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“Canola” Oil Is The Acronym For Rapeseed Oil

Cooking oil is among key culinary staples which is found in practically every recipe that involves baking, frying, or sautéing. Canola oil is often associated with deep fried foods and baked goods. Yet people don’t even know its real name. That’s because “canola” is actually an acronym.

Canola oil is an industrially produced vegetable oil made from rapeseed, which belongs to the mustard seed family. Rapeseed's unfortunate name comes from the Latin word “rapum” which means turnip. Rapeseed oil was a common cooking oil in Europe and Asia centuries. However, scientists discovered that cooking unrefined rapeseed oil at high temperatures caused lung cancer because of the chemicals it gives off.

Rape is one of the most cultivated oil plants which is a renewable raw material for production of liquid biofuels.

Changing The Name From Rapeseed Oil into Canola

Rapeseed oil contains a pretty high percentage of erucic acid, which is directly linked to heart lesions in lab animals. In 1970s Canadian companies succeeded in reducing the erucic acid (2 percent) and replacing it with a type of monounsaturated acid. They named the new variation of rapeseed oil "canola" which stands for Canada (“can”) oil (“o”) low (“l”) acid (“a”). By conveniently renaming the rapeseed oil "canola," the new product was distanced from its association with rape.

Think about that the next time you go grocery shopping.

Both Omega-3’s And Omega-6’s Play An Important Role In Health.

The consumption of omega-6 from vegetable oils in the typical American diet have dramatically increased over the past 50 years. The elevated ratios of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids are associated with inflammation that is associated with various chronic diseases.

The US average omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is 30:1.

A omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 3:1 may prevent inflammation.

A omega-6 to omega-3 ration of 1:1 may reduce inflammation.

It is definitely difficult to achieve omega-6 to omega-3 ration of 1:1 with modern diets. Over the decades the typical American diet has been overrun by omega-6 fatty acids – and while these are polyunsaturated fats and as a large category of fats considered a good option – the issue is the imbalance of omega 6’s to omega 3’s.

Overall, our suggestion is to eat a balance of all the different types of natural fat sources – omega-3 polyunsaturated, omega-6 polyunsaturated, saturated and monounsaturated fats. It’s not necessary or realistic to eliminate all omega-6 polyunsaturated fats from our diets. We can focus on correcting the imbalance by either reducing our omega-6 consumption OR increasing the omega-3 consumption – or a bit of both!

So how do you start moving away from so much omega-6 consumption and lowering the ratio back to a healthier level? Here are some suggestions:

Few great places to start! Switching your cooking oil from a vegetable oil blend to avocado or olive oil will reduce your omega-6 consumption and eating 14 walnut halves a few times a week will boost your omega-3 intake.

  • Consume at least 1000 mg of omega-3 fatty acids daily.

Eat 6-8 oz of seafood weekly.

Keep in mind that when it comes to salmon the canning process does not destroy the omega-3s while canned tuna does have less omega-3 content compared to fresh. Why the difference? For salmon – raw salmon is put into the can and then cooked but for tuna – it is cooked before canning. When it comes to cooking, omega-3 fatty acids do break down at high heats including grilling and smoking. When cooking fish, try the poaching method (which is done around 212°F) for the best nutrient integrity.

Fish isn’t your thing? No problem! Add chia and/or flaxseeds to your yogurt, power bowls, smoothies & salads. While whole flax and chia seeds pack a nutritional punch, some may pass through your digestive tract undigested; therefore, making it difficult to get the full nutritional benefit. For optimal absorption, eat them ground.

Another easy way to boost your omega-3 consumption is snacking on walnuts. Try to avoid roasting or using high heats on walnuts which will destroy the omega-3s.

  • Make saturated and/or monounsaturated fats the foundation of your diet and leading sources of calories.

Ideal monounsaturated fat choices include olives, almonds, avocados, & macadamia nuts.

Saturated fat options would be butter and coconut oil.

Coconut oil has certainly grown in popularity the past several years – touting a variety of health benefits due to its large amount of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) but as with all things- moderation is important. Aim for 2 tablespoons or less per day.

Wait, isn’t saturated fat bad? The PURE study is a large epidemiological study that looked at the relationship between macronutrients and cardiovascular disease and enrolled over 100,000 adults. This study found that a high carbohydrate intake was associated with higher risk of total mortality. Both the total fat intake and type of fat (including saturated) were not associated with cardiovascular disease, myocardial infarction, or cardiovascular disease mortality. In fact, saturated fat had an inverse association with stroke.

At the end of the day, it’s about balance! Should you eat only saturated fat? No of course not – it’s important to eat a balance of omega-3 polyunsaturated fats, monounsaturated fats and saturated fats to lower your omega-6 to omega-3 ratio for optimal health.

  • Make smart choices with your cooking oils.

Choose monounsaturated and saturated fat options for cooking as their smoke points are generally higher and less susceptible to oxidation.

For high heat cooking (450°F +), avoid vegetable oil blends which are often a mix of high omega-6 fats and choose avocado oil or clarified butter (ghee) instead.

For medium high heat cooking (400°F) such as baking and sautéing, choose olive oil.

Medium heat cooking (350°F) such as light sautéing does best with extra virgin olive oil, butter or coconut oil.

Avocado oil – like avocado- is rich in monounsaturated fats with about 70% of the fat source being monounsaturated, 13% polyunsaturated and 12% saturated (very similar to olive oil). While it does not contain the fiber and as many of the micronutrients as eating a raw avocado, it certainly can be a great option for high heat cooking.

Flaxseed oil has the highest amount of the omega-3 ALA by weight and is a great way to get more omega-3 in your diet. Unfortunately, flaxseed oil has a very low smoke point at ~225°F and should not be used for most cooking. Don’t fret though- it’s a superb option for dressings and cold dips.

  • Limit the use of omega-6 dominant seed oils such as safflower, soybean, canola, corn and vegetable oil blends.

Another way to reduce your omega-6 consumption is (when possible) to focus on more grass-fed animals including beef and chicken. Meat from grass-fed animals has 2-4 times more omega-3 fatty acids than meat from grain fed animals.


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