This is a guest post written by Alison of Health Nut Nation — an awesome blog full of recipes and nutrition & health articles. Thanks, Alison, for the post!
Recently, my husband wanted me to replicate an Italian salad dressing that he’d bought at a restaurant. In order to honor the integrity of his opinionated taste buds, I discerned that I needed a really clean tasting oil, so I brought out some canola oil that was properly stored in a dark cool place. The canola oil looked light and pure, but it smelled “off” to me. I tasted it, and it had a strong lip recoiling flavor. I suspected it was rancid. So, like any good researcher would do, I enlisted my husband and son as my personal kitchen lab rats. Both tasted it and thought it was fine.
Certain that justice had yet to be served, I decided to buy a brand new bottle of canola oil as a barometer to determine if I was losing my gift for discerning tasteful things. Sure enough, the new bottle tasted and smelled clean. It had no odor and no particular taste. When I had both my son and husband taste and smell the new canola oil and compare it to the rancid oil, they both declared the rancid oil “disgusting!”
The surprising truth is, they were both rancid!
Developed through the hybridization of rape seed, canola oil is actually a delicate oil that turns rancid very quickly. (It’s named canola as in “oil from Canada.” Marketing figured it was much more appealing that the word “rape” — go figure!) And we all know that not many people are going to put up with knowingly ingesting rank, stale, decomposing oil.
That’s why the vegetable oil industry has a little-known trick that they don’t make public. Deodorizers are typically used in the making of canola oil.
Like all modern vegetable oils, canola oil goes through the process of caustic refining, bleaching and degumming — all of which involve high temperatures or chemicals of questionable safety. And because canola oil is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which easily become rancid and foul-smelling when subjected to oxygen and high temperatures, it must be deodorized. The standard deodorization process removes a large portion of the omega-3 fatty acids by turning them into trans fatty acids.
I can only surmise that the reason I could smell and taste that the canola oil I had was rancid, was likely because I’d bought it from a source where deodorizers had not been used. Either that, or it was so far beyond rancid that even the deodorizers had given up the fight!
Rancidity is not the only issue we are dealing with. The way in which the canola is processed is where the oil is turned from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde. Read it again: “…canola oil goes through the process of caustic refining, bleaching and degumming–all of which involve high temperatures or chemicals of questionable safety.” It’s like taking a lovely rib eye steak, marinating it in lighter fluid, torching it to a crisp, sprinkling it with rose petals, and serving it up on a platter!
How rancid oil affects your body.
Rancid doesn’t just mean that a food is stale, or rotten. In this case rancid means oxidized.
In your body oxidized means damage to your cells and tissues, especially to the areas rich in fat like your brain. You know what happens when an apple is exposed to air? Oxidation is the process that turns it brown and makes it go bad. If you eat vegetable oils that are already oxidized from heat and light in processing, you are exposing your own healthy tissues to a volatile substance which will damage them…. Oxidation, or rancidity, is not only a major contributor to most degenerative diseases, it also causes inflammation. Excess inflammation in the body can cause anything from arthritis to more serious diseases such as Parkinson’s, bipolar moods, schizophrenia, and obsessive compulsive disorders.
What can you use instead?
I’ve been evangelizing the health benefits of fats in your diet, saturated fats in particular, for quite some time now. So the question remains, which fats are a healthy choice?
My rule of thumb is to only use oils where I will be able to tell if it’s gone bad either via taste/odor/visible mold. For almost any application you can find an oil from a healthy source that tastes great and is a healthy choice.
There are many choices available, however my go-to oils are:
I primarily cook with coconut oil. Eggs, cookies, pie crusts, sautéing veggies, etc.
Butter from pastured cows is nutritious, stable, and makes anything taste better.
A very stable oil, traditionally used for frying. I use lard for pie crusts, pastries, pan frying, stir frying and in combination with coconut oil to cook my breakfast eggs in. Learn how to render your own lard from humanely-raised, pastured and/or foraged hogs here.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
A delicate oil that should, ideally, not be heated. I use olive oil in all of my salad dressings. Make sure you know where your olive oil is coming from, as most olive oil is diluted with cheaper oils or entirely fake!
Canola oil is not a health food.
Despite the lusty red lipstick, she’s still a pig. Canola oil is not a healthy fat. It has been processed, heated to a point which has destroyed most of its beneficial properties, and then deodorized in order to make it taste and smell fresh and clean.
Coconut oil, butter, lard, olive oil, and many more oils are a safe and healthy alternative.
To your health!