Is Olive Oil or Canola Oil Healthier?
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Is Olive Oil or Canola Oil Healthier?

There is a debate as to which is healthier, olive oil or canola oil. There are big differences with both of these cooking oils and some of these differences might surprise you. Learn about the differences between canola oil and olive oil and you can decide which the healthier oil is.

There is a debate concerning which oil is healthier for us, olive oil or canola oil. Some people do not trust canola while others do not believe the health benefits of olive oil. A lot of people like to say sunflower oil comes from sunflowers, olive oil comes from olives and peanut oil comes from peanuts, but there is no canola plant so it must not be natural. There are a lot of suspicions about canola oil.

Facts about Canola Oil

There are some odd myths about canola oil and there are some disturbing truths about canola oil. First of all, mustard gas that has been used in various wars is not made from the same plant as canola oil or rapeseed.

Canola oil is made from the rapeseed plant. Rapeseed oil has been used for thousands of years in India, Japan and China. Rapeseed oil contains erucic acid which is thought to cause fibrotic lesions of the heart, known as Keshan’s disease.

During the late 1970s, Canadian scientists used gene splitting techniques and genetic manipulation to come up with a rapeseed variety that produced monounsaturated oil that was low in erucic acid and high in oleic acid. Oleic acid is the main fatty acid in omega-9 fatty acids. This new cooking oil was dubbed Low Erucic Acid Rapeseed or LEAR. The name was later changed to canola, which stands for Canadian Oil – Low Acid. In 1989, the FDA approved canola oil on the condition that the eurcic acid did not exceed 2%.

There are rumors that the Canadian government paid the FDA a sum of $50 million for the FDA to bypass the usual health studies for this new canola oil and give it GRAS status or “generally regarded as safe”.

Canola oil is 62% oleic acid (omega-9), 22% omega-6, 10% omega-3, 6% saturated fats and 124 calories per tablespoon.

Pros of Canola Oil

  • Canola oil has a healthier omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 2.3:1.
  • Has less saturated fat than olive oil. For this reason, the FDA has allowed manufacturers of canola oil to put the qualified health claim on their labels.

Cons of Canola Oil

  • Most of the seeds that are grown for canola oil are GMO seeds by Monsanto. The seeds are the RoundUp Ready GMO seeds.
  • A Canadian study using piglets found that canola oil depleted the piglets of vitamin E and in some cases to dangerously low levels. It has not been found out why canola oil increases the demand for vitamin E [1].
  • Canola oil is banned in the United States for use in infant formulas because not enough is known about canola oil and newborns.
  • Other studies have found that canola oil might retard growth.
  • Foods that are baked using canola oil can get moldy quicker.
  • Canola oil can go rancid quickly because of its high sulphur content.
  • There are numerous reports that because of the deodorizing process that canola oil goes through during its processing, the omega-3 fatty acids actually turn into trans-fats.

Facts about Olive Oil

Olive oil has been used for thousands of years and is associated with the healthy Mediterranean diet. Many proponents of the Mediterranean diet believe the health benefits comes from the olive oil, while others believe the health benefits are a combination of the olive oil, vegetables, whole grains and fish.

According to the USDA, olive oil breaks down as 77% monounsaturated oil, 8% omega-6, 1% omega-3, 14% saturated fat and 124 calories per tablespoon.

The Pros of Olive Oil

  • Olive oil has polyphenols which are potent antioxidants.
  • A recent study found that extra virgin olive oil has strong tumor killing effects on HER-2 breast cancer cells [2].
  • Olive oil is very high in monounsaturated fats (MUFA) which are considered the healthy fats.
  • Of the cooking oils, olive oil has the highest amount of oleic acid, the main fatty acid in omega-9.
  • You do not have to worry about GMO olive oil.

The Cons of Olive Oil

Dr. Dean Ornish, respected doctor and diet author shocked most people when he came out in favor of canola oil over olive oil. His main reasoning was that canola oil was lower in saturated fat than olive oil.

This item can just as easily be in the pro-canola oil category as well. The Vogel study caused many to believe olive oil was not the health food we thought it was. Dr. Robert Vogel fed 10 participants different meals and checked their pre-meal and post-meal blood flow (flow-mediated vasodilation or FMD). The meals consisted of fat from olive oil, canola oil or salmon oil. The study found that blood flow was reduced by 31% after the olive oil meal, but was not reduced after the canola or salmon oil meals [3].

This study concluded that the benefits of the Mediterranean diet come from the antioxidants in the vegetables and possibly the protective effects of the omega-3 fatty acids in the fish more so than the olive oil alone.

Conclusion

There is distrust of canola oil, mainly because it is viewed as a manmade unnatural food and what rapeseed oil used to be before the genetic version. The study finding that canola depletes vitamin E is worrisome. Canola being mainly GMO does not help the reputation for canola oil either.

There are no odd suspicions with olive oil. It is known for what it has been for years and that is a healthy part of our diet. Like so many healthy parts of a healthy diet, it takes more than just one piece. Olive oil can be healthy in moderation and should be combined with other healthy foods like vegetables and fish.

Copyright © Sam Montana 2012

Resources

[1] ScienceDirect.com - Additional Vitamin E Required in Milk Replacer Diets that Contain Canola Oil

[2] NaturalNews.com - New Study Finds Olive Oil Effective against HER-2 Breast Cancer

[3] Readers Digest - The Great Olive Oil Misconception — Dr. Ornish Responds

[4] JACC - The postprandial effect of components of the Mediterranean diet on endothelial function. J Am Coll Cardiol, 2000; 36:1455-1460

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Comments (20)

A bit off topic but every summer here we have many beautiful fields of rapeseed, they always look so stunning!

Thanks Sam, I never knew where the name canola came from and now I'm so much more knowledgeable! Voted & tweeted!

Very very informative. Good one here Sam. Please my fellow writers should pardon me for not always leaving a comment. I use a modem and sometimes the connection could be really annoying. I have been trying to leave a comment in this article and i hope this goes through. I enjoy your write ups Sir Sam; especially those on finances. Tops!

Ranked #1 in Food Safety

I use both in my kitchen. I had never thought much about the differences between them health wise.

Ranked #4 in Food Safety

I'm currently getting rid of all oils in my kitchen except for olive oil and macadamia nut oil.

Ranked #2 in Food Safety

Sandy, flax seed oil is good to keep around. You cannot cook with flax seed oil, but adding it to salad dressings is healthy. Flax seed oil is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.

A wealth of information here regarding canola oil and olive oil. Thanks for the info, very helpful and interesting. Voted.

Very interesting and thought provoking. Personally, I prefer olive oil. Thanks you for breaking it down so clearly. Now, one can make an informed decision when purchasing. Good job here! Toted

I usually use Olive but it is kind of expensive. Buzzed up

Excellent post and very informative too.

This is something to think about. We had been using canola oil for health concerns but that view has changed because of your articles. Informative read.

Ranked #6 in Food Safety

Excellent report on edible oils. Voted. Thank you Sam for your friendship and support.

Sam, this is an outstanding article on Olive oil and Canola oil. I don't us Canola oil, but not for some of reasons you stated, it going rancid is the one of them and for me it doesn't hold up in baking and high heat cooking as it will break down too quickly.  Great research and presentation..voted

Sam, this is an outstanding article on Olive oil and Canola oil. I don't us Canola oil, but not for some of reasons you stated, it going rancid is the one of them and for me it doesn't hold up in baking and high heat cooking as it will break down too quickly.  Great research and presentation..voted

Great info Sam! Personally, I always use olive oil. I neverreally thought of using canola oil, and after reading about ithere, I don't think I would ever use it.

Sam I really liked this article, especially since I use both canola and olive oil for cooking. I found it interesting the facts you dug up. I am out of recommends =(  sorry. they just don't give us enough with this new system....Peace Jaz

Oh I stumbled it and Dugg it though = )...Jaz

Very interesting. I think I will stick to enjoying the beauty of the rapeseed fields rather than the oil 

I'm still a fan of Extra Virgin Olive oil. It's the only oil I use. Interesting fact about blood flow and canola oil, though. That's eye opening.

Ranked #2 in Food Safety

Lauren, that was one small study. But it is a widely recognized study. It is interesting that when olive oil is combined with a meal of salmon or vegetables, the blood flow was not restricted as much. 

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