Canola oil

A light tasteless oil derived from the rapeseed plant. Canola is low in saturated fats (the bad guys) and high in cholesterol balancing monounsaturated fats (the good guys). It also contains Omega-3 fatty acids which is a polyunsaturated fat reputed to lower both cholesterol and triglycerides. Some claim that omega-3’s contribute to brain growth and development. All of which adds up to the fact that Canola, along with olive oil, is one of the healthiest oils available.

With a smoke point of 435 F, canola is excellent for both pan frying and deep-frying and with a light flavor it is great for cooking when you don’t want the oil to overpower the taste of your dish.

Rapeseed oil, however, has not always been on the grocery lists of the health conscious. In fact it was not allowed for consumption in the United States prior to 1974. Its use was limited to that of a lubricant and was most notably used to maintain Allied ships during World War Two. Apparently you can also use it as a fuel and many greens consider it a possible alternative to gasoline.

The bad rap for rapeseed came not so much from the unfortunate name, but from the fact that unrefined rapeseed oil naturally contains a high percentage (30-60%) of eruric acid, a substance that has been associated with an increased risk in lung cancer. When cooked at high temperatures the unrefined oil gives off chemicals capable of causing mutations in cells. Then in the 1970’s the crafty Canadians managed to crossbreed the euric acid out and they rechristened the new and improved oil Canola.

In America Canola oil has been steadily growing in popularity as the news of the health benefits spread. It’s not hard to imagine a day when a cook might be able to take the leftover oil from their fried chicken, pour it into their car, drive to the doctor and get a clean bill of health.

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