What is Canola Oil?
Canola oil, a canola oil considered the healthiest cooking oil available on the market, is low in saturated fat, high in monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA) and polyunsaturated fat (PUFA) such as omega-3 fatty acids. The oil is obtained by pressing canola seeds, which are harvested from rapeseed pods.
In the late 1960s, scientists used traditional plant breeding methods to remove unwanted traits from canola, mainly erucic acid and glucosinolates.
Using rapeseed oil
Canola oil is a common ingredient in foods like mayonnaise, salad dressings, and margarine.
Vegetable oils such as rapeseed oil, after processing, can also be used industrially to prepare lubricants, oils, fuels, soaps, paints, plastics, cosmetics, and inks. Canola and wheat are also used to make ethanol, a component of benzene (gasoline and ethanol). Canola seeds can also be used as biodiesel.
Composition of rapeseed oil
Canola oil is highly valued in the food industry due to its fatty acid content:
- Saturated Fat - Canola oil contains 7% saturated fatty acids; about half the level found in corn oil, olive oil and soybean oil, and about a quarter of the level found in cottonseed oil.
- Monounsaturated fatty acids - The most abundant fatty acid found in nature is the monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA), oleic acid. It is present in almost all fats and oils, and in some, such as olive oil and canola oil, it is a basic fatty acid. Oleic acid makes up 61% of the total fatty acids in rapeseed oil. Among the common vegetable oils, canola oil is second only to olive oil in the content of oleic acid. Research over the past 15 years has shown that dietary oleic acid is as effective in lowering plasma cholesterol levels as dietary polyunsaturated fatty acids (namely linoleic acid). Humans and other species are capable of synthesizing oleic acid, so it is not required in the diet; in other words, it is not such an essential fatty acid.
- Polyunsaturated fatty acids - Canola oil is intermediate among vegetable oils in the content of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). It contains significantly higher levels of PUFAs than palm oil or olive oil, but lower levels of PUFAs than corn, cottonseed, safflower, soybean and sunflower oil. Interest in PUFAs stems from their role as essential fatty acids and their effectiveness in lowering plasma cholesterol, a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Linoleic acid has long been recognized as an essential fatty acid. Animals, including humans, cannot synthesize it, and therefore it is necessary in their diet. However, they are able to convert linoleic acid to arachidonic acid and other members of the omega-6 fatty acid family (also known as n-6). Arachidonic acid is important in membrane structures and is the starting material for the synthesis of "hormone-like" substances such as prostaglandins, thromboxanes, prostacyclins and leukotrienes. These substances, collectively referred to as eicosanoids, are closely associated with a wide range of physiological reactions such as blood clotting and immune response. Rapeseed oil has a ratio of Omega-6 (linoleic acid) and Omega-3 (alpha-linolenic acid) 2: 1.
Useful properties of rapeseed oil
Fat-rich traditional diets have shifted to low-fat or low-fat diets due to research into the association of saturated fat with heart disease. In 1953, Dr. Ancel Keys published a paper that provided the basis for scientific support for a negative view of cholesterol.
Oils rich in saturated fat have been persecuted, and rapeseed oil, like other vegetable oils, has been praised and become a standard recommendation for cooking because of its low saturated fat content. Another reason why canola oil is in high demand is because of the large amount of monounsaturated oleic acid.
Studies have shown that oleic acid is as effective as omega-3 polyunsaturated fats in lowering plasma cholesterol levels. Proponents of canola oil also see it as a good source of omega-3 fats, which many people lack.