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Fat is Good (And Why Canola Oil is Never on My Shopping List)

A brief blog post about how and why you should choose your fats carefully.

Anyone who is on a severely fat-restricted method of eating is doomed to failure. Fat is one of the essential nutrients and is necessary for brain health, metabolizing fat soluble vitamins, keeping skin supple and many other bodily functions.

We need fat. It is a concentrated source of energy and any cook or chef knows-it carries flavor in foods. Anyone remember the fat-free craze of the 90s? Those foods tasted utterly horrid, not to mention that they were higher in sugar, salt and other fillers to make up for their obvious lack of flavor that would’ve been carried by the fat.  

I still cringe when I read about people substituting fat-free or “fake foods” such as Cool Whip or margarine or fat-free half and half. Those items are highly processed and usually filled with preservatives. Anyone wanting to eat clean should steer clear and be very wary of anything labeled “fat-free." Once you shun conventional wisdom and mainstream media misinformation  about fat-free, or even low-fat diets, be sure to choose fats that are good for you.

Now, full disclosure here: I am not a nutritionist, but someone who has been eating healthfully for the past 20 years and so far, have reaped the benefits of good, clean eating. I speak out of experiential knowledge rather than book knowledge. Don’t get me wrong, I am constantly reading and open to learning new things, but when a book or a nutritionist or even a doctor recommends either a low-fat diet  the usage of canola oil as healthy , I will simply say “no thank you, not for me.”

Canola oil is one of the newer oils on the market. It derives from the rape seed. I am sure the rape seed’s commodity board’s first order of business was a name change! Rape seed was previously unsuitable for human consumption due to the presence of erucic acid. It was bred (read: genetically engineered) to contain low or no erucic acid. Erucic acid has been associated with causing heart lesions. But the erucic acid issue isn’t the problem with canola oil anymore.

Even redeveloped, canola oil is NOT a healthy choice because of the following reasons:

  • It has a high sulfur content and goes rancid easily
  • It is processed at a very high temperature and is exposed to damaging light and oxygen.
  • It is treated with a solvent (hexane) to extract as much oil as possible. Although the hexane is boiled off, minute traces can remain.
  • It is deodorized to remove the smell. This process transforms the oils beneficial fatty acids into trans fats.

I have chosen not to use canola oil anymore at all. It is a highly processed product and there are better choices out there. Almost exclusively, I use extra virgin, expeller pressed organic olive oil, coconut oil from Tropical Traditions and organic, unsalted butter (preferably from pastured, grass-fed cows when available).

Mainstream media, many nutritionists (though not all) and many so-called health books will tell you that canola oil can be part of a healthy diet.  We would do well to choose our fats carefully and instead concentrate on eliminating or greatly reducing our intake of refined flour products ( usually the real culprit in making people obese and unhealthy). As mentioned before, this has been an experiential journey for me. One with a lot of learning and reading and instituting what I believed to be the best choices for health. I have been blessed with robust, good health thus far and am happy to share this with my readers.

Please feel free to comment…even if you disagree 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Linda Sadlouskos (Editor) July 20, 2012 at 04:30 PM
Interesting information on canola oil, Maria!
maria claps July 20, 2012 at 04:49 PM
Thanks Linda-go Meditteranean, go olive oil, all the way!!
Linda Sadlouskos (Editor) July 20, 2012 at 05:16 PM
I usually do, but now I'll stick with the time-tested way. BTW, my Italian grandparents never had high cholesterol, even though they ate butter, full-fat mozzarella, dessert with late night coffee...what does that say?
Lisa H. July 21, 2012 at 12:13 PM
As a PhD in nutrition and food science, I recommend that you do more research or consult a nutritionist before you post public articles. An alternative is to state upfront that this is your opinion only. It is incorrect to state that refined flour products are the real culprit in obesity - complex carbohydrates are a healthier choice, but too many calories of anything (including the most healthy food choices) and not enough exercise is the cause of obesity. Obesity shouldn't be blamed on any one food group or ingredient. To state that all fat-free products are bad is also a misleading statement. Some products are fat free in nature (not processed to remove fat) and steering people away from those defeats the purpose of your article. Finally most oils on the market are processed similarily to canola so villifying it for common oil processing techniques is also misleading. It is articles like this that mislead people from making truly informed decisions about healthy food choices. Anyone that wants to make informed food choices should consult a nutritionist or read only peer reviewed articles from reputable scientific journals.
xue ding July 21, 2012 at 01:02 PM
Dr. Lisa H. -- any examples on natural fat free product? also, this is a page for opinions, not research publishing.
maria claps July 21, 2012 at 02:25 PM
Hi Lisa H-I stated right up front that I am not a nutritionist, but someone who has 20 years of experience eating healthfully. I think that pretty much covers the fact that this is my opinion and not a compendium of scholarly research. While I agree with you that lack of exercise and too many calories of anything are implicated in obesity, I stand by my statement that refined flour products are a major contributing cause to obesity. I believe most PhD's and nutritionists would agree with that statement. And just because canola oil is processed in the same way as other detrimental supermarket oils such as soybean and corn oil, does not mean that I should not draw attention to it. It is a product unfit for optimal health because of the reasons listed in my article. Coconut oil, by the way, is processed very differently than the aforementioned oils. But, thank you for your comments.
maria claps July 21, 2012 at 02:33 PM
Hi Linda-what does that tell you about your grandparents? It sure would make me think twice about high cholesterol and its causes. I consume plenty of olive oil, avocado, nuts and moderate amounts of cheese as part of an eating plan that greatly reduces, if not outright eliminates, refined flour products. Yes, I exercise too. But I don't deny myself high fat foods for fear of cholesterol or obesity. My grandmother too, will be turning 96 soon and is in almost perfect health. Again, I am going to say, go olive oil and stay away from cheap, highly processed supermarket oils. I know my grandmother only uses olive oil and butter for cooking and baking.
Linda Sadlouskos (Editor) July 22, 2012 at 06:35 PM
For most of their lives, and even later, my grandparents ate virtually no (in their early years) or little processed food of any kind. I'm no expert, but that would seem to be a healthy choice _ and one which seems harder to achieve these days. Even "natural" foods have things, injected, genetically engineered, removed, "improved"....
TJ July 25, 2012 at 02:19 PM
I appreciate all of the comments and discussion on here. What I wonder now is -- why make that blog just about canola oil then? and while i use evoo almost exclusively, i have a bottle of canola in my pantry for times when olive oil isn't a good fit (it gets VERY hot -- need to be careful with some recipes). coconut oil won't do either (b/c of the recipes). any suggestions about an alternative?
maria claps July 25, 2012 at 03:27 PM
@TJ-I chose focus on canola oil, because so many people think it is a good choice. I don't know of any other oils besides the ones listed that I would use.
elgee July 27, 2012 at 12:42 PM
Thanks for the info, Maria. I have a bottle of canola oil in my pantry that I haven't used in quite awhile, and I think I will now be tossing it after reading about it going rancid easily! I did buy coconut oil recently, but haven't opened it yet because I'm not sure exactly how to use it. Same way as olive oil--for sauteing and stir-frying?

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