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A Tale of Two Oils

It usually pays to dig deeper when getting your health information from the mainstream media

One example of this is the popular view of two very different oils – canola oil and coconut oil. Most people think that canola oil is good for them and they should avoid coconut oil. As it turns out, both views are the result of marketing hype – the exact opposite is true.

As usual, the details are important.

For example, coconut oil is only healthy when you use the extra-virgin, cold-pressed and unadulterated form of it. Like any oil, when you hydrogenate coconut oil it creates trans fatty acids. Non-hydrogenated coconut oil has no trans fats.

Consuming trans fats increases heart disease risk. It may also lead to Alzheimer’s Disease, cancer, diabetes, liver problems and female infertility.

Canola oil, by contrast, cannot be made by just squeezing it from the seed. To get the oil out and make it palatable requires the use of high temperatures and exposure to solvents and deodorizing chemicals. Along the way the trans fat content of canola oil increases.

Here’s a quick summary of each oil:

Coconut Oil

  • Made by pressing the oil out of fresh coconuts with no heat
  • Contains healthy fats like lauric acid and caprylic acid
  • Supports healthy hormone levels, healthy triglyceride levels and healthy cholesterol
  • Is great for cooking because it has a high smoke point
  • Supports brain health and can reduce Alzheimer’s symptoms
Canola Oil 

  • Must be extracted and processed with chemicals and solvents
  • Contains health-damaging trans fats linked to many diseases
  • Decreases bioavailability of vitamin E in the body, which negatively impacts heart health
  • A cheap substitute for better oils like coconut oil, olive oil and butter
  • Contributes to Alzheimer’s due to its high level of trans fats

In addition, coconut oil inhibits health-damaging fungus like Candida albicans, reduces inflammation, increases Basal Metabolic Rate (supports weight loss), and supports the immune system.

I recommend you do some food label detective work to sniff out the hidden sources of canola oil. Virtually every commercial salad dressing contains canola oil (even if it says, “olive oil” on the label).

You will also find soy oil in some dressings, but soy oil (often labeled “vegetable oil”) is in some ways worse than canola because it can damage brain cells, depress the thyroid and typically comes from genetically modified plants. For more on soy, see, “How Healthy Is Soy?

How can you incorporate coconut oil in your diet? It’s actually pretty easy. For example, I like to cook my eggs in a mixture of half coconut oil and half butter.

You can also use it in place of many other oils for cooking. I ran across a page with hundreds of recipes on the Tropical Traditions web site. They also sell virgin coconut oil. Another reliable source is Wilderness Family Naturals. (Note that these links are not affiliate links. I’m not associated with either company and am not compensated for recommending them. I have used coconut oil products from both.)

All the best to you for your health and happiness,

Dr. Bruce


References:

The Real Story on Canola Oil (Can-ugly Oil), Fred Pescatore, MD, MPH, CCN

Nurse’s Health Study, which demonstrated the health damaging effects of canola oil.

Hyperhealth Pro Database, In-Tele-Health, Hansville, WA, 2008.

Soy Linked to Many Human and Animal Health Conditions

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • DebNovember 15, 2010, 9:05 am

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention that most canola oil is transgenic.

  • Dr. BruceNovember 15, 2010, 9:54 am

    Hi Deb,

    The reason I didn’t mention the possibility of canola being a GMO food is because I found conflicting data about that. Some say it’s origin is transgenic and some say it was created by hybridization. Of course both transgenic manipulation and hybridization involve genetic material, however the technology is much different. You can cross-breed similar plants to bring out specific qualities. This has been a widely used practice for hundreds of years. By contrast, when doing GMO manipulation you can actually insert genetic material from completely different species, inclucing putting animal genes into plants.

    Given the current state of manipulated agriculture, it wouldn’t surprise me to find they’ve come up with GMO canola, so as you say, it’s worth mentioning. The reason I didn’t mention is was two-fold:

    First, there’s plenty not to like about canola even without the GMO aspect of it.

    Second, the best information I have is that the origin of the plant was based on a hybridization technique called “seed splitting” (see this article for more on the technique: http://www.science.ca/scientists/scientistprofile.php?pID=348). Seed splitting is a fancy way of speeding the process of selecting the properties of a seed you want to keep and those you want to eliminate. It’s not transgenic at all.

    So the origin of canola wasn’t genetic modification, however the current state of the industry leads me to agree that it’s likely most canola is GMO at this point.

    Thanks for the comment!

    Dr. Bruce

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