vancouver-nutritionist-canola-oilI’ve become so familiar with my local grocery stores that I’ve reached a point where I almost don’t even notice the unhealthy products staring at me from the shelf. It has almost become habitual for me to stroll down the aisles and quickly grab the products I know and love.

The other day I paused for a moment and took at glance over my shoulder towards the shelves of various cooking oils. I had almost forgot how overwhelming this section can be! Olive oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, peanut oil, coconut oil, canola oil, unrefined, first pressed, cold pressed, virgin, extra virgin … the choices go on forever! As our society begins a shift back in the direction of more health consciousness, it’s easy to see why so many people are still struggling. Fats and oils are one of the most crucial aspects to our health. Consuming adequate amounts of good quality fats is essential to restoring and maintaining our well-being. After all, every cell in your body are comprised of fats which make up the cell membrane. If we are consuming poor fats, then how can we expect any cell within us to be functioning optimally?

Canola oil is one of the oils that concerns me. It is hailed as a healthy alternative containing omega-3’s and may in fact have benefits for your heart. However, we should take a look at it’s origins to fully understand what it is so we can make an informed decision.

As opposed to most other oils, such as olive oil or sunflower oil, canola is not made from a “canola” plant. There is no such thing. In fact, this oil comes from a plant called rapeseed. The name Canola oil is a marketing ploy that was implemented as a result of the negative feedback associated with the name “rapeseed”. In the 1970’s, the term “canola” was derived from “Canadian Oil, Low Acid”.

Although changing its name may not seem like a big deal, this allows companies to essentially hide what their product is actually made from. Prior to human consumption, this oil was actually developed as a lubricant for industrial machinery. What the Canola marketing campaigns fail to inform you of is that rapeseed, the very thing canola is produced from, is toxic to humans and poisonous to nearly all other living animals! The toxicity comes in the form of erucic acid. When rapeseed is processed, the levels of erucic acid are reduced and said to be “safe for human consumption”. My concern is that toxic levels are still present, regardless of how low they are. If a person were to consume that small amount of poisonous substance regularly over the course of several years, a dangerous amount could accumulate and lead to serious illness. Considering human consumption really only started in the late 70’s or early 80’s, we really don’t have any significant long-term statistics showing that canola is safe for us.

When low quality oils are consumed, there is a decrease in nearly all aspects of your health including, but not limited to vision deterioration, central nervous system disruption, respiratory illness, blood toxicity and anemia, constipation and bowel irregularities, heart disease and cancer, low infant birth weight, irritability and depression. On top of all this, Canola is almost exclusively genetically modified.

The subject of canola is a sensitive one which is under constant debate. I believe it is important for us, as consumer, to know the facts about the products we are putting into our bodies so we can make informed decisions.

Are you comfortable consuming an oil produced from a known toxin? What are some of the healthier options you prefer?