• Canola Oil: Why it's the Healthy Choice

    Fat has gotten a bad rap for so long that most people have a hard time conceiving of it being good. But nutritionists and health professionals know that not all fats are alike. Good fats — canola oil among them — can even improve our health if they replace bad fats in our diet.

    Everyone needs some fat in the diet; it's a building block for cells. Without fat, we can't absorb fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Fat also helps us absorb carotenoids like beta carotene, which are powerful antioxidants. Fat provides energy, and some types — the much-talked-about omega-3 and monounsaturated fats — may help prevent heart disease when used in place of saturated fat without increasing daily calories.

    Here's what you don't want in a dietary fat:

    • Saturated fat. It raises bad LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol in your blood and has been linked to heart disease. Among common edible oils, canola has the least saturated fat (7%).
    • Trans fat. Created when liquid oils are partially hydrogenated to make them solid,trans fat raises bad LDL cholesterol and can lower the good HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol. Double whammy. The recommended amount of trans fat in the diet: zip. Amount of trans fat in canola oil: zip.
    • Cholesterol. The body makes enough cholesterol for its needs. (It does need some.) You don't want to get much more from your diet, and canola oil, being a vegetable oil, has none. Dietary cholesterol comes from animal fat.

    And here's what you do want from a dietary fat:

    • Monounsaturated fat: It may help lower heart disease risk and control blood glucose. Canola oil is rich in it.
    • Omega-3 fatty acids: We need these in our diet because our body can't make them and they may reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Among culinary oils, canola is a top source.
    • Omega-6 fatty acids: Again, our bodies can't make them and we need them for brain health. Canola oil has just enough.
    • A low omega-6 to omega-3 ratio: For heart health, nutritionists say this ratio should be low. Canola oil's favorable 2:1 ratio helps counter the much higher ratio in the typical Western diet.
    • Vitamin E: This potent antioxidant may help reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. Just one tablespoon of canola oil supplies about 25 percent of an adult's daily need for vitamin E.

    Fat Comparison Chart

    Among dietary fats, canola oil's report card is impressive. It scores high in the features we want and low in the features we don't. No wonder Cooking Light magazine now specifies canola oil rather than generic vegetable oil in its recipes.

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