Canola Oil - Is It A Better Choice?

The ones that do the cooking in our homes have grown largely accustomed to using time-honored brands of cooking oil on the stove. A few years ago, however, a rather new comer was introduced in the United States, in 1986. Since then, it has been growing in popularity, not only in the home, but also in commercial food preparation. Since it looks like it is here to stay, let's consider some of its qualities, and then you can determine if it is for you.

What is Canola Oil? and its Benefits.

Canola oil, unlike corn oil, which is made from corn, and coconut oil, produced from coconuts, and peanut oil - you know where it comes from, has a problem when we try to think about - What in the world is a canola, anyway? It quickly becomes apparent that its name was made up, and does not reflect any particular plant.

It is made from the rape plant, which is related to the mustard family. Other plants that are also in this family are the cabbage, radishes, watercress, and turnips. When it was made, the manufacturer did not think that it would sell good in the US under the name of "rape oil," so they decided to use the name canola, which is derived from the words Canada oil.

Varieties of this plant contain a not-so-healthy erucic acid. Through successful cross-breeding, however, the Canadian company was able to replace this largely undesirable acid with oleic acid, which is monounsaturated, in 1974.

Has canola oil been used in cooking before?

Cooking oil made from the rape plant (usually referred to as rapeseed oil) has been around for centuries. Some references to its use in China go back over 2,500 years. Earlier versions of this oil (before it was modified), however, have been proven in a number of tests, to potentially create some health problems. Canola oil has been used in the past, is still being widely used in Europe, India, Japan, China, and is receiving approvals for use in other countries.

Currently, Canada's production of canola oil is outdone by that of the European Union. The difference being, however, that the Europeans have decided not to call their product by the name canola. Instead, they refer to the same product as: oilseed rape, rape oil, or, rapeseed oil. It has been referred to by these names ever since it was introduced in Europe, right after being made in Canada.

What is the debate over canola oil?

Sometime after canola oil was introduced into the US, some articles appeared which attempted to discredit the new product, even calling it poisonous, toxic, and related to mustard gas. In the years after the letter, each point of it has been proven to be false. It was probably because of this letter that the EU did not want to call their product after this same name - but it is the same thing. One unique difference was that Europe does not permit the making of canola oil from genetically modified plants. Much information about this product is available on the internet, along with replies from the manufacturer.

Are there any advantages of using canola oil over others?

This question can be answered with a resounding "Yes!" Professional chefs, and many cooks at home, are finding that they like it best. Here are some ways that canola oil would be an excellent choice in your kitchen:

Canola oil...

  • is healthier than all other cooking oils, because it is lower in saturated fats, and has more monounsaturated fats - including omega-3 (the good kind)
  • does not transfer food flavors, when reused (strain it first)
  • can be heated at a higher temperature safely than other oils (428-446 F before it will start to smoke) (A note of caution here: if an oil is permitted to smoke, then it could be producing carcinogens; this is why canola would be your best choice for use in a wok.)
  • will stay clear and runs freely after being in your refrigerator
    • will not separate from other ingredients in your salad dressing
  • can safely be used to replace the various fats in your recipes

Overall, there’s the fact - now it is your turn. Go out, get your own bottle of canola oil, and then use it on your favorite recipe to determine what you like best about it.

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