The Oily Truth

Amber Waves of Oil Sources (Bill Kingsbury/ND Tourism)

Since I mentioned in my New Year's Resolutions post that I was phasing out canola oil in 2012, I've received several questions on why, and which oils I planned to substitute. Allow me to explain.

First, what's great about canola oil:

  • It's very low in saturated fat and has a high proportion of monounsaturated fat. I actually don't care about this one because I don't think the fat/heart-disease connection has been nailed down. Yes, artificially-created transfats seem to wreak havoc, but all the lowfat trends in the world haven't reduced the prevalence of heart disease. We've just improved the treatment of it, so people seem to be doing better. I do like my saturated fats grass-fed, however: butter, bacon, beef, milk.
  • Canola oil has a good ratio of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3s. For a plant, that is. Both of these fatty acids are essential, but in our modern (soybean oil-laden) diet, we tend to get far too many omega-6s, leading possibly to all sorts of health problems, including autoimmune disorders, heart disease and cancer. Canola is better than soy and not quite as good as flax and not nearly as good as fish. Many people don't know it, but grass-fed beef and dairy are also good sources of omega-3s.

What I'm less crazy about, when it comes to canola:

  • 80% of canola grown in Canada is genetically-modified (i.e., tweaked and patented by Monsanto) to resist Round-Up. Which means Monsanto holds farmers hostage to buying their seeds and then the farmers can spray the heck out of their fields with Round-Up.
  • Roughly 90% of American canola is genetically-modified.
  • Beyond potential health and economic justice concerns, GM canola has "escaped" farmers' fields into uncultivated areas. See this NPR article, if you're interested.

So, what am I using instead? Once I get through the remaining half-bottle of canola, I've already lined up olive oil, peanut oil (very similar in nutritional profile to canola but not yet genetically-modified), pastured butter, sesame oil, and ghee.

If olive has too strong a flavor for you, don't use extra-virgin. Save that for salad dressings and use the lower-priced, less-flavored olive oil for cooking.

Better yet, experiment with other ways of preparing foods that don't require as much oil. It's Crock Pot season, after all.

Have a great week!