Canola Oil vs Vegetable Oil: Which Is Healthiest?

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Vegetables are healthy, so vegetable oil must be the healthiest…right? Unfortunately, “vegetable” oils are not made from veggies; they’re made from seeds. So…

The answer is NEITHER!

Freaking out? Don’t. I’m going to explain everything you need to know about the healthiest oils. By the end of this post, you’ll be an oil expert!

First of all, when it comes to canola oil vs vegetable oil, why are both unhealthy?

Canola oil actually falls under the broader category of “vegetable” oil. The common “vegetable” oils are:

  • Canola oil
  • Organic canola oil (don’t be fooled by the “organic” label!)
  • Corn oil
  • Peanut oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Cottonseed oil
  • Grapeseed oil
  • Soybean oil
  • Sesame oil
  • Rice bran oil

As previously mentioned, “vegetable” oils are not made from vegetables, hence my continual use of quotation marks. (I’m going to keep this up throughout the entirety of the post because we should never think for a second that these toxic oils are made from wholesome veggies!)

Oddly, “vegetable” oils are made from the seeds of different plants! That’s why they’re sometimes referred to as “seed” oils. It’s extremely difficult to extract oil from a seed, so the above oils are highly processed. (Have you ever seen a canola vegetable at a farmer’s market? Neither have I!)

Possibly, you’ve heard that “vegetable” oils are healthy because they’re low in saturated fat. Addressing this, University Health News published an article stating the following:

Is the American Heart Association wrong about their recommendation to avoid foods high in cholesterol and to replace saturated fats, like those found in animal foods, with polyunsaturated fats, like those found in vegetable oils? A growing number of experts think so, including a 98-year-old researcher from the University of Illinois who argues that the main cause of heart disease is not dietary cholesterol but rather oxidized cholesterol and fats—especially from too many polyunsaturated vegetable oils and fried foods.

The aforementioned researcher Dr. Fred Kummerow spent his life championing the anti-trans fat cause. Kummerow wrote in his research publication:

. . . we have switched from the consumption of saturated fats to polyunsaturated fats, which now are in almost everything that is consumed. Vegetables oils, partially hydrogenated fats, and fried foods are responsible for the persistently high rate of heart disease. The most effective way to prevent coronary heart disease and sudden death according to these conclusions is to eat fewer commercially fried foods, fewer polyunsaturated fats and to avoid partially hydrogenated fats. Conversely, we should eat more vegetables and fruit as a source of antioxidants.

Further, this Healthline article sums up the downsides of “vegetable” oils nicely. Here are the key takeaways:

  • They contain large amounts of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are harmful in excess.
  • In the evolutionary scheme of things, humans haven’t been exposed to these oils for very long; until recently, we didn’t have the technology to process them. Thus, the majority of our ancestors were not exposed to these highly-processed oils…and they were healthier because of it!
  • Excessive consumption of “vegetable” oils leads to actual structural changes within our fat stores and cell membranes, which can accelerate the aging process (among other things). Think of all the money you could save on expensive skincare products if you limit your “vegetable” oil consumption!
  • “Vegetable” oils contribute to systemic and chronic inflammation. Systemic and chronic inflammation lead to diseases such as cardiovascular disease, arthritis, depression, and cancer.
  • Some contain massive amounts of trans fat (aka the dangerous fat).

I’ve always known that canola oil (like other “vegetable” oils) is highly processed, but I didn’t realize just how processed it is until I watched this video.

In order to extract oil from canola plant seeds, producers must undergo a number of rigorous factory processes.

If you want to be completely grossed out, watch the video yourself. When you do, ignore the outdated statement that “canola oil is one of the healthiest cooking oils” because “it has the lowest level of saturated fat” and also the implication that it lowers cholesterol. A few years back, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee announced its updated view: “Cholesterol is not considered a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.” That’s right! The cholesterol you were taught to fear is no longer a “nutrient of concern”! Bring on the egg yolks! 

These are the steps a factory must take to extract oil from canola seeds (don’t try this at home!):

  • Separate seeds from “foreign material,” aka other plants, weeds, etc. So far, so good.
  • Pass seeds by a magnet to be sure there’s no metal (like screws!) in them. EEK, but fine.
  • Crush them into flakes.
  • Squeeze the seeds with high pressure to force out the oil.

**If the process stopped here, it’d be fine…but it doesn’t!**

  • 42% of the canola seed is oil. The press just extracted about 75% of that, but the remainder is still in the pressed flakes, which are now referred to as “canola cakes.”
  • The cakes exit the press and are put through a second extraction. Then, they’re washed with a solvent. This chemical extraction process removes all but a trace of oil. Umm…GROSS! 
  • All of the extracted oil is stored in large tanks before it enters the refining phase.
  • First, the oil is washed for 20 minutes with sodium hydroxide. (By the way, “Sodium hydroxide is used to manufacture everyday products, such as paper, aluminum, commercial drain and oven cleaners, and soap and detergents.”)
  • Then, the oil is spun at high speeds to remove impurities, which are later sold to soap manufacturers.
  • At this point, the canola oil is clearer…but not clear enough! The next step is to filter out the waxes that make it appear cloudy. If you go to minute 3:14 in the video, you’ll see this in action. It’s. Disgusting. But, good news! The wax doesn’t go to waste. It’s used to make “vegetable” shortening! (By the way, that was all sarcasm. You shouldn’t eat shortenings like Crisco either!)
  • The final step (drum roll please) is…BLEACHING! That’s right, the oil is bleached so that it’s as clear as possible.
  • Oh wait, I lied. There’s one more step: A steam-induced heating process is used to remove the odor. Yep, canola oil actually reeks all the way up to this step. Finally, it’s “fully refined and ready for bottling.”

So, there we have it. Many chemical-laden steps later, canola “vegetable” oil is ready for consumption! All of the other “vegetable” oils must undergo a similar toxic extraction.

As mentioned above, products like Crisco (and butter substitutes like margarine) are also made with “vegetable” oils. Steer clear of those, as well!

So, if I shouldn’t eat “vegetable” oils, which oils should I eat?

The easiest way to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy oils (in my opinion) is to think fruit oils = good, “vegetable” oils = bad.

Which oils are fruit (good)? Fortunately, the list is short and easy to remember:

  • Olive oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Avocado oil
  • Palm oil (there are some environmental concerns surrounding this one, so I don’t use it. Since olive, coconut, and avocado oils meet all of my needs, there’s no need to!)

Contrary to “vegetable” oils, fruit oils are highly unprocessed. Here are the steps for making olive oil:

  • Separate the olives from any twigs, leaves, etc.
  • Wash the olives in water
  • Move the olives to a vibrating screen; shake off any dirt and excess water.
  • Crush the olives (pits included!) to create a paste.
  • Add warm water to the paste.
  • Pump the paste into a spinning decanter to separate the pumice, oil, and water by centrifugal force. The waste is used for cattle feed, not for making something like soap!
  • Put all of the liquid into another centrifuge so that the oil can be separated from the fine olive particles and water that the first decanter missed. Unfiltered (or cold pressed) olive oil is the result of this step; it’s a little cloudy but still edible (and delicious!).
  • To filter the olive oil even more, put it through a large sieve.

That’s it! A similar chemical-free process is used to make the other fruit oils (avocado and coconut). This is why olive, avocado, and coconut are the only oils you should consume on a regular basis.

A 4-Step Approach For Eliminating “Vegetable” Oils From Your Diet:

Step 1: Throw out the canola oil!

This is the oil most commonly used for cooking, so it’s likely in your cupboard right now. Just throw it—and any other “vegetable” oils—out immediately!

Step 2: Stock up on high-quality olive, avocado, and coconut oils.

To read all about olive oil and learn about the best brands, read my prior post “Is Extra Virgin Olive Oil Good For You? An Expert Explains.”

These are my favorite brands of avocado and coconut oils:

Contrary to popular belief, you can cook with olive oil on medium or low heat. It’s also excellent for drizzling on pretty much anything. Avocado and coconut oils have a higher smoke point, so you can cook with them on high heat.

Step 3: Expand your horizons; cook with ghee (clarified butter) and regular ol’ butter.

Remember: Crisco and margarine are byproducts of “vegetable” oil, so don’t use those! Veggies, eggs, meat, etc., cooked in ghee and/or butter are delectable and life-changing!

  • My favorite brand of ghee is 4th & Heart, which is available on Amazon, thrivemarket.com, and at many grocery stores

Step 4: Read labels!

Since “vegetable” oils are so cheap and common these days, you’ll find them in most processed foods. Read labels and don’t buy/eat items that contain these toxic oils! Even snacks that are marketed as “gluten-free,” “organic,” “baked,” “smart,” and/or “free of artificial flavors, colors, and ingredients” often contain the toxic oils, such as:

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Ingredients: CORN MEAL, RICE, CONTAINS ONE OR MORE OF THE FOLLOWING: SUNFLOWER, EXPELLER PRESSED CANOLA OR CORN OIL, AGED CHEDDAR CHEESE (CULTURED MILK, SALT, ENZYMES), WHEY AND BUTTERMILK.
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Ingredients: ALMONDS, WASABI SOY SAUCE SEASONING (SUGAR, MODIFIED CORN STARCH, SALT, SOY SAUCE [SOYBEAN, WHEAT, SALT], HORSERADISH, ONION, SPICE, FRACTIONATED COCONUT OIL AND/OR PALM KERNEL OIL, GARLIC, MALTODEXTRIN, YEAST EXTRACT, NATURAL FLAVOR, CITRIC ACID, DISODIUM GUANYLATE, DISODIUM INOSINATE), VEGETABLE OIL (CANOLA AND/OR SAFFLOWER).
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Ingredients: VEGETABLE OIL (SOYBEAN AND/OR CANOLA OIL), WATER, DISTILLED VINEGAR, ROMANO CHEESE (PASTEURIZED CULTURED MILK, SALT, ENZYMES), CIDER VINEGAR, SALT, SUGAR, ANCHOVY PASTE, GARLIC, SPICES, XANTHAN GUM, PAPRIKA AND ANNATTO (FOR COLOR).

Food conglomerates will forever pretend that they have our best interests in mind, but we must remember they’re profit-driven entities and motivated to sell, sell, SELL! Don’t fall for their tactics.

The best possible way to avoid refined, toxic “vegetable” oils is to eat whole foods that you prepare yourself using olive, avocado, and coconut oils. Shop the periphery of the supermarket and avoid the processed junk in the middle!

When you are in the market for packaged items, visit My Favorite Things! to learn about brands that use only fruit oils in their products. Fortunately, many companies are taking the healthier route and making “vegetable” oil-free items!

Bottom line: When it comes to canola oil vs vegetable oil…choose neither! Avoid the highly processed “vegetable” oils at all costs; instead, use fruit oils, butter, and ghee for cooking! What do you think? Will you toss out canola/vegetable oil once and for all?? Share any thoughts/questions in the comments below!


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