With all of the different oils available on supermarket shelves, it can be difficult to decide which one to use. Canola oil and vegetable oil often look similar and both sport a mild flavor that doesn't overpower foods cooked in them. However, there are some compositional differences between oils that affect how healthy they are. Understanding the differences between canola and vegetable oils can help you decide which oil you want to use for your own cooking.
Vegetable oil can come from any of a number of vegetables, including corn and soy, or might include oils from plants that are not actually vegetables, such as peanuts, cottonseed, sunflowers or safflowers. Some vegetable oils list on the container which plants they are derived from, while others are simply labeled as vegetable oil with no indication of the specific contents. Many vegetable oils are a blend of more than one plant oil and some contain canola oil in addition to other oils. The specific composition of vegetable oil depends on the specific plants it includes, but most oils are high in omega-6 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fat.
Canola oil comes from a specific breed of rapeseed that was adapted by Canadian plant scientists to have low levels of the potentially toxic compounds eicosenoic and erucic acid and a low percentage of saturated fat. The specific plant used to make canola oil was developed in 1974. The oil has a mild taste and light color, making it a popular choice for cooking. Canola oil contains about 61 percent monounsaturated fat and less than 7 percent saturated fat. The remainder is polyunsaturated fat, which includes both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids.
The high levels of monounsaturated fat and omega-3 fatty acids in canola oil provide numerous health benefits, including a reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease and some forms of cancer. While most other vegetable oils are not unhealthy, they do not necessarily provide the same health benefits as canola oil. One exception is olive oil, which is higher in monounsaturated fat than canola oil. Olive oil does not contain omega-3 fats, however.
Some concerns have been raised about whether canola oil might harbor unsafe levels of toxins, but this worry is unfounded. While rapeseed does contain high levels of euric acid, a toxic compound, the canola plant has extremely low levels of this toxin. The FDA recognizes canola oil as a safe oil for household use. Other vegetable oils sold in supermarkets and groceries also are considered safe for human consumption.
- Canola field image by JCh from Fotolia.com
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.