The Startling Truth About Canola Oil – Part 2

Written by Anil Bajnath, MD
Posted July 15, 2021

Dear Longevity Insider,

Canola oil is not what you think it is. I mentioned on Tuesday a few crucial points. Canola oil is more of a "seed oil" than a vegetable oil. There is no such thing as a "canola plant." In fact, the name canola is the combination of “can” from Canada and “ola” that stands for “oil, low acid.” Look at Part 1 of this series for the full breakdown.

So why is canola oil touted as a healthy oil?

Canola oil is commonly marketed as a healthy oil and a healthy alternative to replacing saturated fats and trans fat. The American Heart Association recommends using oils such as canola as a substitute for butter, shortening, lard, and even coconut oil. Let’s look at the nutritional fatty acid composition of canola oil:

  • Saturated Fats: 7%
  • Monounsaturated Fats: 62%
  • Polyunsaturated Fats: 28% 
  • Trans Fat 1.9-3.6%

Canola oil is low in saturated fat at 7%, making it one of the cooking oils with the lowest amount of saturated fats. It is important to note that canola oil has low (yet some) trans fat content, although it is commonly marketed as “zero grams trans fat." Despite this claim, all vegetable oils contain small amounts of trans fat. However, the U.S. Food and Department Administration (FDA )allows a “zero grams trans fat” claim for any serving size with less than .5 grams of trans fat.

With the health industry promoting eating less fat (specifically saturated fat) I believe this has opened room for canola to take center stage as the oil of choice for many. Critics for decades have associated saturated fats with increased heart disease, promoting a low-fat diet. Despite many health organizations pushing for a lower-saturated-fat diet, The Journal of the American College of Cardiology published an article revealing mounting evidence that saturated fats are not the issue in itself. The problem is the combination of saturated fats and highly refined carbohydrate foods.

Saturated fats are not all the same as it is a complex nutrient. We simply cannot compare grass-fed, organic, lean cuts of steak to a highly processed, cheap, low-quality, fast food burger. Additionally, it is important to note the difference between fat and fatty acids. Saturated fats, as we have learned in the past few weeks, are foods that are primarily lipids. They're solid at room temperature due to their structural property of fatty acids.

Alternative Fats 

Most of my patients prefer whole naturally occurring foods and prefer their oils to reflect that as well. Luckily, we have an array of options with oils.

  • Quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO): Primarily made of oleic acid, EVOO is a beneficial monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid that is linked to health benefits such as reduced inflammation and blood pressure levels. EVOO also contains oleuropein and hydroxytyrosol, which have strong antioxidant, cardioprotective, and neuroprotective properties. EVOO is made from pure, cold-pressed olives. This makes it the least-processed version of olive oil readily available. Since many antioxidants and vitamins are lost throughout the manufacturing process, cold-pressed oils are considered better choices as their processing preserves its nutritional integrity. 
  • Extra Virgin Coconut Oil: This is an unrefined coconut oil. We want to stick with unrefined oils as the refining process can strip the flavor and nutrients.
  • Extra Virgin Avocado Oil: Here's another great option and has a high smoke point (250°C).  Additionally, the fatty acid profile is similar to that of olive oil and is primarily made up of oleic acid.
  • Extra Virgin Cold Pressed Grapeseed Oil: High smoke point making it a better option for sautéing or stir-frying. This oil is high in vitamin E and phenolic antioxidants and a rich source of omega-6 polyunsaturated fats (70%). 

One of the best things you can do is have a variety of oils in your pantry between higher monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and get creative! Before you go off to enjoy your incredible weekend, don't miss my important message about oils and what you can start doing today to help yourself.

To your longevity,

Anil Bajnath MD
CEO/Founder, Institute for Human Optimization
Chief Medical Officer, Longevity Insider HQ