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    Everyone needs a little fat in their diet. Fats and oils, such as canola, play an essential role in human nutrition. Fat is part of every cell in the body and is a valuable source of energy. It aids in the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K as well as beta-carotene and slows digestion so that you feel full for a longer period.

    But not all fats are created equally. Consumers recognize canola oil for its nutritional attributes as it contains the lowest level of saturated fat of any common culinary oil. It is high in monounsaturated fat, which has been shown to reduce blood cholesterol levels, and has moderate levels of essential polyunsaturated fats.

    Canola oil is a good source of plant-based omega-3 fat and vitamin E. Like all vegetable oils, canola oil is cholesterol-free. In 2006, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized the following qualified health claim for canola oil:

    Limited and not conclusive scientific evidence suggests that eating about 1½ tablespoons (19 grams) 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. One serving of this product contains [x] grams of canola oil.

    To learn about canola from farm to fork, watch the six-part series of videos below, featuring a culinary student's discovery and use of canola oil.

    Canola oil is made from canola seed. Canola oil is pressed from tiny canola seeds produced by beautiful yellow flowering plants of the Brassica family. Cabbages and cauliflower are also part of the same botanical family! Through traditional cross-breeding, canola was created by removing the undesirable characteristics from rapeseed in the mid-1970s. Canola, however, is NOT rapeseed -- their nutritional profiles are very different.

    Canola oil is officially defined as having less than two percent erucic acid and less than 30 umoles of glucosinolates. This is a strict internationally-regulated definition that differentiates canola from rapeseed. Oilseed products that do not meet this standard cannot use the trademarked term "canola." High-erucic acid rapeseed, although still grown, is now confined to production under contract for specific industrial uses.

    canola-field

    Canola field ready for the harvest, with a processing plant in the background
    and inset picture of canola seeds.