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Archive for August 23rd, 2013

Grocery store shelves provide American consumers with a wide variety of cooking oils. Customers can select corn, soybean, peanut, olive, canola, and other oils. Is there a difference in the health values of these many choices?

According to the Agricultural Marketing Resources Center, Canola is a wise choice for healthful cooking. The Food and Drug Administration approved a qualified health claim that states substituting canola oil for saturated fats may reduce the risk of heart disease.

Canadian researchers developed canola from the rapeseed plant by eliminating undesirable characteristics of the latter. It is a member of the Brassica family and related to cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts. Canada is the largest producer of canola oil. North Dakota produces 80 percent of this nation’s crop followed by Oklahoma. Its tiny seeds contain 44 percent oil. Canola is the primary cooking oil in Canada and Japan. The United States and Mexico are the second greatest consumers.

Why is canola oil significant in the diet? Compared to other cooking oils, it has the least amount of saturated fat and one of the highest amounts of monounsaturated fats. Saturated fat has been shown to increase the risk for heart disease and to increase bad cholesterol (LDL) while the unsaturated fats are beneficial to health.

Canola oil contains no cholesterol but neither do any of the other plant-based oils. Although too much cholesterol can be detrimental to health, it is found only in animal products.

Canola is trans fat free. Most trans fat occurs when hydrogen is introduced into liquid oil to make it a soft or firm solid. This process results in increased heart disease risks in the same way as cholesterol.

Canola oil has several other advantages. When stored properly, it remains stable with a shelf-life of a year. Because it has a higher smoking point than most cooking oils, it is less likely to break down during high temperatures of frying.

Because of its benefits, some food establishments have switched to canola or a blend of canola with other oils. Taco Bell and McDonald’s are among fast-food places to make this switch.

Changing the type of oil for cooking is one small step in attempting to remain well. For a healthier cooking choice, try canola oil.

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