Why Canola Oil Is a Safe and Healthy Choice

Canola oil is a healthy oil for most any diet.
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Canola oil (from 'Canadian Oil') is a versatile and mild-flavored cooking oil. According to the Canola Council of Canada and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it’s the third most consumed oil in the world.  Canola is also a healthy oil because it’s high in beneficial fatty acids. 

Unfortunately, canola oil has been plagued with disinformation and rumors still exist claiming it’s dangerous for your health. This, quite frankly, is nonsense, and I’ll explain why.

Canola oil comes from seeds that were developed in Canada back in the 1960s and 70s when plant scientists figured out how to breed potentially a dangerous fatty acid, called erucic acid, out of rapeseed plants. Erucic acid is a type of fatty acid that’s bad for heart muscle.

Today's canola plants contain almost no erucic acid, so there’s no danger to the heart (quite the opposite, actually). So it’s important to understand the difference between the old inedible rapeseed oil and the modern canola oil, which is perfectly safe.

Here's How People Got Scared of Canola Oil

Some people conflate modern canola oil with inedible rapeseed oil that's used in lubricants, hydraulic fluids, soaps, and paints. But again, that’s not canola oil. Part of that problem might be that people outside of North America use the term ‘rapeseed’ when they talk about either canola oil or inedible rapeseed oil.

Health Benefits 

Canola oil has a healthful fatty acid profile in that it’s low in saturated fats and high in monounsaturated fats.  It’s also an excellent source of polyunsaturated fats, with a good ratio of linoleic acid (and omega-6) to alpha-linolenic acid (an omega-3) at about 2:1. Canola oil is also free from artificial trans-fats.

Research suggests the fatty acids found in canola oil may have a beneficial impact on cholesterol levels and reduces biomarkers of inflammation, so it’s an excellent inclusion of an anti-inflammatory diet.

In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration allows the following claim to be placed on foods that contain canola oil, as long as they are also low in cholesterol, saturated fat, and sodium:

Limited and not conclusive scientific evidence suggests that eating about 1 ½ tablespoons (19 grams) of canola oil daily may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease due to the unsaturated fat content in canola oil. To achieve this possible benefit, canola oil is to replace a similar amount of saturated fat and not increase the total number of calories you eat in a day.

Canola Oil and GMOs

Canola seeds were initially produced by traditional breeding methods. Most modern canola seeds have been modified to withstand some herbicides. Science and research show that GMOs are safe, and lots of clinical studies have been done with canola oil on humans.

But, if you're concerned about these sorts of things, organic and non-GMO canola oils are available at natural and health food stores in many cities, states, and countries.

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Article Sources
  • ​Sources:
  • United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service. "Canola."http://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/crops/soybeans-oil-crops/canola.aspx.
  • United States Food and Drug Administration. "Summary of Qualified Health Claims Subject to Enforcement Discretion." ​http://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/LabelingNutrition/ucm073992.htm.