Chew on This

Forget what you’ve heard: Canola oil is still a healthy choice

Canadian canola plants are a beautiful yellow when in bloom.
Canadian canola plants are a beautiful yellow when in bloom.

My go-to oil recommendations, for at least the past 10 years, have been olive and canola oil. Beautiful green extra virgin olive oil for salads and finishing dishes, and canola oil for cooking, baking and for those who prefer a milder salad dressing. So when I received an invitation to be a guest at “canola camp” in Saskatoon, Canada, I eagerly boarded the plane.

I’ve been recommending canola oil because, of all the cooking oils, it is lowest in saturated fat. Cutting down on saturated fat is one part of a cholesterol lowering diet. And except for flaxseed oil, it is the highest in the anti-inflammatory omega 3 alpha linolenic acid (ALA).

Compared to other vegetable oils, canola is second-highest in plant sterols, which are helpful in lowering blood cholesterol levels.

The smoke point of an oil is the temperature at which it begins to produce a visible smoke. Heated past its smoke point, oil starts to break down, releasing free radicals. Canola oil has the highest smoke point of all the vegetable oils. The only oil with a higher smoke point is peanut, which is why that is often the choice for wok cooking.

And what did I learn in Canada? First that canola plants are a beautiful yellow when in bloom. Canola belongs to the brassica plant family, which also includes mustard, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. I tasted the leaves and they did have a mustard tanginess. The small brown canola seed is about 45 percent oil. After the oil is extracted, the remains are made into canola meal, which is used for animal feed. I also tasted the meal, and I’m fine with it being given to animals.

There is a crazy internet rumor about canola oil not being a healthy choice. Do not believe it. For a neutral debunking, see snopes.com/fact-check/oil-of-oleacute. For recipes, check out canolainfo.org.

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