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Fat profile of canola oil, India’s new & healthy kitchen staple, ideal
Friday, 09 January, 2015, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Bruce Jowett and Angela Dansby
There’s a new cooking oil in India today that enhances well-being and cooking: canola oil. It’s one of the healthiest, most versatile and best values for quality of all oils in the marketplace. With an ideal fat profile, high heat tolerance, neutral taste, and light texture and colour, canola oil is perfect for everyday use in just about any culinary application – from salad dressings, sauces and marinades to baking, sautéing and deep-frying. Plus, canola oil enhances the flavours of ingredients key to cuisines all over the world.  

Health Advantages
Not all fats are created equally. In fact, the type of fat matters as much, if not more, than the amount.

Canola oil is lauded for both what it does contain (mono- and polyunsaturated fats) and what it does not (saturated and trans fats). It has the least saturated fat (7 per cent) – about half that of olive, sunflower, soybean and peanut oils – and the most plant-based Omega-3 fat (11 per cent) of all common cooking oils. Canola oil is also high in monounsaturated fat (61 per cent) and a good source of vitamins E and K. It contains zero trans fat and like all vegetable oils, no cholesterol.

Because of this composition, the US Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) authorised a qualified health claim for canola oil on its ability to reduce the risk of heart disease when used in place of saturated fat. Scientific studies show that just one spoonful of canola oil a day may help keep the cardiologist away … for only a few rupees per serving.

Low saturated fat content is important in cooking oils because this type of fat is linked to increased risk of heart disease by increasing “bad” LDL (Low-Density Lipoprotein) cholesterol. Trans fat is even worse because it does the same while also reducing “good” HDL (High-Density Lipoprotein) cholesterol.

Meanwhile, healthy monounsaturated fat lowers LDL cholesterol and helps control blood sugar. Polyunsaturated fats Omega-3 (11 per cent) and Omega-6 (21 per cent) found in canola oil are considered “essential” because the body cannot make them on its own.

Given the high rates of heart disease and diabetes in India, the use of canola oil as a heart-healthy, everyday cooking oil could have significant implications for public health. For example, a clinical study conducted in India, published in the April 2014 Diabetes Technology & Therapeutics, showed that incorporating canola oil into the diet could help reduce the risk of heart disease, type II diabetes and metabolic syndrome (a group of five risk factors characterised by increased belly fat, low “good” HDL cholesterol and above average blood sugar, blood pressure and triglycerides).

US and Canadian research has shown similar effects with canola oil consumption. Research published in June 2014 in Diabetes Care noted that canola oil can help control blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes when included in a low-glycemic index diet.

In March 2013, research presented at an American Heart Association meeting showed that canola oil can lower belly fat when used in place of selected oil blends in a heart-healthy diet for weight maintenance among adults at risk for metabolic syndrome. Studies conducted over the past 25 years about the health effects of canola oil, analysed in the June 2013 Nutrition Reviews, confirm canola oil reduces the risk of heart disease and suggest that it may also protect against other chronic diseases.

Culinary Assets

Canola oil is very stable because it does not break down at high temperatures, so it’s ideal for sautéing, deep-frying and other high-heat cooking methods. Its smoke point – the temperature at which an oil begins to smoke and degrade – is one of the highest of all cooking oils at 242 °C. That’s well above optimal deep-frying temperatures (185-190 °C) and much higher than both refined and extra virgin olive oils (220 °C and 166 °C, respectively).

Besides beating heat, canola oil lets masalas and other ingredients characteristic of Indian cuisine shine by not imparting its own taste. Its neutral flavour and light texture and colour allow the oil to blend beautifully in all cuisines and culinary applications.

Moreover, due to its low saturated fat content, canola oil remains free-flowing in vinaigrettes, dressings and marinades in the refrigerator.

Popular Choice

Canola oil is consumed all over the world, quickly becoming popular in several countries. It is number one by volume in Canada and Japan, number two in the US and Mexico, and number three in China.
Canada – primarily the prairie provinces of Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba – is the world’s largest exporter of canola and one of its top producers. Canola is widely grown in Canada (about 18 million acre) and its seed, oil and meal are exported to more than 50 countries.
In fact, Canada exports about 90 per cent of its canola due to its small domestic consumption (the population of Canada is only 35 million – about double that of the city of Delhi alone). The majority of these exports go to the United States, China, Japan and Mexico.

Canola’s Roots

Canola oil comes from the crushed seeds of the canola plant, which is a member of the Brassica family that includes broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. It was developed in Canada through traditional plant breeding to remove two undesirable components (erucic acid and glucosinolates) found in rapeseed to create better oil for humans and healthier meal for animals. To acknowledge these differences, the new plant earned a new name, canola – a contraction of “Canadian” and “ola” meaning “oil.”

While their plants look similar, canola (with less than 2 per cent erucic acid and about 7 micromoles of glucosinolates) and rapeseed (containing about 40 per cent erucic acid and 120-150 micromoles of glucosinolates) are very different. In fact, there is an international standard for canola that differentiates it from rapeseed based upon it having less than 2 per cent erucic acid and less than 30 micromoles of glucosinolates.

According to this standard, canola oil is defined as “rapeseed oil – low-erucic acid.” However, the standard-setting body lists ranges of fatty acids (fat components) contained in rapeseed oil – low-erucic acid that are not applicable to canola oil. For example, rapeseed oil – low-erucic acid is noted to have 51-70 per cent oleic acid (monounsaturated fat), 15-30 per cent linoleic acid (Omega-6 fat), 5-14 per cent alpha-linolenic acid (Omega-3 fat), 0.1-4.3 per cent paullinic acid (Omega-7 fat) and a mix of saturated fatty acids ranging from 3.6-12.6 per cent.

While by its erucic acid content, canola oil qualifies as rapeseed oil – low-erucic acid, it does not contain paullinic acid, nor wide ranges of the other fatty acids. Canola oil consistently contains an average of 61 per cent oleic acid, 21 per cent linoleic acid, 11 per cent alpha-linolenic acid and 7 per cent saturated fatty acids. This is an ideal fat profile in terms of nutrition and canola oil is uniquely associated with it.

As the second-largest edible oil consumer in the world (175 lakh per year) and its number one importer (over 60 per cent of supply), India is well positioned to benefit from canola oil. Consumer research in Mumbai and Delhi shows that characteristics in this oil, such as low saturated fat and high Omega-3 content, are desirable and Indians recognise that a healthy diet impacts their well-being. Switching to canola oil as a kitchen staple is an easy change consumers can make for just a few rupees per person per day.

(Jowett is vice-president, market development, Canola Council of Canada, Canada, a non-profit commodity association with members involved in all aspects of the canola industry. Dansby is communications manager, CanolaInfo, the council’s global promotion programme)
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