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Olive oil v. Canola oil

  • chica Apr 3, 2007 10:30 PM
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I always thought olive oil was 'healthier'....until I put both bottles of olive oil and canola oil in the fridge. Several days later, I found the olive oil completely hard, with the consistency of fridge-cooled chicken fat. The canola oil, on the other hand, was free-flowing, just cooled.

We hear the benefits of olive oil in ads, food networks, nutrition labels, diet guides, and so forth. I hardly hear (or see) anyone or any place using or selling canola oil in the same context as its more 'refined' counterpart.

Which do you prefer, and why?

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  1. Olive oil (extra virgin) for flavor in salad dressings or drizzled, or with pasta preperations at low temps. Canola for general every day grease the pan use. Peanut oil for high temp. frying.

    3 Replies
    1. re: OCEllen

      Exactly. They are for totally different uses, so comparing them isn't really instructive.

      1. re: OCEllen

        Agree! Olive Oil for flavor. Canola for everyday use. I don't like the taste of peanut oil though... (I use Canola instead)

        1. re: MaggieMay3

          We deep fry everything in olive oil in Spain--churros, potato chips, fried fish, squid, etc. The fried food here is excellent!

          Light olive oil is used for frying and it has an extremely high smoke point. It's also very cheap and sold in 5 liter jugs.

      2. There have been a lot of discussions of various oils here. Personally, I don't like canola oil -- I think it's one of those lab-created foods that is considered healthy now and later will be shown to be bad for you (like transfats and HFCS). Here's a link to a recent comprehensive discussion of the pros and cons of various fats: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/361304

        5 Replies
        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          Canola/rapeseed/colza ("Canola" is a marketing name creating by CANadian growers) has been grown in Europe for centuries -- originally as a fuel oil, but as a non-GMO cooking oil source for several decades now.

          1. re: sunshine842

            Yes and no. The rapeseed oil that was used for fuel oil was high in erucic acid, was unpalatable and toxic in large quantities. In the '70s, the rape plant was modified using conventional plant hybridization techniques in Canada to produce oil that was lower in erucic acid -- dubbed Canola -- then widely promoted as a healthy oil. So it is not correct to imply that the Canola oil being sold today has been "grown in Europe for centuries." Furthermore, although it was originally developed conventionally, a significant amount of Canola comes from strains that have been genetically modified.

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              Not in Europe.

              1. re: sunshine842

                Canola/rapeseed oil in Europe may not be GMO, but it's still not the same as "oil that has been grown in Europe for centuries." And for those of us who don't buy rapeseed oil from Europe, unless you buy organic, there's no way to know if your oil is from GMO plants or not.

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  and that lack of labeling is simply wrong on a lot of levels.

                  But the Europeans were consuming rapeseed oil before the Canadian organization started calling it canola -- it's still not called that in Europe; it's colza

        2. Olive oil has withstood the test of time. It is 75% oleic acid, which is a stable monounsaturated fat, and 13% saturated fat (important for many reason). The omega-6 to omega-3 balance is 10%-3%.

          Canola is 57% oleic, 5% saturated, and the omega-6 to omega-3 is 23%-10%. It has a high sulfur content and goes rancid quicker than olive - baked goods made with canola oil develop molds quickly. Some canola oil has trans fatty acids, formed during the deodorizing process. There is some evidence that even though the poisonous erucic acid in the rape seed is removed to acceptable levels, canola still can cause heart lesions, especially in those who severely limit their saturated fat intake.

          In general, why use an oil that is derived from a plant that is poisonous and is processed to be useful, when there is a proven healthy oil that has been around for millenia?

          9 Replies
          1. re: applehome

            No wonder the olive oil solidified. My view is that with doubly less saturated fat, and more omega-fats, the canola oil is healthier. We can be speculative of 'newer' oils, or those derived from unlikely sources, but when presented with different varieties of the same genre of condiments and foods, I suppose my choice depends on the immediate health effects (and not the time-tested theory).

            1. re: chica

              You seem to be misunderstanding the significance of the percentage of omega acids and the Omega6/Omega 3 ratio.

              Also, you seem to not be aware that the benefits of the higher levels of monounsaturated fat in olive oil outweigh the benefits of lower levels of saturated fat in canola oil.

              Perhaps a little more reading about this is in order? Doing so may cause you to re-write your last sentence.

              And we haven't even discussed flavor.

              1. re: chica

                Healthier? On what can you base that assumption?

                Canola oil (rapeseed, but that name didn't exactly sell) is highly genetically modified to minimize its carcinogenic and toxic properties, terrible taste, and tendency to quickly go rancid. Foods cooked in it don't taste particularly good. I once bought into the supposed "truth" that tropical oils went straight to your arteries. Whoops - now they are being marketed as health foods (which is probably equally untrue). Millions bought the "fact" that margarine was healthy and butter bad. Whoops. Trans fat today; genetically modified rapeseed tomorrow? Who knows, but I wouldn't be even a little surprised.

                Oh yes, then there is Monsanto's "RoundUp-Ready" canola that is taking over the world a little at a time. Seems a court ruling dictates that an unfortunate farmer growing "standard" rapeseed must both pay Monsanto AND not keep seeds for future years should some of Monsanto's patented seeds get blown onto his land.

                1. re: embee

                  That's why I believe in the philosophy that everything in moderation. Because coconut oil is being tooted as health(ier?) than originally thought, I will use it in moderation. I doubt using too much of it would be a good thing.
                  I use extra virgin olive oil, for most things, especially for salads, etc. where I will not be heating.
                  I use butter (again in moderation) for certain cooked foods (eggs, fried onions, etc.)
                  I try to avoid canola oil, because I think there is enough skepticism to avoid using it regularly. However, if I eat out, I do not ask whether the cook put canola oil in my dish. I don't think it is THAT dangerous.
                  I use other vegetable oils, where necessary, in moderation, because they also raise concerns, similar to canola, in relation to the processing of them. But sometimes, they just make the most sense, from a cost, heat and neutral flavour perspective.
                  I think a lot of it is common sense. Margarine never REALLY seemed like a good idea. Both from a health perspective and a taste perspective (maybe from a kosher one).
                  Generally, too much of any added fat should be avoided.

                  1. re: pescatarian

                    I'm with you.
                    In my kitchen I use a variety of fats/oils on purpose.
                    Near the stove top I have a covered bowl with a small amount of solidified coconut oil, a bottle of OO, a small covered bowl of clarified butter, a bottle of walnut oil. In the fridge a jar of duck fat.
                    Every day I make an effort to use a different fat/oil when cooking.
                    All things in moderation.

                  2. re: embee

                    Furthermore, after one of these "healthy oil" discussions I had my sister do a medpub search. It seems there's no real evidence that what oils you consume has any significant impact on your health.

                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15...
                      http://www.health.harvard.edu/topic/fats
                      http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/66/...
                      http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Getting...
                      http://www.who.int/nutrition/publicat...

                      The type of fat consumed matters. Yes, total fat matters too, but the type of fat makes a difference.

                      1. re: sunshine842

                        And then there's this: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/969299

                        1. re: MikeG

                          let's be honest...published AFTER I made the above post. And I'm waiting for the shitstorm of pop-culture "news" that comes out to dispute/support that.

                          The old quote about reading so much about what's good for us and bad for that we've decided to give up reading definitely comes to mind.

              2. Why did you refridgerate your oil?

                4 Replies
                1. re: mojoeater

                  haha...let's call it an experiment. :)

                  1. re: mojoeater

                    Refrigerating oil protects it from oxidizing. I store my oils in the fridge if I have room for it.

                    1. re: Miss Needle

                      The fridge is the best place to store it if you only use it occasionally. If it solidifies a little, it's no big deal, because it un-solidifies quickly enough.

                      If you use it regularly and often, the refrigeration is optional.

                      1. re: The Professor

                        in many parts of the world it's pretty common for it to be somewhat solidified on the shelf- - it gets chilled during transport.

                        My pantry faced an exterior stone wall, so in the winter I'd just get it out and set the bottle on the radiator overnight -- it would clarify by morning.

                  2. Canola is about marketing, not health. It's fat profile means it's very likely to taste fishy to many palates when used over high heat. And there are still unresolved health questions about what happens to it over high heat. Absolutely no need to use it when there are many other flavorless high-heat friendly oils out there. But the canola industry has a great marketing gimmick, I will say that.

                    1. A registered dietician once told me that canola is the healthiest oil there is. Even healthier than grapeseed oil.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Perilagu Khan

                        Registered dieticians for years told people that margarine (full of hydrogenated oils) was a healthier choice than butter. That notion has been pretty well debunked...but there's still a lot of mixed messages out there.

                        Hard to know who or what to believe sometimes!

                        1. re: Perilagu Khan

                          Your registered dietician friend is incorrect. This is especially bad for someone giving medical advice to others.

                          I've come across many dieticians who don't understand the most basic biochemistry principles when it comes to nutrition(molecules, bonds, accessibility of nutrients). In fact, I've come across dieticians knowing so little about the chemistry of nutrition so often that I'm generally doubting the credentials of those with the job, simply because they're parroting nutrition "rules" but not understanding truly what they're saying.

                          It's appalling. In the last two weeks alone, I've come across four dieticians who had absolutely no idea of the chemistry behind their nutrition recommendations and the reason for ingesting this vs. that.

                          Since lack of knowledge is so rampant in the field, seek advice from those with enough biochemistry knowledge to read and understand the scientific literature, and ask them to speak informatively on the subject.

                          Dieticians often seem swayed by the marketing hype of scientific results, reading the puffed-up press release of the study and believing its erroneous conclusion, without bothering to read the study and recognize that the experiment is designed with no control, or rigged to show canola a "beneficial" oil.

                          For example, one experiment I read earlier today tested canola oil's effect on blood lipids but then also told patients to markedly step up their intake of fresh vegetables and fruit. There was no control -- no way to tell if the patient benefit resulted from the canola or from the fresh vegetables and fruit. Yet this study was given major press in all the hospital/nutrition outlets as some big positive vote for canola oil.

                          Another study compared canola's effect on blood lipids to SFAs (Saturated Fatty Acids). Why SFAs? Because canola would show well against them, but not well compared to USFAs or PUFAs.

                          Even if the dietician in this case were correct, flavor is what kills canola also.
                          It's not a neutral oil by any means; it smells fishy, especially when heated.

                          I'll take high-quality extra-virgin olive oil, freshly pressed or the latest harvest, any day. And I choose other oils based on the dish into which they're going. But never, ever canola.

                          IMO, Canola oil is propagating one of the biggest nutritional scams out there. I used to be an advisor to the industry.

                          1. re: maria lorraine

                            Amen! And I wouldn't care how healthy it was if it tasted bad (I understand a lot of people don't taste the fishiness of canola, but I do -- back when I had bought into the canola hype I kept throwing mine out because it tasted nasty and I thought it was rancid).

                            A lot of advice on what's "healthy" is just laziness. People don't want to take the trouble to do what is really healthy, which is to consume a wide variety of minimally processed foods (including fats and oils). They want a simplistic "eat this" answer to very complicated questions!

                        2. "Canola". Because it's better for your health than olive!

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Headbanger

                            That's doubtful.
                            While I prefer olive oil over canola, both are high in beneficial mono-unsaturates, as is macadamia oil.

                            I do use canola at times, but that fishy smell _can_ be off putting.

                            Health-wise, I doubt that either oil is more beneficial health-wise than the other.

                            1. re: Headbanger

                              My bottle of cold pressed "extra virgin" rapeseed oil now vies with my Palestinian olive oil for the "best" we have.

                              I care not a jot which may be the healthier.

                            2. I mostly use light olive oil for frying (as someone already noted, it has a pretty high smoke point), EVOO or walnut oil or avocado oil or sesame oil for drizzling on fresh, coconut oil sometimes (I'm experimenting with it), peanut or canola or grapeseed oil for high heat searing, and animal fats (bacon or duck fat or fat from my really expensive spanish ham or butter) for flavoring, butter for baking. I figure that somewhere in all that mix, I'm getting a balance.