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Four Reasons to Use Canola Instead of Vegetable Oil

When it’s time to get cooking, do you really know your oil? Some oils are great for high temperatures, others can’t take the heat. Some are heart-smart, while others are loaded with saturated fat. And no, vegetable oil does not come from vegetables, like lettuce, carrots or tomatoes, despite the pictures on the label.

Vegetable oil is made from any number of oils. Turn over the bottle and you’ll see possibilities such as soybean, sunflower and corn, however, exactly what’s inside may not be specified. That means its nutritional content and culinary performance are unspecified, too.

“As a dietitian, I want an oil that’s healthy, and when I cook, I want an oil that’s versatile and performs consistently,” says Manuel Villacorta, R.D., author of “Whole Body Reboot.” “I can’t get that guarantee with vegetable oil.”

Sarah-Jane Bedwell, R.D., nutrition columnist at Self and author of “Schedule Me Skinny,” echoes Villacorta, noting the ideal is an everyday cooking oil that’s low in saturated fat and high in heat tolerance.

“It’s important that people understand the differences among cooking oils as they can’t be used interchangeably in everything you cook,” she says.

Four reasons Villacorta and Bedwell both prefer canola oil:

  1. It’s healthy. Canola oil contains the least saturated fat – about half that of olive, soybean, corn and sunflower oils – and the most plant-based omega-3 fat of all common cooking oils. Canola oil has a qualified health claim for reducing the risk of heart disease* and research also shows it may help control blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes. With vegetable oil, you just don’t know.
  2. It’s neutral. Canola oil has no taste and a light texture (unlike olive or coconut oils), which is what you want when preparing a spicy Mexican feast, tart lemon cake or an herb-laced dressing. The flavors of your ingredients, not your oil, take center stage. Other oils have heavier textures than canola oil.
  3. It can take the heat. Broil, sear or even deep-fry to your heart’s content. Canola oil has one of the highest heat tolerances of any cooking oil (smoke point of 468° F), so it’s an ideal kitchen partner. Smoke points vary with the type of oil.
  4. It’s affordable. Canola oil costs about the same as vegetable oil, but canola is superior nutritionally with guaranteed performance.

“With 100 percent canola oil, I know what I’m getting in the kitchen and on my plate,” Bedwell says. “It’s healthy and works in everything – an ‘all in one’ cooking oil.'”

* The U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized a qualified health claim for canola oil in 2006 based on limited and not conclusive scientific evidence that suggests that eating about 1½ tablespoons of canola oil daily may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease due to the unsaturated fat content in canola oil. To achieve this possible benefit, canola oil is to replace a similar amount of saturated fat and not increase the total number of calories you eat in a day.