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Is canola oil a good oil or a bad oil? I have been reading a lot about people who are refusing to cook or bake with canola oil. I usually choose expeller pressed when I buy it. Can you clarify the debate surrounding canola oil?
This is another one of those urban myths that we have the internet to thank for. While there's so much good to be found on the web, there's a lot of misinformation out there.
Canola oil is made from the rapeseed. Rapeseed oil has been used for centuries for cooking in an unrefined form. There was association with an increased risk of lung cancer - apparently from high temperature cooking. At the same time the oil contains higher amounts of erucic acid which has been linked to heart disease. In the mid-1970s, however, rapeseed oil with low erucic acid content was brought to the market. The seeds were developed that replaced the erucic acid with oleic acid. These high levels of monounsaturated fats in the rape seed was the result of careful cultivation and cross breeding. After the change in makeup of the oil the Canadian government coined the term Canola (Canadian oil) in supporting their oil industry.
The oil is safe. I use it less often than I do olive oil, personally, because of the vast amount of research supporting olive oil. Because it's tasteless I use Canola oil for baking and other recipes where I don't want the flavor of olive oil to come through.
Thanks for writing.
Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP