference. Increase your Omega 3 intake–through healthy fats, wild-caught Pacific salmon, sardines, flaxseed oil. Think of the ones you love. Take care of them by taking care of yourself.

    Reply

    39 Ann Marie @ CHEESESLAVE November 24, 2009 at 10:00 pm

    Mark -

    I respect your logic and I’m sorry about what happened to your father. I agree with you – just because it’s new, doesn’t make it bad. But new also doesn’t mean it’s necessarily good.

    There were no reported incidences of heart attack (myocardial infarction) prior to 1900. If you read the cookbooks published prior to 1900, they used copious amounts of lard, butter, beef tallow, and the like.

    And what about the French Paradox?

    http://books.google.com/books?id=YkkhgGoE3_cC&pg=PT58&lpg=PT58&dq=jeffrey+steingarten+french+dropping+like+flies&source=bl&ots=URcM7rr74S&sig=Xxf39YI9NGAdUd3BAkBjuGIYy1k&hl=en&ei=W5wMS8ztB4qyswOJiq2kAw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CAgQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=&f=false

    The lipid hypothesis has been debunked. Watch this:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8SSCNaaDcE

    RE: canola oil, 80% of it is genetically modified.

    http://www.naturalnews.com/026365_canola_oil_food_health.html

    http://www.westonaprice.org/knowyourfats/conola.html

    Please take a look at this book:

    http://www.journeytoforever.org/farm_library/price/pricetoc.html

    The whole thing is online. The people Dr. Price studied ate large quantities of cholesterol — and yet they were free of all degenerative disease.

    Ann Marie

    Reply

    40 KitchenKop November 24, 2009 at 10:15 pm

    Hi Mark,

    The thing is, with all the other new things you mentioned, I don’t EAT any of them.

    I agree that we owe it to ourselves and our loved ones to *be informed* and yes, proper Omega 3/Omega 6 ratios in our diet are very important, but I very much disagree that saturated fats are harmful. Butter, lard, tallow, palm oil and coconut oil are all nourishing to our bodies. “The scientific evidence, honestly evaluated, does not support the assertion that “artery-clogging” saturated fats cause heart disease. Actually, evaluation of the fat in artery clogs reveals that only about 26% is saturated. The rest is unsaturated, of which more than half is polyunsaturated.” (http://www.westonaprice.org/knowyourfats/skinny.html#benefits)

    Have you seen the videos at this post: http://kellythekitchenkop.com/2009/09/big-fat-lies-fat-head-movie-review-real-food-wednesday.html?

    Thanks,
    Kelly

    Reply

    41 S. April 25, 2011 at 8:32 pm

    Hi,

    I do not know if this blog is updated anymore –

    but I do have a problem – or what I believe to be a problem – with canola oil, as I do with all forms of vegetable oil in things that I have been eating.

    Is it just me or do these kinds of oils provoke one’s appetite and/or eating binges? I mean – I feel as if these are artificial oils – and as with artificial SWEETENERS, you trick your body into thinking that it is getting the nutrients that it needs – but when the body realizes it, it ends up having even more cravings than it did before.

    Reply

    42 KitchenKop April 25, 2011 at 9:01 pm

    I believe that IS one of the many things that are rotten about all the fake oils, and they are keeping people sick… :(

    Reply

    43 S. April 25, 2011 at 9:18 pm

    wow thank you for responding!!

    I eat something with canola oil in it (heck – ANY polyunsaturated veggie oil) and I kind of thought it was just in my head that I keep eating and eating and eating my food and do not get satisfied whatsoever.

    What about peanut oil? or extra virgin olive? any other liquid oil that you can use in your chicken or side dish?

    Reply

    44 Kelly the Kitchen Kop April 25, 2011 at 10:27 pm

    What kind of chicken or side dish are you talking about? Then I’ll tell you what I use for that type of dish.

    It depends on how high the heat is that you’re cooking it in, you don’t want to go over the smoke point.

    Kelly

    Reply

    45 S. April 25, 2011 at 11:23 pm

    ok what if you’re baking or broiling chicken?

    and what if it’s for stir fry (I only eat that once a week)? (the heat level would be between low and high, like “medium” to get it going but when it’s done we lower the heat)

    Reply

    46 KitchenKop April 28, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    I just realized I never answered this, I’m sorry!

    It all depends on your temps you’re cooking at, see this chart: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smoke_point

    Then only use REAL fats: http://kellythekitchenkop.com/2008/06/get-rid-of-bad-fats-in-your-kitchen.html

    Kelly

    Reply

    47 Amina December 30, 2011 at 8:56 am

    I noticed that the article the woman who emailed you cited as refuting the Weston A Price Foundation research was an about.com article. About.com articles are written by everyday people on a freelance basis. The man who wrote the article on canola oil called himself a “urban legends guide.” I’m pretty sure that means he researches urban legends, not that he has any kind of nutrition or health training or education….

    I choose not to use canola oil because I believe it to be unhealthy and even harmful. It’s butter (and coconut and unheated olive oil) all the way for this girl!

    Reply

    48 Laurel September 30, 2012 at 6:48 pm

    I once saw an episode of How It’s Made that featured canola oil. Holy crap! It was so disgusting that I can’t believe anyone would eat it if they knew how it was processed before arriving on the shelf. I mean, the oil becomes rancid during processing, and it smells so terrible that they have to deodorize it. I don’t care what anyone says about scientific studies (or the lack thereof) on canola, or about the omega-3 content – canola is bad news! Who wants to get their omega-3′s from rancid oil? Try fermented cod liver oil instead.

    Reply

    49 Laurel September 30, 2012 at 6:51 pm

    Oh, and I forgot to mention: I stopped reading the article that supposedly “debunks” the dangers of canola oil when I got to the part where the author claimed erucic acid is saturated. Not true. It is monounsatured. The guy clearly knows next to nothing about the topic he is writing about.

    Reply

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