If you love cooking, then you use some sort of oil. Is it canola? Or do you prefer vegetable oil? They are not the same, and you should be aware of that!
Stay tuned to find out what canola and vegetable oil have in common and how they are different. We will go over their benefits and risks, allowing you to make an educated decision next time you go grocery shopping.
What Is Canola Oil?
Canola oil is a vegetable oil that comes from the seed of rapeseed. Usually, the seeds from the genus Brassica are in this oil, as long as they are lower than 2% erucic acid in their fatty acid profile. Canola oil was first introduced in the 1970s in Canada as part of an attempt to have an oil lower in erucic acid.
Brassica oilseed has been around for over 4,000 years in India and 2,000 years in China and Japan. This oil was also used to light street lamps in Northern Europe during the 13th century. Rapeseed extracts were sold commercially as food in the 1950s.
The first documented canola oil came from breeding B. napus and B. Rapa at the University of Manitoba in Canada. The name is an abbreviation of “CAN” from Canada and “OLA” meaning oil, low in acid. These days the name might refer to various varieties of rapeseed oil in North America and Australia.
Canola oil production is done by heating and crushing the rapeseed, the oil is then extracted, and the remaining liquid undergoes refining to remove free fatty acids and gums. Cold-pressed canola oil also exists, but it is less widely available.
Many like to use canola oil for culinary purposes because it is relatively low in saturated fats and has mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Among the vegetable oils, canola is considered number four. Its benefits stem from its omega fatty acid content, ability to lower total and LDL cholesterol levels, and having a high smoke point.
Like other oils, canola can be part of non-culinary production. This oil is used for biodiesel production as well as in lubricants, candles, lipsticks, and more. Any organic canola oil must be a genetically modified organism (GMO) free product.
One tablespoon of canola oil (14 g) has the following nutritional content (*):
- 124 calories
- 0 g protein
- 14 g fat
- 0 g carbohydrate
- 0 g fiber
- 0 mg calcium
- 0 mg iron
- 0 mg potassium
- 0 mg sodium
- 2.45 mg vitamin E
- 9.98 µg vitamin K
- 1.03 g saturated fats
- 8.86 g monounsaturated fatty acids
- 3.93 g polyunsaturated fatty acids
- 0 mg cholesterol
Is Canola Oil Healthy?
This oil is not the healthiest but it’s still one of the good choices you can find in the market if you do not want to use olive or avocado oil. It is lower in saturated fats, which makes it heart-healthy.
Canola oil is high in vitamin E and K. These two micronutrients are fat-soluble vitamins that play essential roles in the body. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant, but vitamin K plays a role in blood clotting and digestion.
This type of oil also contains less saturated fats than other oils, including sunflower and coconut. It is about 7% saturated fats, while the rest are mono- and polyunsaturated fats. This fatty acid profile makes it healthier than other sources of fat, especially butter.
However, we should note that canola oil contains mostly linoleic acid, also known as omega 6, which in excess can become inflammatory. In contrast, only a small amount is alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), or omega 3, which is the healthiest and most anti-inflammatory. That is why canola oil is not the best choice when lowering cholesterol or heart health.
Another point to note is that canola oil is a GMO product. From its beginning, it was genetically modified to provide a lower amount of erucic acid. While GMOs are safe to consume, they are not naturally occurring, and some people avoid these products.
You should also be aware that canola oil is highly refined before becoming commercially available. While this process does not necessarily pose a health risk, it lowers the nutrient content in the oil. It is hard to find unrefined canola oil, but it might be worth a shot if you find it.
Finally, canola oil has a high smoke point, which deems it safe for all sorts of cooking. Unlike olive oil, canola can withstand very high temperatures, making it safe for frying. Depending on what you want to cook, canola is a good choice. The shelf life of canola oil is up to 24 months.
See more: What can you use instead of canola oil?
What Is Vegetable Oil?
The term vegetable oil refers to any oil that comes from the seed of a plant. Commercially, the product that says vegetable oil almost always is derived from soybeans. Other examples include canola oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, and safflower oil.
Since almost 100% of the commercial vegetable oil comes from soybeans, the description here will focus on facts relating to this oil. If you wonder why vegetable oil is not named soybean oil, it is because of a marketing choice. Still, in some cases, your vegetable oil might be a blend of soybean with other things, such as corn.
This oil is made by crushing dried soybeans and spinning them to separate the oil. The remaining liquid undergoes distillation and refining. The resulting liquid is very neutral and contains no impure substances.
Vegetable oil is light-colored and has no flavor or odor. It also has a high smoke point of 450 F. This means you can use it for things like deep-frying, which involves heating the oil up to 375 F.
Since it is neutral, it can be added to vinaigrettes, mayonnaise, sauces, and more. You can also use vegetable oil for baking without much problem because it is flavorless. Vegetable oil also has a long shelf life thanks to the refining process.
While vegetable oil contains saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fatty acids, the hydrogenation process converts it into vegetable margarine and shortening. These are not healthy fats, as they undergo hydrogenation to make the fat more saturated and solid. Otherwise, vegetable oil can also be used for other purposes including fuel and pet food additives.
One tablespoon (13.6 g) has the following nutritional content (*):
- 120 calories
- 0 g protein
- 13.6 g fat
- 0 g carbohydrate
- 0 g fiber
- 0 g sugar
- 0 mg calcium
- 0.003 mg iron
- 0 mg potassium
- 0 mg sodium
- 1.11 mg vitamin E
- 25 µg vitamin K
- 2.08 g saturated fatty acids
- 3.09 g monounsaturated fatty acids
- 7.79 g polyunsaturated fatty acids
- 0 mg cholesterol
Is Vegetable Oil Healthy?
Vegetable oil is not the healthiest choice, but it is also not the least healthy. You can count on it when you need unflavored and neutral fat. This type of oil is preferable to butter or shortening, as it is higher in unsaturated fats.
Like canola, vegetable oil contains vitamin E and K. These vitamins are important for immunity, blood clotting, and gut health. Since they are fat-soluble, this food is a good source.
On the other hand, vegetable oil is lower in omega fatty acids. While it does have some omega 3, the majority are omega 6 and 9, which are more inflammatory. It is still a better choice than some other oils, but it is not as high in omega 3s as olive oil or canola oil.
Because vegetable oil has a high smoke point, it is safe to use at high temperatures. You can use it for deep frying, which can be dangerous when not done with the right type of oil. It also allows you to saute, fry, bake, and more.
Although it is a better choice than margarine, vegetable oil is still a high-fat source that could lead to potential weight gain and fat deposits. Using it in moderation is key, and choosing other sources, like olive oil, when possible is also a good idea. You can also choose to use vegetable oil only when making certain dishes that require it.
Finally, just as with canola oil, vegetable oil undergoes processing and refining. Most commercial vegetable oil is not composed of just soybeans, and this could interfere with the amount and quality of nutrients. Be sure to read the label of your product before buying it.
The shelf life of vegetable oil can be as long as 24 months if you store it in a cool and dry place.
See more: What to use instead of vegetable oil
What Are The Key Differences Between Canola Oil and Vegetable Oil?
The first difference that comes to mind is the type of source these oils derive from. Canola oil comes from a combination of rapeseed that results in a lower acid oil. Vegetable oil is a generic term that refers to any oil from plant sources, but it likely comes from soybean.
Although they are high in smoking points, the temperature for that in these two sources is also different. Canola oil has a smoking point of about 400 F or more. Vegetable oil has a smoking point of 450 F.
The next key difference is the content of monounsaturated fatty acids. While canola oil is high in omega 6 fatty acids, it also contains a relatively good amount of omega 3. Vegetable oil is lower in these fatty acids and has more saturated fats instead.
The flavor and color in both oils might also differ, even though they are both supposed to be neutral. Canola oil is genetically modified to have a neutral flavor and light color. Vegetable oil can contain a mixture of soybean and corn, which would make the oil darker and richer in flavor.
When it comes to their origin, these oils are not the same. Canola oil was genetically engineered in Canada as an attempt to create a stable oil lower in saturated fats. In contrast, vegetable oil is a broad term that was used to describe any oil that comes from a plant source.
Their uses are very similar, but there is one key difference here. Canola oil is suitable for baking, frying, sauteing, and roasting. Vegetable oil is suitable for all of these but deep-frying as well.
|Vegetable Oil vs Canola Oil Main Differences||Canola Oil||Vegetable Oil|
|Source||Rapeseed varieties||Soybean, corn, peanut, palm kernel, and sunflower seed|
|Taste||Neutral||Might be neutral but can be slightly sweet|
|Use||Sauteing, frying, baking, roasting, and industrial||Dressings, sauces, baking, deep-frying, sauteing, and roasting|
|Cost||$1.98 to 7.99 per 24 oz container||$2.99 to 7.99 per 24 oz container|
|Calories per tablespoon||124 calories||120 calories|
Is Canola Oil or Vegetable Oil Healthier?
While both oils are advertised as healthy, canola is healthier. It contains less saturated fats and more omega fatty acids. If possible, choosing canola is a healthier option than vegetable oil.
Although canola is not the best choice, between these two, you are better off with it. Otherwise, you should probably choose olive oil or avocado oil. Canola is a good third option due to its nutrient profile.
If you are planning on deep frying food, you should go with vegetable oil. This type of oil has a very high smoking point and is safe to use for this type of cooking. For everything else, canola can do the trick.
Do not confuse canola and vegetable oil ever again. While they might look similar, they are very different. Choose wisely and use the best oil for your cooking and baking purposes.
See more: Grapeseed oil vs olive oil
*image by Kallihora/depositphotos