Truths and Myths about Canola Oil
The facts about canola are set straight here, showcasing the oil's heart-smart properties and versatility as well as the crop's usefulness in animal and industrial applications.
Myth: There haven’t been any human studies on canola oil.
Truth: Clinical studies have been going on for decades involving thousands of human volunteers to examine canola oil and its effects on the body. Canola oil is not only safe for humans per U.S., Canadian and other government approvals, but studies have shown it may also have health benefits. Canola oil is free of trans fat and cholesterol, with the lowest amount of saturated fat among common cooking oils, so trials have shown that it may favorably impact the body when used in place of other fat sources. In October 2006, canola oil received a qualified health claim *¹ from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on its ability to potentially reduce the risk of heart disease when used in place of saturated fat in the diet.
Myth: Canola is the same as rapeseed.
Truth: Although they look similar, canola and rapeseed plants are very different. Scientists used traditional plant breeding to eliminate the undesirable components of rapeseed, namely erucic acid and glucosinolates. Before canola oil received "generally recognized as safe" (GRAS) status from the FDA and favorable recognition as a vegetable oil by Health Canada, it had to go through rigorous testing to ensure it was safe for human consumption.
Myth: Canola was originally developed through genetic engineering.
Truth: Canola was developed by traditional plant breeding. Unwanted traits in rapeseed were bred out through traditional cross-breeding to produce canola in the late 1950s and 1960s. In fact, modern crop biotechnology wasn't even invented at that time. Today, different varieties of canola help to produce crops that are resistant to drought, pests, disease and other challenges that farmers face. Plant breeders are constantly making breakthroughs to aid growers in getting the most out of their crop.
Myth: Canola produces mustard gas.
Truth: Canola belongs to the same family as cabbage and cauliflower. Canola, along with cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower, is part of the genus Brassica, which belongs to the mustard family of plants. Although members of this family are occasionally mistaken for ingredients in mustard gas, they have nothing to do with it. Mustard gas got its name from its mustard-like odor.
Myth: Canola oil causes allergies.
Truth: Canola oil is not allergenic. Food allergens are proteins that can cause the body's immune system to react in susceptible individuals. Allergic responses are abnormal ones by the immune system to a specific food. Since traditional refined canola oil does not contain proteins, it will rarely, if ever, cause an allergic reaction.
Myth: Canola oil spoils quickly.
Truth: Canola oil has a long shelf life. Canola oil can be stored at room temperature for about one year. This is about the same shelf life as most other vegetable oils. Store canola oil in a cool, dark cupboard for optimal shelf life. Cold-pressed canola and flavored canola oils should be refrigerated to maintain their flavor and freshness.
Myth: Canola oil is an industrial lubricant.
Truth: Canola oil is used in biodiesel, lubricants, soap and other products.
Any oil derived from plants can be used in making these products. Oils from canola, olives, corn, soybeans and flax can all be used to make a wide range of non-food items, including cosmetics, paints, plastics and more. Vegetable oils can even help fuel your car with biodiesel. Canola oil is a particularly good feedstock for biodiesel due to its low saturated fat content. In this case, what's good for the heart is also good for the engine.
*(1) Limited and not conclusive scientific evidence suggests that eating about 1½ 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 replace a similar amount of saturated fat and not increase the total number of calories you eat in a day.