If you think talking politics is divisive, try talking about vegetable oils to health food fans. And not just vegetable oils in general; specifically, bring up canola oil.
On the one side of the argument you have people pointing out that it’s got low percentages of saturated fats. As noted by WebMD:
Check out the numbers: Canola oil has 7% saturated fat, compared to 9% for sunflower oil, 13% for corn oil, and 14% for olive oil.
Canola oil is also very high in healthier unsaturated fats. It’s higher in the omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) than any other oil except flaxseed oil. ALA is particularly important to have in your diet because your body can’t make it.
On the other hand, you have promoters of alternative medical approaches like Dr. Stephen Sinatra who says that canola is bad for you because saturated fats are overstated as dangerous, it has too many omega-6 acids, and it’s made from GMOs and heavily processed.
I could get into the whole health benefit argument and the question of exactly what foods haven’t been genetically modified through cross-breeding over time, but I’d prefer to focus on something else entirely.
Specifically, the name. “Canola”. What is a canola? We know what a sunflower is, for sunflower oil. We know what corn is. We know what olives are. But “canola”?
The answer is simple. It’s “Canadian” oil. And, no, we’re not talking about some sort of weird Soylent Green alternative; rather, we’re talking about a plant which is readily available throughout much of Canada. We’re talking about rapeseed.
Rapeseed oil was banned by the American FDA in the 1950s due to its high levels of erucic acid. The response was to breed low-acid versions of the plant, and to market “Canada Low Acid” oil. Canola. Simple enough.
Given the option to not call it rapeseed oil a second time… the earlier ban was still remembered by cooks and, well, it’s named “rapeseed”… they shifted the name. I’m inclined to say it was a good choice.
Question of the night: What’s your favorite fried food?