Canola Oil: The blob that ate butter, olive oil, coconut oil and peanut oil threatens American cuisine

Canola Oil: The blob that ate butter, olive oil, coconut oil and peanut oil threatens American cuisine

By | March 29, 2012 at 6:28 pm | 111 comments | Nutrition | Tags: , , ,

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The Canola Blob

(As published in the Napa Register)

Today I need to make the following emergency public service announcement:

 

The restaurant world has been taken hostage—by Canola oil!

 

Over the past several months, Luke and I have eaten out at all sorts of restaurants here in the Napa Valley, from Mexican to Thai, from Chinese to French, from Italian to Fusion. And we’ve discovered there’s one thing nearly every meal had in common.

If an American food product contains under 0.5 gm trans fat “per serving” it can legally claim “0 gm”

Canola oil.

This week, Cate and I celebrated our wedding anniversary, so we decided to go for a special night out. A friend recommended a place in the next valley over, so we took the drive in hopes that this quaint little eatery might provide a temporary shelter from the relentless Canola downpour. Maybe, just maybe, we wouldn’t be offered yet another menu built on the viscous foundation of this “neutral” oil.

But alas, like a breached tanker foundering on a reef, our hopes were dashed.

Scribbled upon the chalkboard hanging above the service window was the plat du jour:

First up, Belgian Endive Mixed Greens drenched in a Canola oil Vinaigrette.

For the main course, Apricot Couscous, Braised Greens, and a Saffron Braised Moroccan Chicken marinated in Canola oil slowly braised in a Canola oil sauce.

I would go on, but I can almost feel my laptop keys getting slippery. Many modern-day restaurants—even higher priced restaurants; our bill with tip came to just under a hundred bucks—are now essentially purveyors of Canola. That means if you go out to eat on a regular basis there’s a good chance that one-forth to one-third (or more) of the calories in your diet now come from the Canola oil used in the recipes.

So what’s the problem? Canola’s good for you, right? Just ask your server; they’ll tell you. (I’m serious, ask them, and witness them leap to the defense of this ubiquitous food product as if they just bought stock in the stuff.)

Here’s list of our favorite sales pitches for the promiscuous use of Canola:

  1. “It’s got a high smoke point!”
  2. “No one’s allergic to it, like with peanut oil.”
  3. “It’s not animal fat, so vegans can still order fries!”
  4. “It’s not just pure Canola. It’s a blend.”
  5. “The chefs like it for its neutral flavor.”
  6. “It’s cheap!”
  7. “It’s heart healthy!”

The first six statements are fairly innocuous. But the claim that Canola (a rapeseed cultivar developed in the early 1970s) is “heart healthy” is not only untrue, it is almost universally rejected by the world’s leading lipid researchers.

Why Butter is Better (And olive oil, and peanut oil….)

PUFAs oxidize in the factory during refining, creating from 2-5% trans and other distorted, toxic fats. (See Chapter 7 of Deep Nutrition) When you cook with them, more trans fats form, thanks to a process called the Free-Radical cascade. All biochemistry professors understand this, however too few health professionals have any clue about the health hazards associated with consumption of refined vegetable oils.

The preponderance of current evidence suggests that Canola oil is a trans-rich toxin that, perhaps more than any other single component of the modern American diet, has contributed to increases in cardiovascular disease, metabolic disfunction, ED, stroke, dementia, and a long list of other familiar diseases.

Among the experts, this is no longer controversial: Canola oil is death in a bottle.

You might recall how, several years ago, the New York City Board of Health banned the use of all but small amounts of artificial trans fats in the city’s restaurants. Soon after, Governor Shwarzenegger signed a similar restaurant bill terminating trans in California.

Trans fat, or “trans” for short, is a misshapen molecule that, once consumed, binds to your body’s enzymes in such a way that the enzymes cannot release them. The enzymes mistake the trans for natural fats, and once they pick them up they can’t let them go. That’s what makes trans so unhealthy.

But just a second, you might be thinking, Canola doesn’t contain trans fats, does it? I mean, they’d have to say so on the bottle, wouldn’t they?

Yes, they would, if they were selling the Canola oil north of the border, in Canada. Here in the US, there is no such labeling requirement, so most consumers never learn that their bottle of “heart healthy” Canola contains as much as 5% trans fat, a percentage that goes way up when Canola is heated during cooking.

And since most people don’t happen to have PhDs in biochemistry, consumers don’t realize that the trans fat content is just the tip of the toxic iceberg. Trans fats are a predictable molecular product of Canola oil processing. It’s the unpredictable, randomly mutated molecular configurations that are making so many people sick.

Know your fats! The polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) content determines its heat stability, which tells you if you can use it for cooking. The other key fact to know is that PUFAs do not come out of seeds very easily, and must be extracted with heat and/or chemicals, which mutates them.

Free Radical Damage

These other distorted molecules—trans’ entourage of nasty thugs—react with oxygen and iron in the bloodstream to create a barrage of free radicals. These free radicals beget more free radical formation, creating “free radical cascades” that, like radioactive energy, can be absorbed by every cell in your body, creating tissue damage and frying your arteries.

How did all this trans and other distorted molecules wind up in Canola oil? From extraction and processing, that’s how. Ironically, the Canola oil that sits in the Canola seed is just fine, even healthy, as it is high in essential omega-3 fatty acids.

The processed Canola oil—extracted with heat and high pressure and the use of harsh solvents, like hexane—is, chemically speaking, an entirely different animal, a substance rendered so rancid you’d think it would stink.

That’s where the “bleaching” and deodorizing come in.

I understand that this is a lot to swallow. So for now, suffice it to say that, if you’re serious about protecting your longterm health, you might want to look into the facts surrounding this now ubiquitous oil, because it’s everywhere, and not just in the restaurants. It’s in salad dressings, olive oil blends, and so-called health foods like grandola. Heck, they’re even coating dried blueberries with the stuff.

Don’t believe me? Take my challenge: See if you can go one week without consuming Canola oil. Check the labels on the foods in the store, and gently compel your waiter or waitress to tell you about Canola oil in your restaurant order (tell them Canola gives you heartburn).

The first five people to go a week without eating Canola will win a free copy of my book, Food Rules.

How to claim your prize:
  1. In a comment box below, post the name(s) of restaurants in the Napa Valley you found Canola-free food, and be sure to tell us if you had to make any special requests.
  2. In a separate comment box, share with us a brief description of what you eat when not at restaurants.
  3. You may use more than one box if needed (we’ve got a 500 character limit and our web team is on leave at the moment)
  4. Dr Cate.com will contact the first five qualified entrants by email to arrange pickup of your free book!
  5. May the healthiest Napan win!
Related Posts
List of vegetable oils and video discussion on why they’re bad: http://drcate.com/vegetable-oil-is-everywhere/
How Canola and other vegetable oils ruin a healthy salad: http://drcate.com/salad-dressing-the-silent-killer/
How Canola and other vegetable oils contribute to intestinal inflammation gluten intolerance: http://drcate.com/what-is-celiac-disease-a-recipe-for-recovery-beyond-gluten-free/

I don’t endorse products lightly, but I was honored to be part of Sean Croxton’s Paleo Summit and put together a video that describes why I call cholesterol pills the “gateway drug” into the medical system. The video is part of a package available here: http://paleosummit.com/order/

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111 Comments

  1. Top 10 Reasons Butter is Good for You – Grow Wellness Acupuncture | Acupuncture, Herbal medicine and Doula services (3 months ago)

    […] I grew up in the ’80′s, and like many families of that time we replaced all butter in our house with margarine substitutes – in the forms of spreads, sticks and sprays. We were following the dietary advice of the time, which promised us lean bodies, long term health and reduced risk of heart disease. Unfortunately, this information was incorrect and based on inaccurate science. Saturated fat, like butter, in it’s natural form is a health tonic. In fact, primary culprits of promoting systemic inflammation and heart disease are vegetable oils that are in – you guessed it! – butter substitutes and margarine (for more info on that, click here). […]

  2. Advantages of Breastfeeding: Formula Contains Aluminum! - Primal Docs (6 months ago)

    [...] Nutrition. For information on why these harmful fats are never revealed on infant formula, read this post. And to make sure your healthy dinner salad won’t contaminate your own breastmilk wil trans fat, [...]

  3. Sabrina (9 months ago)

    Dr Cate,

    I was wondering why peanut oil is safe to use when it does indeed contain PUFAs? i recently switched my family over to peanut oil, but then came across its nutrition facts on the following website: http://www.fatsecret.com/calories-nutrition/usda/peanut-oil

    The company of peanut oil I am using is Planters 100% peanut oil. Your advice is greatly appreciated!

  4. Elisha (9 months ago)

    All I have to say is, thank goodness for canola oil! It’s all I cook with at home and we will only eat at restaurants that use it. You see, my toddler has peanut, soy, dairy, and egg allergies. No family restaurant is going to spring for olive oil, so that leaves canola oil. It’s frightening that restaurants might even *consider* using peanut oil, considering how many people it could send into anaphylaxis.

  5. JR (10 months ago)

    Here is my Canola Oil experience. I am a young, healthy 20 something. I started becoming very sick after eating to the point of food would go in one end and out the other within 10 minutes. This went on for over 2 years. I finally went in for a colonoscopy and the results were clear. I was told by my Dr that nothing was wrong with me and that I had a “nervous colon”. I went on the BRAT diet and my symptoms cleared up immediately.. I slowly started integrating new food and figured Granola bars would be ok. About 10 minutes after eating it I knew it was something in the Granola bar. I checked the ingredients: Whole Grain Oats, Sugar, Canola Oil, Bingo! I was eating oatmeal and sugar prior with no symptoms so I was able to rule them out. This stuff makes me so sick that even a minuscule amount (I accidentally ate one Canola laden croûton and that was all it took) causes explosive diarrhea with large amounts of mucous (sorry TMI). I can no longer go out to eat or eat the majority of processed foods which has been a blessing and a curse. Dont eat this Soylent Green like product, you have been warned….

  6. Heather Carraher (11 months ago)

    I don’t eat any vegetable oil at all since I read Deep Nutrition, but I was alarmed to learn that the extra virgin olive oil I buy could be tainted with vegetable oil. I haven’t yet read the book, but in Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil the author apparently illustrates how olive oil producers in the Mediterranean cut their olive oil with vegetable oil because it’s cheaper. Something like 70% of the olive oil on our store shelves has vegetable oil in it apparently. Like I said, I haven’t yet read the book (going to the library tomorrow to check it out), but this is alarming if it’s true. Do you know anything about this at all?

    • Dr. Cate

      Dr. Cate (11 months ago)

      At one point in time it was cut with hazelnut because it has a similar fatty acid profile and actually I don’t think it would be terribly bad for us, however if people couldn’t taste the difference that suggests a potential problem. Taste usually does not lie. But if it’s now being cut with vegetable oil that’s worse for sure. Again, the best bet is to taste and then maybe you could try to get your money back.

  7. Julia (1 year ago)

    Dr. Cate, my grandmother always used lard for cooking. Can you comment on it? I just noticed it is not in your list.

  8. Colleen Heater (1 year ago)

    Hi Dr. Cate, I have just read your book for an article I am writing on good and bad oils. You say peanut oil is good but I cannot find any explanation for how good, and for what uses. I understand it has a high smoke point, so I am assuming for cooking it is okay, what about eating? and organic cold-pressed is best? Also, you mention above that avocado oil is good. can it be used in cooking? thanks I enjoyed your book Deep Nutrition

    • Dr. Cate

      Dr. Cate (1 year ago)

      You got it right on all counts about peanut oil. And yes, avo oil is good for cooking. It’s all based on the percentage of MUFAs, PUFAs, and Sat fats as well as how gently it’s processed.

  9. Leslie (1 year ago)

    Canola, soy and/or sunflower oils are listed as ingredients in many Whole Foods-branded and stocked products. Recently diagnosed with a laundry list of food sensitivities, I now read labels top to bottom. Most of their 365 products and their olive bar/deli/hot products contain one or a combination of these. I see these offenders in almost every type of packaged food, from snacks to marinades and condiments to soups (even some simple broths) and beyond, so I recommend checking labels. Be alert–they’ll slip it past you.

  10. Are You Pop Paleo or Deep Paleo? Read this to find out. | drcate.com (1 year ago)

    [...] Canola stands for all toxic industrial oils.) I avoid the stuff at all costs. And if you’ve followed my blog or read any of my books you know I think you would do well to do the same. In fact, along with [...]

  11. Colin Smith (1 year ago)

    I used to buy a supermarket flax oil, which I now assume to be “refined’. It was sold as being virgin and cold-pressed organic. I am trying an unrefined organic product, which produces much different results in my bowel movements. The info on the bottle of the more recent purchase says it is ‘unrefined’, and has a nutty taste. It certainly is a different product, because it produces different results; much more benefical!

    I place 6 tablespoons of non-fat yoghurt in a bowl, and then 3 tablespoons of the flax oil and blend them with a hand whisker for a few minutes. It is said that a new food is produced which is a cancer preventative. I began to use it a few ears ago, in response to a series of traumas I experienced. It was discovered by Dr. Johanna Budwig in Germany, back in the thirties. Traumas are said to induce a ‘cancer’ response, so I set about to use it as a preventative food.

  12. Andrea Scherer (1 year ago)

    Dr. Cate,
    I’m familiar with the good oils and bad oils that you note in Deep Nutrition. One more question…I’ve been frying our foods in extra virgin olive oil…am I using this oil incorrectly? Essentially, should I go for an olive oil that is from a second press with a higher smoke point? If you could clarify this you would put my mind at ease :). Thanks so much!

    Andrea Scherer
    Minnesota

    • Dr. Cate

      Dr. Cate (1 year ago)

      The smoke point is only a concern if you actually burn your food. The oil oxidation issue can occur independently. Health-wise, you are always better off with a higher quality oil that has more antioxidants.