Is Canola Oil Bad for Your Health?
										Nutrition experts weigh in on the pros and cons of consuming this vegetable oil.

Is Canola Oil Bad for Your Health? Nutrition experts weigh in on the pros and cons of consuming this vegetable oil.

Every other week, there seems to be a new villain in the nutrition world, and canola oil is no stranger to bad press. But real talk, is canola oil bad for you? Canola oil (also known as rapeseed oil) comes from vegetables, more specifically, oil extracted from the canola plant. This popular kitchen staple can be found in many highly processed foods (like candy bars), which is one of the reasons why it’s often associated with poor health outcomes.

Some health communities have also raised concerns over how it’s extracted and produced, and some argue that canola oil’s high omega-6 fat content can lead to extra inflammation.

But claims of its serious health detriments—like causing heart disease, triggering insulin resistance, and escalating inflammation—are largely fueled by research conducted on animals, not humans. In fact, according to the Mayo Clinic, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and the American Heart Association, canola oil is not only safe to use, but has also been categorized as “better for you” due to its low saturated fat content.

Downsides of Using Canola Oil

Canola oil isn’t a perfect pantry staple. Like any highly-processed food, it has some downsides worth discussing. Here are 7 reasons why it’s best to consume this fat in moderation. For more, don’t miss our definitive ranking of the best oils to cook with!

Making canola oil is a multi-step process. It involves heating the seeds several times as well as using a chemical solvent called hexane to extract the oil from the plant, according to the Canola Council of Canada, an organization dedicated to educating the public about canola, one of Canada’s leading crops.

Most commercially available canola oil is highly processed and refined, and “this processing can lead to the loss of beneficial compounds and the potential formation of harmful substances,” says Crystal Scott, MS, RD, a registered dietitian with Top Nutrition Coaching.

Benefits of Canola Oil

But that doesn’t mean all canola is off-limits. “Choosing minimally processed, cold-pressed or organic versions of canola oil can help mitigate these concerns,” Scott says.

Canola oil is often criticized for having a relatively high omega-6 fatty acid content compared to omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, canola has a 2:1 omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. “Ideally, our omega-6 to omega-3 ratio should be closer to 1:1, but the average American diet is more like 15:1,” says Megan Hilbert, MS, RDN, a registered dietitian with Top Nutrition Coaching.

So, is canola oil actually bad for you?

Some experts argue that an imbalanced omega-6 to omega-3 ratio in the diet may contribute to inflammation and chronic health conditions. But it’s important to note that the overall diet and balance of other fats consumed also play a significant role in determining the impact of the fatty acid ratio, Scott tells us. Still, omega-6s should not be avoided — they provide essential fatty acids that our bodies do not produce, which means we have to get them from a healthy, balanced diet, Scott adds.

To go from plant to bottle, canola oil goes through a complicated series of steps including seed cleaning, conditioning, cooking, pressing, extracting, and desolventizing, to name a new. Holy canol-y, that’s a lot of processing! However, almost all seed oils undergo a similar process, so we can’t point the finger at canola alone.

As you’re likely aware, eating lots of processed foods can be bad news for health. Research shows that diets high in so-called “ultra-processed” foods—those that go through multiple steps of physical, biological, and/or chemical change—can lead to a higher incidence of issues like cancer and heart disease. Canola oil all by itself won’t cause these diseases but may be problematic as part of a big-picture processed diet.

RELATED: The #1 Worst Oil for Cholesterol, Says Science

The side effects of cooking with canola might be more about what you’re cooking it with. Because of its high smoke point, canola often serves as the base for deep-fried foods like battered meats, hush puppies, and French fries. Baked goods are another popular medium for canola’s smoothness and mild flavor. Tasty as these dishes are, they’re not always the healthiest choices. If you reach for canola only to bake and fry, you could be unintentionally derailing your health goals.

Canola oil adds richness to salad dressings and helps veggies crisp up during cooking, but it doesn’t have much to offer in terms of nutrients. All of its calories (about 120 per tablespoon) come from fat. And whereas some oils, like olive and avocado, boast a variety of micronutrients and antioxidants, canola oil contains appreciable amounts of just two: vitamin E and vitamin K.

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