Is Canola Oil Healthy?

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Is Canola Oil Healthy
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A few days ago, one of my kids commented on  a jar of mayo I had out on the counter, asking “I thought we don’t eat store bought mayo because of the vegetable oils… don’t we just make it?”

I typically do make mayonnaise, but was trying a new soy and canola free mayo made with avocado oil (verdict at our house = approved!) Until now, I’d never found a good store bought option, so I always had to make it. The kids wanted to know what the difference was and why we didn’t eat canola oil.

This led to an interesting conversation about the origins and processing of canola oil and how it is different from other oils like olive oil, avocado oil or coconut oil. In fact, canola oil has a history almost as strange as the history of breakfast cereal.

The Problem with Canola

Though it is marketed as a healthy oil, canola oil is anything but due to its origins and processing. Just as coconut oil comes from a coconut, you’d expect canola oil to come from a canola nut or seed, right? But it doesn’t because there is no such thing.

Origins of Canola Oil

“Canola” stands for Canada Oil or Canada Oil, Low Acid, which is a modified industrial seed oil.

The plant that we now use to make canola oil was first bred in Canada in the 1970s, and was derived from the rapeseed plant. Rapeseed oil had been used for centuries, but mainly as an industrial oil and not for human consumption since it contained various compounds like erucic acid, that are toxic to humans.

An Australian study found that erucic acid can be toxic to the heart, in high enough levels. In the 1970s, Canadian scientists wanted to create a low erucic acid version of rapeseed oil that could be consumed by humans, and Low Erucic Acid Rapeseed (LEAR) or canola oil as we know it, was born. It is high in monounsaturated fats, has a moderate level of Omega-3 and very little saturated fat, making it an inexpensive option that big food companies could market as healthy.

Compared to rapeseed oil, canola oil has a very low level of erucic acid — legally, it can only contain 2 percent erucic acid in the United States, so it is touted as a “heart healthy” oil.

Is Canola Oil GMO?

If you eat organic and stay away from genetically modified food, canola oil likely isn’t for you. Canola crops are often heavily treated with pesticides, and the vast majority of canola crops have been genetically modified.

According to the Canola Council, up to 80 percent of the canola grown in Canada has been genetically modified to make it resistant to pesticides. Estimates are that 85% of canola oil crops in the US are genetically modified at this point.

Canola Oil Processing

Another issue with canola oil is that it is highly processed. Canola seeds go through an extensive process to become oil. Seeds are cooked and formed into cakes, pressed to extract some of their oil, treated with the solvent hexane to extract more oil, and finally degummed and refined. Here’s a video that explains the process in depth:

From a previous post:

This chart from this informative article on the history and production of canola oil shows the process in more detail:

canola oil chart

Nothing like petroleum produced, overheated, oxidized, and chemically deodorized salad dressing for dinner… yum.

Canola oil is still proportionately high in polyunsaturated fats, which go rancid easily. Additionally, most canola oil is considered partially hydrogenated, and recent studies have shown that canola oil and other vegetable oils do contain processed and toxic trans fats (source).

Healthy Fats?

Canola oil is still considered healthy by some because of its low saturated fat (7%) and high monounstrauted fat (63%) content, but it still contains a high level of polyunsaturated fat in a higher concentration than we need. While it does contain Omega-3, it isn’t in a form that is easily usable to the body. From Authority Nutrition:

It is true that canola oil contains a balanced ratio of Omega-6 and Omega-3 fats.

However, keep in mind that although we need some amount of polyunsaturated fats, we absolutely do not need a lot.

Eating a lot of canola oil would raise your intake of polyunsaturated fats to unnatural levels, much higher than we were exposed to throughout evolution.

These fatty acids do get incorporated into cell membranes and are prone to oxidation, which can cause free radical chain reactions and damage important molecules like proteins and DNA (8, 9).

Also, the Omega-3s in canola oil are ALA (Alpha Linolenic Acid).

ALA is the plant form of Omega-3s, which is useless until it is converted into the animal forms – EPA and DHA.

Several studies suggest that humans are inefficient at converting ALA to EPA and DHA, so the high Omega-3 content of canola oil may not even be worth bragging about (10, 11).

For those wanting to increase the monounsaturated fats they consume, olive oil contains more of these types of fats, less polyunsaturates and does not undergo a complex chemical process to become a usable oil.

This article delves more deeply into the history and health effects of canola oil.

What to Use Instead of Canola?

Thankfully, there are many good alternatives to canola oil and most of them taste better too! At our house, we use:

  • Olive oil or avocado oil in place of canola or vegetable oils in low temperature cooking or cold uses like salad dressings
  • Coconut oil, butter, lard, ghee or tallow in high heat cooking or baking

The Mayo Dilema

The one food that I had the most difficult time finding a replacement for canola oil in was mayonnaise. I love mayo, and after switching to a real food diet had trouble finding a similar tasting replacement. I ended up making my own, and while I liked the flavor, it was definitely not the same as “regular” mayo.

If you’re like me and crave the taste of “regular” mayonnaise, there hasn’t been a healthy option available. Until recently, that is. Mark Sisson’s just created and released a new avocado oil mayo and it got rave reviews when I served it to my husband and kids last week. It’s currently only available at Thrive Market here.

Have you replaced canola oil with something healthier?

Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


59 responses to “Is Canola Oil Healthy?”

  1. Johnna Avatar

    Trying desperately to figure out an oil I can use when I have a fruit allergy , so olive, avocado and coconut oil are out. Any suggestions that aren’t nut oil’s?

  2. Wendy Avatar

    Yes, would have to agree that is the best avocado mayo on the market! I’ve tried a few difference kinds and Primal Kitchen is the best!

  3. Pete Avatar

    You condemned an organic, cold-pressed oil as being processed in a way it isn’t. Cold pressed isn’t the processing that you describe in the article. You should amend it.

    You and several posters also claim that the origin of all rapeseed oil is GMO. The plant was hybridized in the 70s for human consumption. Gene splicing wasn’t done then. You should note that and correct posters that are misinformed.

    You also criticize the form of Omega-3 and you should note that the people dutifully adding products like flaxseed are also using the same form of Omega-3.

  4. Allie Avatar

    The idea that ALL canola is GMO is a misconception. As for the health benefits/risks, you’ll have to decide for yourselves.

    Canola was created by cross-breeding rapeseed plants in the 1970’s. Cross-breeding has been used to increase desirable traits and remove undesirable ones in both plants and domestic animals for centuries. Genetic engineering technology, splicing specific genes, did not exist at the time.

    A USDA Organic certified canola oil can not legally be made from GMO seeds or be extracted by solvents. Certified organic canola is mechanically expeller-pressed from non-GMO seeds. Also banned are the use of most synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, growth hormones, sewage sludge, and irradiation ( The risk of cross-contamination with a nearby GMO field is something to consider for any organic crop.

    Non-GMO Project verification requires genetic testing of individual ingredients and precursors for the presence of GMO’s Note that non-GMO does not mean organic. Pesticides like glyphosate may still have been used.

    If you find the term “canola” to be misleading because there is no canola plant: The term “canola” was created to label this specialized rapeseed breed because consumers find “rape” unappealing on product labels. But all words were created by someone sometime. It’s no more false than the name Labradoodle, also created by cross-breeding.

    Most canola on the market is GMO, doused in pesticides, and something I want to avoid. Organic, non-GMO canola can and does exist. I have yet to decide whether I want to consume it. I’d love to see more research on the organic growth and extraction process.

  5. Rosemary Evans Avatar
    Rosemary Evans

    This is a great article. I don’t consume soy, corn or canola. My friend says that “organic” canola is good and she called the farmer and he said that it was not GMO’d and really was “gold=pressed” from the seeds and that is why they can claim it is “organic” on the bottle. I think this confuses people because everything I have studied and read says it has been modified…and I believe the plant was modified at some point and therefore is a GMO’d product….so maybe they don’t use chemicals to extract it now but at some point the plant was altered, right?

  6. Jessica Avatar

    Thank you for this article! I deeply appreciate your thorough approach to controversial topics. I find that so many alternative health or holistic nutrition “articles” out there lack any evidence at all, and I struggle to know what is true. Thank you for fighting so diligently for the health of your family, and in turn fighting for so many of us!

  7. sabrina Avatar

    Hi! love your site. I recently found this site and wondered IF expeller pressed organic Canola or Soy oil is considered healthy?? What do you think?

    In mayo…
    Ingredients: Organic Expeller Pressed Soybean Oil, Water, Organic Egg Yolks, Organic Whole Eggs, Organic Distilled White Vinegar, Salt, Organic White Mustard (Organic Distilled Vinegar, Water, Organic Mustard Seed, Salt, Organic Spices), Organic Lemon Juice Concentrate.

  8. So Young Avatar

    Thank you for posting this report. The information you present is consistent with my knowledge of canola and is in large part the reason why I have replaced it with avocado oil in my kitchen years ago. One important fact I have to add, is that avocado oil has a high smoke point, on average around 500 degrees depending on the source of the information.
    A smoke point for oil is the temperature at which oil burns and changes chemical structure releasing molecules through smoke, and leaving behind cancer causing agents. Oils that have started to smoke should be discarded. Since avocado oil has a high smoke point, it can be used in high heat cooking and baking.
    Avocado oil also has a mild flavor unlike coconut oil and can be used in place of vegetable oil. Additionally, it is cold pressed, minimally processed, and has beneficial antioxidants and omega 3’s. There is only one minor downside from my experience, which is that it will solidify in the refrigerator. I circumvent this by preparing my salad dressing with all ingredients except for the avocado oil and mix it at the time I need it.

  9. Vito Avatar

    Thanks wellness mamma its mothers like you spreading the word that are our only hope. When the millions of kind loving and trusting american mothers finally wake up and see how they have been lulled to sleep and kept in the dark and made acomplices in the health destroying end that big food is bringing us all too. I like you understand the cold ugly truth its sickening to know that there are people that would in the name of profit hurt the ones we hold dearest but when it does come out and they know the truth they are going to be very very angry!! How can Russia Switzerland India Australia and over 75 other nations have banned or seriously restricted gmo and here in america most people cant give an even close to accurate description its a sin. I could pick a 100 mothers coming out of a supermarket and ask them for a definition and I’d bet 95 couldn’t give one why? how?

  10. zara Avatar

    try a research about grape seed oil too. as I understand, the grape’s seeds doesn’t have that much oil to produce this amount of oil all over the word. no company doesn’t explain clearly how they make it and as i know, they just put the seeds in another oil such as canola oil to mix the extract of grape seed with the oil. this is The most optimistic assumption!!!!!!!!!!

  11. Catherine Avatar

    We use Grapeseed oil (notice the “G”) for our homemade mayo. The results are great and I’ve been really happy with it. Have you tried it and what does your research indicate about the healthiness?

  12. Susan P Avatar

    As the plant that provides canola oil had to be genetically modified before it could be consumed without poisoning the person consuming it why would any form of canola oil be acceptable?

    The grain that produces canola oil is a GMO version of rape seed. Rape seed was the source of “mustard gas” used in biologic warfare during WWI. Inhaling mustard gas produced a fast and horrific way to die.
    Before rape seed could be used to produce canola oil for human consumption it had to be modified to reduce, but not eliminate, the eurcic acid it naturally contains. Eurcic acid was the active ingredient in mustard gas.

  13. Joy A. Avatar

    What do you think of palm shortening (from a trusted source like Tropical Traditions) for use in baking and/or deep frying?

      1. Joy A. Avatar

        Did you find it to be a healthy alternative or did you not like it?
        Also, how long does the new mayo that you tried stay good for?

      2. Joy A. Avatar

        Do you find it to be a good sub for canola oil or prefer the other oils you mentioned?

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