Nutrition and Health Questions about Canola Oil

Q: What is the nutritional break down of Canola oil?

A: For 2 teaspoons (10 mL) refined canola oil
    83 calories
    9.2 g fat
    0.6 g saturated fatty acids
    5.8 g monounsaturated fatty acids
    2.0 g linoleic fatty acid (omega - 6)
    0.8 g alpha-linolenic fatty acid (omega - 3)
    no trace of cholesterol

Q: What vitamins can be found in canola oil?

A: Fats and oils like canola aid in the absorption of fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Canola oil also contains Vitamin E (1.9 mg in conventionally processed canola) and K (115-220 ug per 100g). Vitamin E is an antioxidizing agent and may be a valuable tool in fighting cancer and heart disease. Vitamin K is vital for blood clotting.

Q: What are the other nutritional benefits of canola?

A: Canola is recognized for its nutritional attributes as it contains the lowest level of saturated fatty acids of any vegetable oil. It is high in monounsaturated fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce blood cholesterol levels, and has moderate amounts of essential polyunsaturated fatty acids. Like all vegetable oils, canola oil is cholesterol-free. Nutritional research is confirming that the fatty profile of canola oil appears to be beneficial in preventing and treating coronary heart disease risk factors including high blood cholesterol and lipid levels as well as thrombosis.

Q: What is the difference between Alpha-Linolenic Fatty Acids and Linoleic Fatty Acids?

A: Linoleic and alpha linolenic acids are both polyunsaturates which cannot be produced by the body and therefore must be obtained in our diet. A polyunsaturated carbon chain contains two or more carbon to carbon double bonds. If the double bond starts after the third carbon it is classified as an omega-3 fatty acid; if it starts after the sixth carbon, it is an omega-6 fatty acid and so on.

They are called essential fatty acids and are necessary for such functions as cell-building and hormone production. Linoleic acid is an omega-6 fatty acid and is a major component of brain tissue and cell membranes and is required for growth and development of infants. When the diet is low in linoleic acid, virtually all organ systems are impaired. The central nervous system, the eye and platelets in the bloodstream are particularly vulnerable to a deficiency of linoleic acid. Alpha linolenic acid is an omega-3 fatty acid that has been shown to lower blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels. The omega-3 fatty acids also reduce the stickiness of blood cells and favorably affect the immune system. Alpha-linolenic acid helps reduce the risk of stroke and coronary heart disease.

Q: Do you know if there are any kind of allergies in relation with canola oil?

A: Pure oil is non-allergenic. In order to trigger an allergic reaction, a protein must be present. In the case of oils, occasionally a small amount of protein from the grain, nut or seed from which the oil is derived remains in the oil. If a person is highly allergic, this may be sufficient to trigger an allergic reaction. It would be quite unusual for a person to be so allergic to canola that the oil would cause a server reaction. In fact, it may be more common for a person to be intolerant (i.e. Experience a non-immune-mediated reaction) to a preservative in the oil (such as benzoates, BHA, or BHT), which are sometimes added to the oil (check labels). Such a person would react to the preservative regardless of the oil itself.

Q: What is the difference between an allergy and an intolerance?

A: Unlike a food allergy, food intolerance does not involve the immune system. However, the physical symptoms of food intolerance, such as intestinal discomfort, can resemble those of a true food allergy. For this reason, a food intolerance reaction may be easily confused with an allergic reaction.

When and individual swallows the allergy-causing food (usually milk, soy, wheat, peanuts, shellfish, eggs), antibodies rush in and attack the foreign substance. This may cause swelling and irritation in certain parts of the body so problem foods will need to be avoided. Some reactions may be life threatening. A true food allergy is an abnormal response of the body's immune system to certain foods or ingredients. The most severe type of food allergy reaction is called anaphylaxis. This reaction can occur within moments after eating the offending food. Symptoms may include hives, difficulty breathing, and loss of consciousness. Common foods that cause anaphylaxis are peanuts, nuts, eggs, and shellfish. Food intolerance is a physiological problem, resulting in the inability to digest a particular substance (i.e. lactose in milk or gluten in flour). Gastrointestinal upsets are common. Reactions range from mild discomfort to serious illness.

Q: Is canola recommended for celiac sprue or a gluten free diet?

A: Canola oil does not contain gluten and therefore allowed in a celiac or gluten free diet. Gluten is one type of protein that occurs especially in wheat, rye, triticale, barley, and must be avoided completely by persons with Celiac disease.

Q: Are all soft margarines non-hydrogenated? And how does canola based margarine compare with other products such as Becel?

A: Hydrogenation is a process used in the production of some margarines, shortenings, and other food products. This process involves adding hydrogen to liquid oil to make it spreadable at room temperature. Hydrogenation may produce a type of fat called trans fatty acid. Trans fats raises the serum cholesterol levels just as saturated fats do. This is why it is important for us to limit the intake of hydrogenated fat. The more hydrogenation that occurs, the harder the product is; for example, stick margarine is more hydrogenated (saturated) than tub margarine.

Certain margarines are made without hydrogenation. These margarines, made with one oil or mixtures of refined oils, have a higher content of saturated refined palm oil than most margarines. Part of the palm oil is fractionated, crystallized, and mixed with the oils. To obtain a uniform texture, the oils are then transesterified. This is a physical modification that rearranges the different fatty acids on the fat molecule but does not seem to affect their attributes. Brand names for such margarines include Becel, Olivina, Nuvel.

Canola has the best fatty acid ratio: It is lowest in saturated fats, high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. It has the lowest level of saturated fats of any vegetable oil. Nutritional research is confirming that the fatty acid profile of canola oil appears to be beneficial in preventing and treating coronary heart disease risk factors including high blood cholesterol and lipid levels as well as thrombosis. Like all vegetable oils, it is cholesterol-free. To compare fat profiles of different products, add the saturated fat and the estimated trans fatty acids together. The product with the lowest total for the same size serving is the better choice.

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