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Canola Oil

Canola oil is obtained by squashing the seeds of canola plant, which belongs to the Brassica family. Other plants belonging to the Brassica family include cabbages, cauliflower and broccoli. On average, the canola plant grows to a height of anything between 3 feet and 6 feet (1 meter and 2 meters) and bears attractive yellow hued flowers. On maturity, the canola plant produces pods akin to those borne by the pea plant. However, the canola pods are roughly one-fifth in size in comparison to the pea pods. Each canola pod encloses roughly 20 minute spherical seeds having a brownish-yellow or black color.

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After harvesting, the seeds of the canola plant are transported to a processing unit where they are pounded to extract the enclosed oil, which is again processed and packed in bottles in the form of canola oil. Canola oil is used for cooking and has a golden hue, neutral flavor, delicate texture and can endure extreme heat. On average, 45 per cent contents of canola seeds is oil, while the remaining part is composed of protein, which is processed to produce canola meal - a superior quality fodder for animals.

At the processing unit, canola seeds are heated slightly and subsequently crushed to produce the oil. Nearly all the commercially available canola oil is subsequently refined with hexane and, in the last stage, the raw oil obtained from the seeds is refined making use of organic acid and water precipitation. In addition, the oil is also 'bleached' using clay and deodorized by means of steam distillation. Nearly half of the content of the seed is oil and the remaining substance is known as rapeseed meal which forms a superior quality food for animals. It is worth mentioning here that several foods incorporate canola oil as their major ingredient. Currently, this oil has a high demand worldwide, as it is considered to be healthy oil. In general, canola oil is the third most extensively used vegetable oil across the globe.

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Besides being used for cooking purposes, canola oil is also used as a substitute for non-renewable supplies in several products, counting biofuels, industrial lubricants, lipsticks, candles as well as newspaper inks.

Canola oil contains very little saturated fat, while healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids are present in it in 1:2 proportions. Consumption of canola oil helps to lower the low-density lipoprotein (also called LDL or 'bad' cholesterol). Generally, canola oil lowers the levels of cholesterol and the healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which are present in it in considerable amounts, help to decrease all the reasons related to cardiovascular disease and also mortality due to this ailment. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the United States has approved a qualified health claim regarding the use of canola oil, because it contains elevated amounts of fats that help to reduce high cholesterol levels.

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As most of us are aware that grape seed oil is obtained from grape seeds, olive oil from olive and peanut oil from peanuts, similarly, canola oil is obtained from a plant seed known as rapeseed. This plant has derived its name 'rape' from the Latin term for 'turnip' and is an extensively cultivated crop belonging to the Brassicaceae family. While the term 'rape' has a disturbing implication in contemporary times, the mention of 'rapeseed' did not evoke any such thought among people during the World War II, when the seeds of the plant were widely used as fodder for animals.

The main problem associated with the term 'rapeseed oil' is that oil produced from the plants was found to be extremely toxic and, hence, the FDA banned its use for humans in the year 1956. Therefore, in the 1970s, when cultivators in Canada developed a new type of rapeseed containing less amount of the toxic substance called erucic acid, they settled on a new and different name for this variety.

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The name canola has its origin in the expression 'Canadian oil, low acid' and was coined to assure the consumers that the oil made from the canola seeds was safe for consumption.

It is interesting to note that originally the term canola was a registered brand name, but, later, when this name became very popular, the trademark was ultimately disposed of. In the course of time, canola turned out to be the default word for any type of rapeseed oil containing less amount of erucic acid in several countries.

In addition to its use in cooking and culinary, the oil obtained from canola seeds is also an extremely useful insecticide and forms a key constituent in several organic pesticides that are sprayed to kill bugs on vegetables and fruits.

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Health benefits of canola oil

Canola oil offers several health benefits. It is said that having one serving of this oil daily provides us with roughly one-fourth of our entire vitamin E requirements. It may be noted that vitamin E is a potent antioxidant, which guards the proteins and fats in our body from damages caused by free radicals. In addition, consumption of canola oil may possibly also assist in lessening the chances of developing cardiovascular ailments, suffering from memory loss and even cancer.

Compared to other different vegetable oils, canola oil provides exceptional health benefits and, together with olive oil, it is rapidly becoming known as top healthy oil. Similar to olive oil, canola oil also possesses very few saturated fats. On the other hand, this oil contains α-linoleic acid (also called omega-3) and linoleic (omega-6) essential fatty acids in proportions of 1:2, which makes this vegetable oil extremely healthy oil for cooking - having a ratio that is superior compared to even olive oil.

In addition to containing high levels of unsaturated fats, canola oil also encloses the maximum concentration of plant sterols, particularly β-sitosterol as well as campesterols. It has been found that phytosterols modestly slow down the absorption of cholesterol in the stomach and, in this manner, decrease the blood cholesterol levels by about 10 per cent to 15 per cent.

Another advantage of consuming canola oil is that it provides us with a great number of calories. The elevated calories contained by canola oil are attributed to better fats. Canola oil particularly contains high amounts of mono-unsaturated fats or monounsaturated fatty acids (also called MUFA), for instance, oleic acid (in the ratio of 18:1) and this comprises roughly 61 per cent of the oil's total fats that facilitate in reducing LDL cholesterol (also called 'bad' cholesterol), while enhancing the amount of HDL (also called 'good' cholesterol) in our bloodstream. Several scientific studies have hinted that Mediterranean diet, which incorporates very high amounts of monounsaturated fats aid in putting off cardiovascular ailments like strokes and coronary artery disease by promoting a robust blood lipid profile.

Canola oil is also full of vitamin E; a potent lipid soluble antioxidant - especially, gamma-tocopherol. Vitamin E is essential for sustaining the cell membrane integrity in our skin and mucus membranes and it works to protect the cell membrane from the damages caused by detrimental free radicals.

Since canola oil helps to diminish the blood glucose levels in the body, this vegetable oil may also aid in putting off occurrence of diabetes and, at the same time, people who already have diabetes may find this oil beneficial.

While saturated fats cause harm to our body, but the use of monounsaturated fats work to undo this harm.

Besides being consumed, canola oil may also be employed in the form of a fundamental element for any hot oil therapy, which may possibly help to get rid of spilt ends and, simultaneously, make your hair more strong as well as shiny. In order to obtain the utmost benefits, it is advisable that you use canola oil in the form of a deep conditioner on a monthly basis. You may also easily blend canola oil with different other oils for this purpose.

It has been found that inflammation is related to several ailments endured by people in contemporary times, such as heart ailments, obesity and also cancer. Vitamin E and monounsaturated oils present in canola oil are said to be responsible for anti-inflammatory actions.

Selection and storage

Food-grade canola oil is available commercially under dissimilar brand names, labels as well as specifications, such as rapeseed 00 oil, LEAR oil, rapeseed canola-equivalent oil, low erucic acid rapeseed oil and so on. While buying canola oil, you should be careful to see the product's date of manufacturing and only purchase oils marketed by reputed and genuine manufacturers and those that have been processed recently.

Canola oil produced through the cold-press process possesses high intensity of antioxidants and its shelf life is also longer compared to oils processed by other methods. Compared to the lower recovery of canola oil, the cold-pressed oil is a little expensive.

Similar to other vegetable oils, canola oil may also become rancid provided it is stored close to any source of heat, in the sunlight or a damp place. Therefore, it is advisable that you should all the time store canola oil in air-tight containers and keep it in a cool and dark position where there is no heat or intense light.

Culinary use

Apart from its commercial use in cooking, people like to use canola oil generously in salad dressings, deep frying, margarines, spreads, shortening, baking and creamers.

Canola oil has a pale, clear yellow hue and a neutral taste. It combines well with herbs as well as spices and enables the taste of the spices and herbs to dominate.

In addition, the smoke point of canola oil is the highest among all vegetable oils used for cooking purpose, making it the perfect choice for deep fries, as it is possible to heat this oil to a very high temperature (smoke point is roughly 450°F). The high smoking point causes the foods fried in it to retain very less oil.

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