In the wellness world, olive oil is thought of as liquid gold; it has a definite health halo. Canola oil on the other hand, which is less expensive and used in more foods (at least here in the States), isn’t typically given the same praise. Canola oil and olive oil are the most commonly used oils in the kitchen—is the latter really all that superior?
Here to break down the canola oil vs olive oil debate is registered dietitian Isabel Smith, RD. Smith unpacks the health benefits of each oil, the optimal ways to use them both, and the verdict on which one takes the crown in terms of being the most nutrient-rich. Nutrition school is in.
Canola oil vs olive oil: Which one is the healthiest? Keep reading to find out.
The healthy pros and cons of canola oil
Let’s tackle canola oil first, which tends to be the more misunderstood of the two. “Canola oil is made from the canola plant,” Smith says, which is derived from the rapeseed plant (and in the same family as mustard). The canola plant is a bright yellow flowering plant and its seeds are 35 percent oil—super high for a plant.
According to Smith, the verdict on if canola oil is healthy or not is complicated. Here, she details the healthy pros and cons.
1. Canola oil is high in omega-6 fatty acids.
“Canola oil has been considered ‘healthy’ in the past because it was an alternative to saturated fat,” Smith says. One reason for this is that it’s low in erucic acid. “The canola plant was developed from rapeseed in order to use it to produce a food-grade oil with lower erucic acid levels. Erucic acid is a compound present in mustard and rape seeds, which is known to be damaging to our health, specifically our hearts,” Smith explains.
Canola oil is also high in omega-6 fatty acids, which are good for heart health. But Smith says canola oil has a bit too much of the nutrient. “The problem with canola oil is that it is extremely high in omega-6 polyunsaturated fats (PUFA). A diet high in these omega-6 fats will cause systemic inflammation in the body, which is an underlying commonality with all modern chronic diseases, including heart disease and diabetes,” she says. The key is to consume more omega-3 fatty acids than omega-6 fatty acids, so consuming too much canola oil can actually work against you, in terms of heart health.
2. Most canola oil is genetically modified.
“A very high percentage of canola oils are genetically modified, and highly processed with industrial solvents,” Smith says. To her point, approximately 93 percent of the canola grown in the U.S. is from genetically modified seeds. The discussion about whether genetically modified food is bad for you is a heated debate in the…