What The Hell is a Canola?

Quick question for you, how many times have you heard things like:

“I am on a low fat diet”; “Make sure my yogurt is low fat”; “Bacon? Hell no! It’s too fat”, “Put skim milk in my coffee”,… 

If I had a dollar every time I heard someone say this, I wouldn’t be in my room writing an article for a blog that doesn’t even exist yet! (or it’d be a room of an ocean view penthouse).

I don’t know what/who holds the trophy of “the most believed lie in history”, but I am sure the health industry does have a few of those standing on the podium, one of them being : “Switch to Crisco oil for a healthy heart!” (Ughhhh).

We’ve been raised with margarine and vegetable oils, and been told that butter and any types of saturated fat was bad. Actually I’d bet a good amount of money that if you were to open your fridge now, you’d find those “I can’t believe it’s not butter” margarine’s, and Canola oil in your cabinet. As much as I’d like to be wrong on this one, I’m pretty sure you are nodding along… And if you don’t have any of those, high five, you’re definitely a step ahead! 

A little bit of history

Remember how everything is about money (If not, make sure to read the previous articles ;-))? This is no exception. The details of where vegetable oils come from and how they are made is a tiny bit boring (actually really super boring), but just so you understand, I need to walk you through a short version of it.

It comes from cotton! Very long story short, more than a century ago we had tons of cotton and therefore tons of leftover cotton seeds. Demand for cooking oil was on the rise and some brilliant minds (sense the irony?), came up with some ultra complicated process to extract the oil out of the seeds (the process wasn’t really down back then). Fast forward (I’m saving you an hour of history class), cottonseed oil was banned and classified as toxic. The Giant Monster Procter and Gamble was using it to make candles and soup and they figured out away to extract the oil and make it look like lard oil, this process is called hydrogenation. Fancy (and scary)! Commonly known as trans-fat.

It was used for everything! From baking, cooking, frying, you name it, that was the new cooking fashion and no one could care less whether is was toxic or not. Who cares when you can get more bang for your buck, right? They came up with a name you might be familiar with: Crisco (Crystallized Cottonseed Oil, see what they did there?!). 

From there, P&G advertised the hell out of Crisco, and it became the Big Daddy of all those other soybeans oil, Canola oil, Corn oil, ect ect ect. And of course, this happened along the demonization of saturated fat (remember that one?), and was advertised as “healthy”, “good for the cholesterol”, and other crap like this. 

Now, want to know how it’s made? (If not, just jump up to the bold sentence at the end) – buckle up, and don’t throw up!

Step 1: Take soybean, corn seed, rapeseed whatever seeds;

Step 2: Extract the oil with extremely high temperature and pressure;

Step 3: Extracting remaining fractions of oils with hexane and other solvents (mmmmh, yummy!);

Step 4: Steam it clean;

Step 5: Mix it with a nickel catalyst;

Step 6: Expose it to hydrogen at a high temperature and high pressure reactor. This process is called hydrogenation (rings a bell by now?) and basically changes the chemical components of the oil, in order to turn liquid into solid or semi solid (margarine for example). It changes the physical properties of the oil, such as the melting point (wait… did you think the melting point of margarine was natural? It’s as fake as Kim Kardashian’s butt!). 

Step 7: Because this is slightly gross, it requires a soap-like emulsifiers to clean this mess. They do it several times to remove the odor. (Don’t throw up yet, it’s not over. Just prepare the bucket next to you);

Step 8: Bleaching it to remove the grey color (Yes, BLEACH it… Klorox anyone?);

Step 9: Adding some artificial flavors, synthetic vitamins, and color;

Step 10: Packaging and advertising.

And I spared you the 17 steps that are included in step 4, 5, 6. 

(You can go throw up now, I’ll wait…)

Long story short : if something you’re going to put in your body requires a zillion steps to make it edible, you probably shouldn’t be eating it! (Just saying… )

Vegetable oils and your health

Take a minute to ask Mr Google what is the number 1 cause of death in the US. Bingo: Heart diseases! Closely followed by cancer. Both related to the consumption of vegetable oils (and not by the consumption of saturated fat as we all believed for so long, or still believe for some of us). 

There was actually a groundbreaking Nurse’s Health Study of 80,000 women found that a 2% increase in trans-fat consumption increased a woman’s risk of heart disease by 93%.

Another main problem with vegetable oil is that it creates inflammation. Polyunsaturated fats are highly unstable and oxidize in the body (if not even before, while they were sitting on the shelves exposed to light in the grocery store). Anything that oxidizes in the body creates inflammation, which triggers a response from our immune system. The body is incredibly smart and creating an immune response is a natural process to keep you alive (literally), which is why, in theory, inflammation is a good thing. However a chronic state of inflammation will lead to autoimmune diseases, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, obesity, it increases risk of heart diseases and I could go on, and on, and on. Actually, let me continue just a bit, it is also related to depression, suicidal behaviors and violence. (Sweet!)

Consumption of vegetable oils have also been linked to:

  • Negatively impact cholesterol (they raise the LDL, so called “bad cholesterol”)
  • Increase the risk of coronary artery disease;
  • Inhibiting key enzymes that regulate blood flow:
  • Increasing the risk of cancers (prostate, colon and breast in particular);
  • Impacting brain health and increasing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia;
  • Endometriosis and PCOS (Polycystic ovary syndrome);
  • Inflammatory bowel diseases.

It also throw the ration Omega 6/Omega 3 completely out of whack. Before you start yelling, we need both, granted (stop screaming!), but we need them in different quantities and especially we need to keep the same ratio for optimum health. According to the US National Library of Medicine, we have evolved with a 1:1 ratio, and up to 4:1 would still be considered good. Nowadays, we are on average at 16:1! Oopsi…

Good fats VS Bad fats

YES, finally – we’re getting there, I’ve heard you screaming from the beginning “but, what should we use then?”. The answer is simple! Ask yourself: “Did Mother Nature, God, Yoda (whatever you believe in), made this? Or did humans make this?” If it’s Nature, go for it! If it’s human, run, run far and fast, and never look back! (sorry I got carried away…)

I hope this answers your question. Maybe you’re still wondering “but what about saturated fat?”, I got you! First, relax! There is actually no evidence that links saturated fat and heart diseases. Just a bunch of not so tangible studies called environmental studies. (And as boring as that might be, I need to pause here a second and talk about those environmental (epidemiological) studies. For the sake of time and this article, I won’t get into too much details, but scientists have been reluctant to using epidemiological studies because their lack of tangible datas. This subject deserves more than a few lines, but this is going to be for another day!

But for now, parenthese over, let’s keep going…)

Most of all natural fats contain a certain amount of saturated fat which we need for various reasons : 

  • Brain health! Your brain is 60% fat, which is in majority saturated fat. So if you don’t understand anything from that article, go get a ribeye and come back!
  • Cells : your cells are made of fats! We NEED it to function!
  • It helps regulate the cholesterol (yes, you read this correctly, keep reading!)
  • Nervous system : myelin is made of fat. Myelin is our internal wires.
  • Good for our bones! It helps fix the calcium to the bones. A diet without fats will lead to poor bone density. 

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not advising you to chuck down you jar of coconut oil or to cook everything with butter. I’m just saying that saturated fat isn’t the evil the American Heart Association wants you to believe it is. Don’t forget that AHA best buddies are the whole “let’s get everyone sick” Dream Team: Kellog’s, General Millsm, Neslte, Mars, Domino’s Pizza, Kraft, Subway and Quaker! Wondering what their happy hours look like.  

Vegetable oils have no business being in the grocery stores, in your house, in your body. PERIOD.

And my bad, I was going to forget… What is a canola? : ” Canola oil is actually made from a hybrid version of the rapeseed… most likely genetically modified and heavily treated with pesticides.” FYI 😉


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