Canola Oil Health Benefits and Side Effects

Written by: Christopher Karam | ✔️ Medically Reviewed by: Dr. Riad M., M.D - G.P and Micheal B., M.D | Last Updated: 2020 June 10

Canola oil, or better known as rapeseed oil, is a genetically modified vegetable oil made from the rapeseed plant, and it's one of the most used plant-based seed oils in the manufacturing and fast-food industries.

Famous for being inexpensive and able to sustain a healthy fry life with high temperatures makes it convenient for producers, farmers, and the fast food industry. Canola oil is mostly used in part with vegetable oil and is the main component of many salad dressings.

The canola plant has a strong presence in the united states markets and throughout the world. The increasing supply of canola oil within North American markets makes it the top choice of oil for manufacturers and consumers due to its availability and convenience.

canola plant and oil

The pure non-genetically modified (GMO) crop is almost inedible due to its severe heart disease-causing health effects and intense bitter taste. Additionally, it’s grown in horrible farming, breeding conditions, and is heavily sprayed with herbicides as well as pesticides.

As of today, over 95% of the rapeseed crop and oil that’s grown around the world is genetically modified to remove the harmful effects and is used in the home and recipes of nearly 30% of all North Americans.

Countless medical articles as well as the American Heart Association (AHA) are trying to promote the health benefits of canola oil relating to improved heart health. Looking into these claims further we found that over 85% of them were backed by canola seed and vegetable oil manufacturers.

However, many studies developed in Canada, as well as the United States, chose to promote canola oil as being a heart-healthy oil.

Many research papers also dispute these claims due to canola oil bring full of trans fatty acids, which increases your risk of heart disease.

The polyunsaturated fats found in canola oil have a 21% linoleic acid content. Which are a mix of omega-6 fats, 12% coming from omega-3 fat called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a plant-based source of omega-3s.

Canola oil can be substituted with safflower oil, a healthier alternative. Safflower oil has 50% of its fatty acid profile coming from saturated fats, and 50% coming from unsaturated fats (40% from monounsaturated fats, and 10% from polyunsaturated fats).

The safflower thistle plant also has no omega-3 fatty acids, unlike traditional canola plants. While also having no proven heart-related issues, safflower oil costs around 4x the price and evaporates much quicker.

In a case study with rats comparing soybean oil and canola oil, the even groups were fed a diet containing 10% of each, daily. The group being fed canola oil had their antioxidant levels lowered, and their total levels of cholesterol and bad LDL cholesterol.

The group taking soybeans had their antioxidant levels lowered as well, but to a much lesser degree. The plasma and HDL cholesterol levels were significantly higher.

It’s also heavily used in animal food products such as dog food, cat food, and even horse feed due to its wide availability and cheap price.

Canola’s cheap price isn't just for animal food products, it's widely used in cooking, baking, and salad dressing products found in most major supermarket shelves.

If you're looking for an alternative that's considerably heart-healthy and can even help you lose weight, opt into taking extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil.

Many scientific studies use canola oil with non-herbal tea compounds and antioxidants to verify as well as examine different behaviors. These have been conducted with the following non-herbal teas:

Canola Oil Health Benefits

High-oleic canola oil is acceptable for cooking due to its average smoking point. So recipes using it for light frying, roasting, and drizzling over foods are the best uses, flavor wise.

If you're looking to reduce your intake of saturated fats, it could be a good choice since it’s lower compared to other conventional cooking oils. The oleic acid in canola oil has the beneficial effects of reducing the likelihood of cancer, autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, as well as facilitate wound healing.

When canola oil is found in the market shelves as cold-pressed and refined, then it would get a slight recommendation (and only for certain uses) as there are much better options out there for you such as olive oil and coconut oil.

The research done on the positives impacts of canola oil is mostly short-term and aren’t a duration where the results would be conclusive in terms of helping reduce bad (LDL) cholesterol.

canola flowers in a jar

1. Low in Saturated Fats

If you're looking to reduce your intake of saturated fats, it’s a good choice since canola oil’s saturated fat content is quite low compared to other products.

The chemical composition of canola oil makes it a good option for cooking over higher heats, although it should not be used to cook with any setting above medium-high heat. Refined canola oil has a high smoke point of 204°C (400°F) while semi-refined canola oil's smoke point is 177°C (350°F).

If you can find variations in supermarkets as cold-pressed and refined, then it would get a slight recommendation (and only for certain uses) as there are much better cooking oils out there for you such as coconut and olive oils.

Most of its relevant research studies are mostly short-term and isn't at a duration where the results would be conclusive in terms of helping you reduce bad (LDL) cholesterol.

2. Full of Monounsaturated Fatty Acids

Monounsaturated fats have many beneficial effects for your heart and cardiovascular system when eaten in moderation.

These monounsaturated fats are a healthy dietary fat capable of lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol, a waxy substance that sticks to the inside of your arteries raising blood pressure and increases the likelihood of getting a heart attack, strokes, heart disease, as well as heart failure.

You can find monounsaturated fats in:

Multiple studies also pointed out that increased monounsaturated fat intake leads to an increase in HDL (good) cholesterol and triglycerides in the bloodstream lowering the risk of type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

3. Canola Oil Has No Cholesterol

8% of its fat composition is made up of saturated fat, saturated fat raises the level of good high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and bad low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.

People suffering from cholesterol deficiency can use canola oil to increase their total blood-cholesterol levels since saturated fats raise both HDL and LDL cholesterol.

Hypocholesterolemia affects a minority of the worldwide population as most foods and diets contain a lot of cholesterol. Some countries or regions that don’t have access to foods containing any cholesterol.

Hypocholesterolemia has many harmful effects including:

  • Steatorrhea issues: Reduced fat absorption by the small intestine, causing excess fat being stored in feces.

  • Neurological complications: Increases the rate of neurodegeneration, mostly affecting the hippocampal region. Reducing gene expression related to lipid metabolism, making the brain less efficient at breaking down fats for energy.

    Which lowers the cytoskeletal protein gene, responsible for the structural integrity of synaptic plasticity in the brain, hindering learning as well as short-term and long-term memory.

    Both pre-synaptic and post-synaptic activity is hindered when suffering from hypocholesterolemia.

  • Ophthalmological symptoms: Can cause age-related macular degeneration affecting eyesight and glial cells, having no known cure.

    Age-related macular degeneration is a disease that blurs and distorts eyesight over time, reaching legal blindness in about 10 years after initial diagnosis. Glial cells are used to insulate neurons.

  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: This is caused by excess fat accumulation in the liver in people who drink little to no alcohol. In extreme cases having little cholesterol in the bloodstream can even lead to cirrhosis and possibly liver failure.

rapeseed oil and farm

Canola Oil Side Effects and Detriments

Regular daily consumption of canola oil may lower cholesterol in the short-term but can increase heart diseases and other risks in the long term which is not worth it.

It contains a large amount of polyunsaturated fatty acids, and should never be smoking before cooking or using it. During production it becomes partly hydrogenated, containing a larger dosage of oxidized omega-6 fatty acids and trans fats.

Which is just barely under the legal limit, which is why it was a good change when it was introduced back in 2006 to 2009 for most fast-food chains.

The commonly sold vegetable oil is highly processed and is considered a GMO; Which means your liver and kidneys will be cleaning the excessive amounts of toxins which can cause disruption and damage of the organs if your intake is just moderate, not to mention if it’s elevated.

Avoid using it for deep frying, the intense heat breaks up the rest of the healthy omega-3 chemical bonds. Hydrogenating it even further, creating more free radicals.

Canola oil has large amounts of erucic acid, which is associated with many negative heart-related issues such as heart complications, hypertension, and strokes.

These acids cause calcification and inflammation in the arteries as well as increased ability to cause blood clots and increase fragility in red blood cells.

Additionally, it also depletes Vitamin E reserves, increases rigidity in cell membranes which makes it difficult to bring in nutrients and send out waste. Which can increase your triglyceride levels by 42%.

The worst part about its composition is that it’s full of sulfur, which makes it go rancid and bad much faster than other cooking oils, and because it doesn't produce any sour or unpleasant taste when it's spoiled which makes it harder for the average household to detect when it goes bad.

This also can trigger allergies and aggravate your existing issues if you have asthmatic or bronchial issues.

1. It’s Highly Hydrogenated

When making canola oil, companies heavily hydrogenate it because it’s naturally unstable. This helps it gain some stability in its chemical structure, composition, and cooking ability.

This also raises its negative health effects, like raising the risks of heart diseases, heart attacks, and strokes.

Regardless of its vitamin E antioxidant content, hydrogenating canola makes it toxic. This removes the majority of the nutritious elements where it becomes dangerous to eat.

2. Causes Liver and Kidney Strain

Excess canola oil consumption is bad for your liver and kidneys. The highly toxic free radicals you're ingesting causes lots of stress on your liver and kidneys to filter out the harmful oily contents.

In the long term, this can cause severe damage to your organs which can eventually lead to diseases and cancer in those areas.

canola oil bottles with rapeseed plant farm

3. Causes Heart Disease and Damage

Rapeseed oil has high levels of erucic acid which is most commonly found in canola oil and mustard oil, both having many studies proving its link with heart damage and heart disease.

At a large enough dosage, erucic acid can damage your heart health in every way. A diet full of poor foods causes toxic effects on your heart which include myocardial lipidosis and heart lesions.

This creates a lipid metabolism disease around heart muscle tissue causing irregular heartbeats. Heart lesions are micro-tears on the muscles caused by diseases, ulcers, and free radicals.

You can even find traces of it in pastries, cakes, biscuits, and other deserts aimed for children. Even for infants who are up to a year old, baby food formulas are the main source.

This negatively affects your child’s heart health if they're getting these high doses of canola and free radicals regularly.

4. High Levels of Trans Fatty Acids and Cholesterol

Depending on the GMO source of seeds, harvesting source, brand, and refining process, a canola seed has between 1% to 4% of its composition made up of trans fatty acids.

This is partly due to rapeseed oil undergoing a hydrogenation process to stabilize the product, which increases its total level of trans fats.

If you're worried about your long term heart health, you should avoid eating these harmful cooking oils too such as corn oil, safflower oil, soybean oil, and all other vegetable oils.

Rating and Recommendation

Not Recommended

All in all, we highly recommend avoiding canola oil due to its abundance of hidden harmful effects.

Even with the negligible benefit of its ability to reduce bad (LDL) cholesterol. When looking at its long term health effects, its hydrogenation, and that it finds its way into many processed foods ranging from adults to children.

Our only exception is unless you can buy cold-pressed canola and not use it for high heat cooking. In general, our rule of thumb is to stay away from all forms of canola.

Here’s the full list of the health benefits of canola oil:

  1. Low in Saturated Fats

  2. Full of Monounsaturated Fats

  3. Canola Oil Has No Cholesterol

Here’s the list of side effects of canola oil:

  1. Highly Hydrogenated

  2. Causes Liver and Kidney Strain

  3. Causes Serious Heart Damage and Heart Disease

  4. Large Amounts of Trans Fats

This makes it impossible to recommend to put it into your daily dietary routine. Regardless of the FDA's recommended dietary allowance (RDA).

Here is a list of unhealthy cooking oils that should be avoided as well:

Here are 2 great canola substitutes:

Substitute canola oil with olive oil

Olive oil is a cooking product that has stood the test of time as one of the healthiest oils you can put into your diet. People often compare canola oil to olive oil. Olive oil is healthier in every aspect.

When looking to substitute your canola oil, make sure you get extra virgin olive oil. When cooking with it properly, it can be a huge source of heart-healthy fats that also kills free radicals with all of its antioxidants.

Substitute with coconut oil

Coconut oil is another viable substitute. Being able to withstand high heats and light pan-frying makes for a 1:1 replacement when it comes to its cooking utility.

On top of that, its medium-chain fatty acids make it so your body begins to use that fat for fuel. After replacing canola oil with coconut oil, after 1 to 2 months you'll notice weight loss effects from just this switch alone.

Frequently Asked Questions

Canola oil is bad for you. It's one of the most toxic, hydrogenated, and least nutritious oil you can use. Used in almost every other home, canola oils are full of bad fats containing free radicals and trans fats, and cooking with it only makes it worse.

Canola oil is also bad for you since it offers very little nutrition. The amount of vitamins E and K that are found in its composition are low. If cooked with at a high enough heat, even before canola oils smoking point, you lose what's left of its antioxidants.

Over 95% of rapeseed plants are GMO's. Many studies are pointing to canola oil as being the leading cause of many kidney and heart-related diseases. This is because of canola oil's high levels of erucic acid, a toxic chemical that damages the heart muscle.

Health Canada has made a regulation enforcing canola brands to keep the trans fat levels between 2% to 3.75%, but varying research papers state that some labels have trans fatty acid contents ranging up to around 7.4%.

In mainstream medicine, canola oil's often talked about as being good for your body and healthy for your heart health. The main reason for these claims is because of canola oil's omega-3 fatty acid and poly-unsaturated fat profiles.

This isn't the case, canola oil is not healthy for you. The omega-3 fats found in consumer-grade canola oil are mostly rancid by the end of its production. Rapeseed oil goes through aggressive processing treatments to end up as canola oil.

Going through a refining and bleaching process that removes all health benefits that would've been present in its pure form.

After it goes through these treatments, the omega-3 fats get rancid and release an unpleasant as well as a toxic smell, it's then deodorized to remove the foul odor.

The rapeseed plant is scientifically called the Brassica Napus, part of the Brassicaceae family that's the group name for over 3,000 different kinds of mustards and cabbages alike.

Canola oil is made from the rapeseed plant, in its natural state rapeseed oil is very unstable. During consumer production, it's heavily hydrogenated to keep its smoking point high and it's shelf life stable, destroying any antioxidants that were present in its raw form.

Where does Canola Oil Come From?

Canola oil originated from Canada, its design and chemical structure was first conceptualized in Alberta, Canada. Canola oil's name is derived from the term "Canadian oil" because it's much lower in erucic acid compared to the untreated rapeseed plant.

Naturally, there's no such thing as a canola plant that's used to make canola oil. Canola oil comes from seeds and is a term used for rapeseed oil that's low in acid.

How is canola oil made?

All vegetable oils, canola oil included, are processed and developed using high heats and chemicals. These increase bad fats like trans fatty acids, free radicals, and rancidity.

The canola and rapeseed plant goes through a refining and bleaching process which kills off most of the healthy fats and antioxidants before creating a final product, being either vegetable oil or canola oil.

Canola meal is full of omega-3s. This type of fat becomes rancid very easily when exposed to oxygen and high heat. Because of the omega-3s becoming rancid during processing, the resulting canola oil is then deodorized to remove any toxic smells.

Going through the deodorization part of the refining process removes almost all of the omega-3s in the canola oil and changing the fat compound into trans fatty acids.

The Canadian government enforces that the unsaturated fat content of canola products stay between 2% to 3.75%, many studies have found that certain brands of canola oil can have its trans-fat content range up to 7.4%.

Canola oil is completely gluten-free and is vegan friendly. Rapeseed has no gluten in its composition what so ever, so it's an alternate option for people with gluten intolerance to consume canola oil.

Gluten comes from wheat and grains, rye, barley, malt, yeast, and wheat starch. The rapeseed plant doesn't fall into any of these sources of bread and grains.

Articles and Sources

1. Am Heart J. (2008 December 06) Omega-6 and trans fatty acids in blood cell membranes: a risk factor for acute coronary syndromes?

2. Lipids Health Dis. (2011 October 17) The effect of short-term canola oil ingestion on oxidative stress in the vasculature of stroke-prone spontaneously hypertensive rats

3. J Anim Sci. (1998 January 01) Effects of supplemental vitamin E and canola oil on tissue tocopherol and liver fatty acid profile of finishing swine

4. Lipids. (1992 August 08) Effects of dietary saturated fat on erucic acid induced myocardial lipidosis in rats

5. J Anim Sci. (1999 April 04) Influence of dietary rapeseed oil, vitamin E, and copper on the performance and the antioxidative and oxidative status of pigs

6. Am J Pathol. (1983 July 01) Induction of a reversible cardiac lipidosis by a dietary long-chain fatty acid (erucic acid). Relationship to lipid accumulation in border zones of myocardial infarcts

7. Nutr Rev. (2013 June 06) Evidence of canola oil health benefit

8. (1996 December 28) Canola Oil Side Effects, Interactions and Warnings

9. Sci Rep. (2017 December 07) Effect of canola oil consumption on memory, synapse and neuropathology in the triple transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease

10. J Am Coll Nutr. (1989 October 05) Food Safety and Health Effects of Canola Oil

11. ARYA Atheroscler. (2019 July 04) The effect of canola oil compared with sesame and sesame-canola oil on cardio-metabolic biomarkers in patients with type 2 diabetes: Design and research protocol of a randomized, triple-blind, three-way, crossover clinical trial

12. Obesity (Silver Spring). (2016 November 11) Effects of Canola and High-Oleic-Acid Canola Oils on Abdominal Fat Mass in Individuals With Central Obesity

13. Nutr Rev. (2013 June 06) Evidence of Health Benefits of Canola Oil

14. Med J Islam Repub Iran. (2017 January 15) How canola and sunflower oils affect lipid profile and anthropometric parameters of participants with dyslipidemia

15. Mol Nutr Food Res. (2015 March 03) Dietary Rapeseed/Canola-Oil Supplementation Reduces Serum Lipids and Liver Enzymes and Alters Postprandial Inflammatory Responses in Adipose Tissue Compared to Olive-Oil Supplementation in Obese Men

16. PLoS One. (2018 December 17) Characterization of canola oil extracted by different methods using fluorescence spectroscopy

17. NuJ Res Med Sci. (2012 December 12) Canola oil consumption and bone health

18. Nutr Rev. (2019 March 03) Diets Enriched With Conventional or High-Oleic Acid Canola Oils Lower Atherogenic Lipids and Lipoproteins Compared to a Diet With a Western Fatty Acid Profile in Adults With Central Adiposity

Canola Oil Nutrition Facts

Serving Size 100 g (about 3.5 Oz or 0.44 Cups)

Amount Per Serving
Calories 884 Calories from Fat 884
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 100 g 154 %
Saturated Fat 8 g 40 %
Polyunsaturated fat 26 g
Monounsaturated fat 61 g
Trans Fat 1.8 g
Cholesterol 0 mg 0 %
Sodium 0 mg 0 %
Potassium 0 mg 0 %
Total Carbohydrate 0 g 0 %
Dietary Fiber 0 g 0 %
Sugars 0 g
Protein 0 g
Vitamin A 0 % Vitamin C 0 %
Vitamin E 0 % Vitamin K 0 %
Vitamin D 0 % Vitamin B6 0 %
Calcium 0 % Iron 0 %
Magnesium 0 % Cobalamin 0 %

Calories per gram:

Fat: 9 | Carbohydrate: 4 | Protein: 4

Source: USDA's Nutrient Database

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