Canola oil is a vegetable oil from the rapeseed plant that’s rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, while being low in saturated fats.
For theses reasons, it’s a popular industrial oil for cooking and frying thanks to its potential heart health benefits. Research has demonstrated that when people replace saturated fats in their diet with the kind of unsaturated fats found in canola oil, their cholesterol levels are lowered and in turn their risk for heart disease goes down.
Canola oil has generated considerable controversy, though, due to the fact that many types of rapeseed plants are genetically modified.
However, many top canola oil brands are not genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and even those that are boast the same healthy fat profile.
Our research team has ranked and reviewed the ten best canola oils on the market, plus taken a look at the science behind canola oil’s benefits and side effects.
1. Aunt Patty’s Organic Canola Oil
Aunt Patty’s Organic Canola Oil is our top pick thanks to its non-GMO origins and organic certification. This gallon jug of canola oil is the best choice if you are very stringent about the ingredients in the oils you cook with.
Thanks to no genetic modification and no synthetic pesticides or herbicides, you can be assured that the oil in Aunt Patty’s Organic Canola Oil is as natural as it comes.
2. La Tourangelle Organic Canola Oil
La Tourangelle Organic Canola Oil is a gourmet canola oil that’s best used for marinades, baking, and other types of cooking that call for small to moderate amounts of high quality oil.
It’s both non-GMO and organically certified, and the small 17-ounce bottles with a flip top make measuring out small amounts easy. While it’s not well-suited for deep frying, it does just about everything else marvelously well.
3. LifeOil Canola Oil
LifeOil Canola Oil is an excellent canola oil that comes in a 33 ounce bottle that’s great for the occasional user.
It’s not genetically modified, and users love its ability to cook and fry foods without imparting a strong flavor to the food. If you don’t need a giant bottle of canola oil, LifeOil Canola Oil is a great choice.
4. Healthy Harvest Canola Oil
Healthy Harvest Canola Oil is a non-GMO canola oil that comes in a gallon-sized jug that makes it well-suited for large batch cooking and deep frying.
It’s shelf-stable and on top of that, the bottle itself is free of bisphenol A (BPA). These advantages make it a top pick for bulk users of canola oil.
5. Spectrum Culinary Organic Canola Oil
Spectrum Culinary Organic Canola Oil is a step up from the standard everyday canola oil.
First, it’s organically certified, so you can be confident that it is free of synthetic pesticides and herbicides. Moreover, this canola oil is non-GMO like many other top picks.
Finally, it’s refined in such a way that the oil handles high heat quite well compared to other canola oils. This does mean it’s more processed, but that’s a necessary tradeoff for a higher-temperature oil.
6. Kirkland Signature Canola Oil Cooking Spray
Kirkland Signature Canola Oil Cooking Spray fits a convenient niche for people who need a quick coating of oil on a pan or a dish before baking and cooking, but still want a solid, high-quality canola oil.
Kirkland SIgnature Canola Oil Cooking Spray is non-GMO and provides 17 ounces of oil per spray can, making it a good pick for efficient cooking.
7. Spectrum Canola Oil
Spectrum Canola Oil is a solid pick for a capable, everyday canola oil that’s versatile and also non-GMO.
While it’s not organically certified, nor does it come in a bulk container or use gourmet-style processing like some of its competitors, Spectrum Canola Oil is still a solid choice.
8. Great Bazaar Swad Canola Oil
Great Bazaar Swad Canola Oil is imported directly from India, through with something as mildly flavored as canola oil, the country of origin is not likely to make a difference in the flavor profile.
Great Bazaar Swad Canola Oil is also genetically modified, which might be a turn-off for some people. The decent-sized 96 ounce container is the one upside to this otherwise middle of the road canola oil.
9. Member’s Mark Canola Cooking Spray
Member’s Mark Canola Cooking Spray is a spray can based canola oil that does a good job protecting cookware and helping food cook evenly.
However, it’s not GMO-free or organic like some of its other competitors, so it finds itself further down in the rankings.
10. Crisco Canola Oil with DHA
Crisco Canola Oil takes the unusual step of fortifying this canola oil with DHA and EPA, two constituents of omega 3 fatty acids that have particular health benefits.
However, adding these ingredients makes it necessary to add preservatives to make the combination shelf-stable.
Further, this canola oil is derived from genetically modified plants, so unless you are struggling to find sources of DHA and EPA in your diet and for whatever reason don’t want to take a fish oil supplement, you’d likely be better off with a different canola oil.
Canola oil benefits and side effects
Canola oil, the pressed vegetable oil that came from the rapeseed plant, came to prominence after the push to lower dietary saturated fats in favor of unsaturated fats (both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats).
Canola oil does indeed provide unsaturated fats without much in the way of saturated fats, and for that reason, it’s rated as a heart-healthy food.
However, canola oil generates considerable controversy because it’s often derived from genetically modified plants. In addition, there are some questions about the safety of a few of the trace ingredients found in canola oil, though the levels of these trace ingredients tend to be quite low.
We’ll take a look at both the benefits and potential drawbacks of using canola oil for your cooking.
Canola oil is the highly processed end product derived from rapeseed, and may not be as healthy as you’ve been led to believe.
Though marketing campaigns designed to sell this (mostly) monounsaturated oil don’t make a big deal out of this fact, 90% of the rapeseed crop today has been genetically engineered by Monsanto, the biotech giant, to resist a commonly used herbicide, Roundup. (1)
Not all canola oil is genetically modified. The jury’s still out on how foods categorized as Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) affect human health, but many of us would prefer a verdict before making our choices.
If you’re using canola oil that’s not labeled “Organic” or “Non-GMO,” you may be getting a whole different food product than you bargained for, along with an unwelcome effect on your health. This could take a while yet, since corporations focused on the bottom line exert great influence on the way these sort of dramas play out.
Genetically modified rapeseed is also grown in America and Australia to a lesser extent, but European countries ban the cultivation of GMO crops. (3)
Some by-products from processing rapeseed into an edible oil are sold as animal food additives often used in hog and poultry production (2), which can add a new dimension to the idea that we are what we eat. Others are shipped off to factories where soap is manufactured.
Canola oil is processed to remove erucic acid, which would otherwise cause a bad taste and smell. Rapeseed oil is cheap to produce, but it tastes and smells bad. The reason is that it contains erucic acid, a fatty acid that caused heart disease in lab rats. (5)
In order to make this oil palatable, Canadian scientists selectively bred rapeseed plants to minimize the bitter taste from glucosinolates (6) and drop the erucic acid content present in the original version until they had what they wanted: an edible, marketable oil with acceptable lipid profiles that could generate considerable profits even though it required considerable processing.
Canola oil is low in saturated fat and high in unsaturated fats. The typical breakdown of fats in canola oil is 28% polyunsaturated fatty acids (in an ideal ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 at 2:1), 63% monounsaturated fatty acids, and 7% saturated fatty acids.
Scientific evidence is conflicting on the effects of saturated fat—looking at saturated fat intake alone is not enough to make claims about health effects. You also need to consider what people people will replace the saturated fat in their diet with if they reduce saturated fat intake.
A 2015 study looked at the effects of replacing dietary saturated fat with either unsaturated fats or carbohydrates (X). The study found that reducing saturated fat intake by substituting unsaturated fats is healthy and reduces risk for cardiovascular disease, while replacing saturated fat intake with refined carbohydrates is not healthy.
During the multi-step process through which rapeseeds are refined, some of the fatty acids have turned rancid and changed into trans fats, but the amount of trans fat in canola is is fairly small—usually well under 0.5 grams per serving.
That being said, it is not zero: if you really want to keep your trans fat intake as close to zero as possible, consider something like olive oil instead.
Canola oil can decrease your LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Several clinical trials have been conducted that have found that the unsaturated fats in canola oil lead to a decrease in LDL cholesterol (aka “bad” cholesterol) (18, 19).
Conversely, these same studies did not find an increase in HDL, also called “good” cholesterol, and they were fairly short, at only a few weeks in duration each. So, similarly to what we saw earlier, canola oil is healthy, but perhaps not the healthiest oil you can choose to consume.
Canola oil is a good ingredient that’s generally recognized as safe by the United States Food and Drug Administration, so it’s not associated with any particular acute side effects to any greater extent than any other oil for deep frying or for cooking.
The primary concerns with canola oil are the trans fat content, which depends to some extent on the processing techniques used to extract the canola oil from the rapeseed plant.
Heat processing can cause the formation of trans fats, but more carefully processed and higher quality canola oils won’t have as high of a content of trans fats.
Small amounts of trans fat occur naturally in other foods that are generally recognized as healthy, like cheeses and yogurt, so the effects of this small amount of trans fat in the long run is not clear.
Canola oil also does not contain quite the same amount of beneficial omega 3 fatty acids that you’d find in olive oil or other top-tier sources of healthy fats, like almonds.
So, the real factor here would be the opportunity cost of not using a different type of healthier oil, rather than something intrinsically negative with canola oil.
The best canola oil is cold-pressed instead of heat-processed, because it won’t contain much in the way of trans fats. If you care about high-quality ingredients, seek out a canola oil that is organically certified and possibly GMO free.
The primary advantage of canola oil is that it is high in unsaturated fats, which are healthier for your heart than saturated fats.
That being said, canola oil does not have the same kind of beneficial effects that you’d get in something like olive oil, so it’s further down in the hierarchy of beneficial oils for your body.
There are still some concerns about the heavily processed nature of canola oil, especially when a heat process is used that can cause the formation of trans fats.