Canola Oil vs. Vegetable Oil: Which Is Healthier?

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Shapiro_011215Canola oil and vegetable oil are two major cooking oils that are commonly used in everyday meals; however, their health benefits differ. Here’s everything you need to know about the canola oil versus vegetable oil debate.

The Differences Between Canola Oil and Vegetable Oil

Any oil that comes from a plant can be labeled vegetable oil. Although it may be labelled vegetable oil, it is typically made from soybean oil or a blend of soybean oil and other oils (i.e. olive oil, grape seed oil, sesame oil, sunflower oil, pumpkin seed oil, and pal oil).

Canola oil is produced from the rapeseed plant. Rapeseed oil contains high levels of erucic acid, which is a toxic compound that is dangerous when taken in large amounts.  Canola oil, however, contains low levels of erucic acid.

Nutrition Facts: Canola Oil and Vegetable Oil

The difference between canola oil and vegetable oil becomes more apparent when you look at the information side-by-side. Just one tablespoon contains the following:

1 tablespoon Canola Oil Vegetable Oil (Soybean)
Calories 124 calories 119 calories
Total Fat 1 gram 13.5 grams
Vitamin E 2.4 milligrams 1.1 milligrams
Vitamin K 10 micrograms 24.8 micrograms
Omega-3 Fatty Acids 1,279 milligrams 949 milligrams
Omega-6 Fatty Acids 2,610 milligrams 6,790 milligrams

But do these numbers tell the whole story? Read on.

Canola Oil vs. Vegetable Oil: The Facts

Both canola oil and vegetable oil lack carbohydrates and protein, but they are good sources of vitamins E and K, as seen in the chart above. Both oils also contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Canola oil contains more omega-3 fatty acids and vegetable oil contains more omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids can help combat depression, lower the risk of heart disease and ease the symptoms of arthritis.

Too much omega-6 fatty acids combined with little omega-3 fatty acids can have a negative effect on your health. The omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids found in vegetable oil are heavily refined and a lot of the benefits these fatty acids provide are lost as a result. In comparison, canola oil has an omega-6-to-omega-3 ratio of 2:1, which is the desired amount to have as part of a proper diet. According to the University of Maryland, the average American consumes 14–25 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids.

Pure vegetable oils contain a large amount of linoleic acid, which is an omega-6 fatty acid that can reduce the risk of heart disease. It is also easy to digest and helps reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) “bad” cholesterol levels and increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL) “good” cholesterol levels.

Also Read:  8 Simple Substitutes for Vegetable Oil

Hydrogenated margarine, on the other hand, is chemically changed from liquid to solid, which alters healthy fatty acids to unhealthy trans fatty acids.

A 2013 study conducted by researchers at the University of Illinois and the University of Missouri found that vegetable oil is healthy in moderation due to its linoleic acid content. Researchers observed the vegetable oil use in approximately 500 adults and found that a diet high in linoleic acid (about two to four tablespoons per day) wasn’t associated with inflammation.

Canola oil is low in saturated fats and high in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). This helps lower bad cholesterol while reducing the risk of stroke and heart attacks. Vegetable oil also contains ALA, but the amount is very small in comparison.

Soybean-based vegetable oil has more saturated fat than canola oil, making it less healthy for the heart than canola oil as it raises blood cholesterol levels. In comparison, canola oil is much higher in monounsaturated fats, which research has shown to be extremely useful at reducing the amount of cholesterol in the body. The fact that canola oil has the perfect ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids also contributes greatly to this opinion.

Remember that your choice of oil will also depend on what food you are you’re using it with. For instance, using canola oil to deep-fry potatoes can result in a fishy aftertaste, while vegetable oil will add a pleasant crispiness and improve the flavor.

When cooking with canola oil or vegetable oil, be mindful of the “smoke point”—the temperature where the oil starts smoking and breaking down. Canola oil’s smoke point is between 375-450 degrees Fahrenheit, while soybean oil has a smoke point of about 320 degrees Fahrenheit.

Whether you choose canola oil or vegetable oil, keep in mind the effects it will have on your health.

Read Next:

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