There’s no doubt it can be confusing whether or not canola oil is bad or good for you.
With so many conflicting opinions on the benefits of canola oil, there doesn’t seem to be a firm stance on it.
Some make it seem like canola oil is drinking toxic waste. While others say having some canola oil in your diet is good for your health.
Your body does need healthy fats to run and function optimally, but not all fats are going to be good for you.
Canola oil is low in saturated fats, high in unsaturated and high in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids.
Yet, some still say cooking with canola oil is like cooking your food in the black plague.
Most vegetable oils are unhealthy but there are some that are good for you.
Even though I’m sure you’ll agree canola oil can be bad or good depending on who you ask.
I’ll reveal to you the truth on why canola oil is actually good or bad for you with science-backed proof.
Why Is Canola Oil Good Or Bad For You
What Is Canola Oil?
Canola oil was created in the early 1970’s by Canadian researchers who wanted to create the perfect cooking oil.
The original canola oil was natural until 1995 when Monsanto decided to create a genetically modified (GMO) version.
As of 2005, almost 90% of canola oil on U.S. shelves is from GMO plants.
Canola oil was created by cross-breeding the rapeseed plant, which is a member of the mustard family.
Rapeseed oil itself contains high amounts of erucic acid. This compound can cause heart health problems in rats.
Canola oil was created from the rapeseed plant to produce a quality food grade product. After refining it is significantly lower in erucic acid.
Rapeseed oil contains around 43% erucic acid while canola oil only contains a negligible amount of 2%.
There are also the bitter compounds known as glucosinates found in rapeseed oil that make it taste bad.
The manufacturing process of canola oil takes out many of the glucosinates, which leaves the oil with a mild taste.
How Canola Oil Is Made
I’ll come right out and say the traditional manufacturing process of canola oil isn’t going to be good for you.
There is a lot of heat and chemicals involved in the process, which can’t be good to be putting into your body.
Since most of the canola oil in the world is made this way it’s important to seek out ones that have been safely manufactured.
Below you’ll see a video of how conventionally processed canola oil is made.
The FDA banned rapeseed oil for consumption in 1956, but approved canola oil as save in 1995.
Canola oil was named by combining the words “Canada” and “oil” together.
To be precise, it was coined from the phrase “Canadian oil, low acid.
For marketing purposes, they wanted to distinguish the newer created canola oil from its toxic precursor rapeseed oil.
How Canola Oil Is Bad For You
The big reason why canola oil can be bad for you is 90% of it comes from genetically modified (GMO) plants.
Some say eating GMOs can lead cause kidney, liver and neurological problems in your body.
Keep in mind there have been zero long-term studies on GMO canola oil finding it was bad for you.
The chemical solvent hexane is used during the refining process the canola seeds.
This refining process (deodorizing) uses hot steam to remove any compounds that may give the canola oil a bad smell or taste.
Some say the refining process of canola oil can leave trace amounts of trans fats in it.
There’s no doubt eating trans fats is very very bad for you. They’re associated with many serious diseases such as heart disease.
Since most canola oil is created from a refining process it can affect the stability of the molecules.
This can turn it rancid which in turn can kill omega-3 fatty acids and create trans fats.
One older study found canola oil and soybean oils to contain anywhere from 0.56% to 4.2% trans fats in them.
Nowadays, trans fats are highly regulated in the U.S. and in Europe with food manufacturers forced to use alternatives.
Even with the refining process, there should only be a very small fraction of percent trans fats in it.
Another 2017 study that made headlines found rats fed canola oil for 6 months had significantly worse memory than the control group.
This study was unfortunately found to have many flaws and should be taken with a grain of salt.
The researchers didn’t mention what they “standard diet” was and how much total fat was in it. They also failed to mention if both groups consumed the same amount of oil.
Why Canola Oil Is Good For You
When you pick out the right kind of canola oil it’s going to be up there with the healthiest of cooking oils.
Canola oil is high in inflammation fighting omega-3 fatty acids. These omega-3’s improve weight loss and reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer.
Canola oil is high in healthy monounsaturated fats, which are well known as the “good fats.”
Your body needs these good fats to run optimally. Gone are the days when eating low-fat was healthy for you.
Canola oil has a mild flavor and a high smoking point so it makes a good cooking oil.
You don’t have to worry about the flavor of the oil overtaking your food. You also don’t have to worry about it reaching its smoking point when cooking at higher temperatures.
Canola oil helps lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides by up to 25%.
A 2011 study in the Journal of Internal Medicine found a high canola oil diet lowered LDL and triglyceride levels in people with high cholesterol after 3 weeks.
And a 2013 meta-analysis of 40 studies by Nutrition Reviews found diets with canola oil reduced LDL cholesterol and decreased blood clotting compared to a saturated fat based diet.
Keep in mind none of these studies looked at the long-term impact of a diet high in canola oil.
There are newer studies finding dietary cholesterol might not be bad at all for your heart health too.
Common sense says cholesterol can be a risk factor (or might not be) for heart disease. It’s not the main driving factor for disease, but it could impact it.
Is High Oleic Canola Oil Bad For You
High oleic canola oil is used in commercial food production and is higher in monounsaturated fats than regular canola oil.
Traditional canola oil is high in both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats making it not very shelf stable.
The food industry prefers high oleic canola oil because it’s more heat stable. It’ll last longer when frying foods and in pre-packaged foods.
Food manufacturers used to use hydrogenated oils, aka trans fats, to increase shelf life and preserve flavor in foods.
Companies have recently stopped using these hydrogenated oils and instead have switched over to high oleic canola oil.
With the mild taste of canola oil, it’ll also be much less likely to develop weird off flavors in the food.
High oleic canola oil is heavily refined and I would steer clear of it unless you find one that’s organic, non-GMO and has been cold pressed.
You won’t find it on the shelves in oil form anyway. It’s primarily used in pre-made foods you can find on the shelves in the grocery store.
But the worst is eating the fried food. These foods soak up all the oil and essentially makes it so you’re drinking it right out of the bottle.
Eating pre-packaged foods isn’t generally a good idea for your health and waistline.
Instead, the majority of your diet should be from real foods like chicken, green vegetables, nuts, etc.
Canola Oil Nutrient Makeup
Here is the fat breakdown in canola oil:
- 7% saturated fats
- 63% monounsaturated fats
- 28% polyunsaturated fats
Canola oil contains a ratio of 2:1 omega-6 to omega-3s, which is good.
Saturated fats were once thought to be a major factor for heart disease, but recent research is proving that may not be the case.
The omega-3s in canola oil are in the ALA (alpha linoleic acid) form. Your body has to convert them to the animal form of EPA and DHA to properly use them in your body.
You want to have more omega-3 fatty acids in your diet than omega-6s. Unfortunately, the modern western diet is way higher in omega-6s.
Studies have found a diet high in omega-3s to improve inflammation, blood sugar, weight loss, heart disease and cancer.
This study found a diet high in ALA omega-3s significantly reduced heart attacks in those who had previously had one.
But some studies have found humans have a rather difficult time converting ALA omega-3s into EPA and DHA.
Some worry the heavy manufacturing process of canola oil can strip away many of the heart-healthy omega-3s.
The lesson here is to not rely solely on canola oil for your omega-3s. Instead, make sure you’re taking a quality omega-3 supplement like krill oil.
Interestingly, this study found canola oil helped to burn off belly fat in those with obesity after only 4 weeks. Canola oil makes my list of my favorite belly fat burning foods.
The Best Canola Oil To Buy
When buying a canola oil make sure you find one that is:
- free from GMOs
- produced without the use of chemical solvents
Here is the kind of canola oil I’ll buy from Amazon.
Make sure you either see expeller-pressed or cold-pressed on the label.
Expeller pressed canola oils may still use some chemical solvents. But the levels will negligible to the point you wouldn’t even have to put it on the label.
Recent legislation has made it a law for food manufacturers to clearly label if foods have GMOs in them.
Even if you find an organic, non-GMO, cold-pressed version of canola oil it doesn’t mean it should be a big part of your diet.
Get your good fats from other sources such as nuts, avocados, and salmon. Get your omega-3s from krill oil and sardines.
Stay away from conventionally produced canola oils if you can. The cons outweigh the pros by a long shot.
But even then canola oil is still better for you than soybean oil and some other vegetable oils.
If you want to avoid canola oil after reading this then you might want to try some extra virgin olive oil, macadamia nut oil or coconut oil.
I generally use extra virgin olive oil for dressings, canola oil for cooking with high heat and coconut oil for baking.
It’s a good idea to stay clear of any chemically processed foods and oils.
Refined canola oil that has been conventionally processed will be bad for you.
While an organic, non-GMO, cold pressed canola oil has many benefits that will be good for you in moderate amounts.
Some pseudoscience out there will make it seem like all canola oil is toxic waste, but science says otherwise.
Over 270 peer-reviewed studies on canola oil have found no negative impact on your body weight, energy or inflammation.
But they did find canola oil improved your cholesterol, triglycerides, blood sugar, insulin sensitivity and lowered cancer risk.
I wouldn’t start drinking gallons of it every day out of the bottle, but having some canola oil in your diet can give you plenty of health benefits.
Josh holds a Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Physiology and Nutrition Science. He’s a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) by the National Strength and Conditioning Association and he’s a Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) by American Council on Exercise. He’s worked as a Strength and Conditioning Coach at the high school and college levels. He has over 15 years of experience as a personal trainer and nutrition coach. He is also the author of The Flat Belly Formula. He strives to bring inspiration and results for people to live healthier lives through smart diet and exercise.