Trans-fat Oils and Canola

I’m trying to blow the whistle on Canola oil but I want to give you some background first.  Going into effect in the new year (2010) is the bill Governor Arnold signed in July ’08 to ban trans-fat containing cooking oils in restaurants.  This is a good start but the problem is that trans-fats in Canola are not recognized by the mainstream – one consequence of which is that everybody is recommending Canola as a healthy oil to cook with.

Trans-fats are fats created through a chemical process of oil hydrogenation.  It has been known for a while that they hurt the body’s ability to regulate cholesterol.  By 2005, the FDA had ruled that package labels must indicate the presence of trans-fats.

A recent SFGate article (link below) does a good job reporting on how many restaurants and bakeries have long since abandoned those oils, even before they got wind of the new law.  By the way, bakeries must have complied by 2011 to this law.   The article leaves you feeling like the switch to other oils came for other reasons.  I’d like to think those reasons were for health, but I wonder what the price of bulk oils for commercial use is these days?  And what are the varieties available?

While its great that we can feel a little safer eating out, the problem still remains in the supermarkets, and at home!   What are good fats/oils and where are unhealthy trans-fats found?

  • So called Canola oil, derived from rapeseed, is always refined. Why? Because in its unrefined state it is extremely bitter and nobody would buy it.   The process of refining it damages its much touted Omega-3 content and actually converts some of the Omega 3 into trans-fats!  Some people who know this are ok with this oil because they say such a tiny percentage actually gets converted to the bad fats.  Also, misinformed mainstream thinking still wrongly advocates oils with high polyunsaturated fats ratio as the healthiest.  Another problem is Canola oil is used when making a lot of confections.  When the manufacturers of everything canned, boxed, and frozen usually say ‘vegetable oil’ on the contents, they usually mean Canola oil.  They might hydrogenate it, which creates trans-fats, or just plain heat it too much making it rancid.  Also consider that canola oil use is new.  Oils like olive oil and sesame oil have been around and used in traditional cultures for some time.  Humans have had some generations of experience with them.
  • The Frying Pan – High heat can cause small amounts of trans-fats over time.  The problem is especially true when you re-use oils, as in the case of deep-fryers, or many restaurants practices.  Definitely fast food chains are a culprit.
  • Candy bars, cakes, biscuits – I think you can still find trans-fats in Mars, Twix, Milky Way, Snickers, …
  • Margarineand Shortening contain hydrogenated polyunsaturated oils.  Again, hydrogenation creates trans-fatties.  Most margarines made from soy and safflower oils and marketed as “natural” are also hydrogenated.   Margarine made from other processes are becoming available, but getting into manufactured oils is not the right direction to go.  Here is more detail about your heart and margarine .

More than anything, I think the new law reflects the general understanding that trans-fatty oils are bad for us, but doesn’t seem to address the reality of its omni-presence.

Here is the link to the referenced SFGate article about the ban on trans-fats.

What do you think?  I’d love to hear your comments.

4 Comments

    Afshin

    On Jan 8th, 2010 Acusteph commented:

    Nicely put!!! Also, remember that it is best not to heat up olive oil too high as its smoke point is only 190F.

    Afshin

    On Jan 12th, 2010 Atayan commented:

    Yes, from what I have read in Erasumus’ book: Fats that Heal, Fats that Kill, one would think that Canola Oil is okay, but I’ve spoken to a health food industry insider and he says that the more refined a food is (no matter how organic or “natural”) the higher the chance there is for unknown contaminants to enter the product. Particularly with Canola Oil, this seems to be an issue.

    Personally, I find it best to use Sesame or Olive Oil at low temps as Acusteph mentioned earlier.

    Medicine Ball Exercises

    Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. In any case I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!

    The Gallbladder and Fats - AcuAfshin.com

    […] may still contain them. Check the ingredients. By the way, the processing that goes into making Canola oil makes it a trans-fat – so don’t use […]

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