Canola Oil May Be “Paleo Diet” Approved, But I Won’t Eat It

Diane Sanfilippo FAQs, Fats and Oils 26 Comments

(11/1/11 Note: The revised version of Loren Cordain's The Paleo Diet no longer promotes canola oil as healthy, but at the time of this post's original publication, the version of The Paleo Diet that I purchased was pro-canola oil.)

I have been saying I should blog about this topic for months now, so here it goes. I'm keeping it pretty short so as to stick to the parts I want to get out there now, and we can get into more details if necessary later, cool? Cool. Here goes…


(Only since the 1980s- read: NEW FOOD! NEW FOODS ARE NOT REAL FOODS)

How the Rapeseed becomes the yellow colored, mild smelling oil that's on shelves in stores goes something like this:

Rapeseeds + high heat processing with hexane (a chemical solvent) = a grey, awful smelling, non-smooth oil.

> grey, awful smelling, non-smooth oil is then chemically bleached and de-gummed

> bleached and de-gummed, awful smelling oil is then chemically deodorized

> bleached, de-gummed, chemically deodorized oil is then dyed yellow and bottled in plastic

For the full process, check out this industry link. The process is actually longer than listed above, but those are the big steps. The description via this link gets into detail but the summary they provide for Rapeseed oil refining is as follows:

“The refining process involves degumming, neutralization, drying, bleaching, and deodorization. Crude oil from extraction has to be refined to obtain a high quality oil. Natural impurities of crude rapeseed oil include water, dirt, phosphatide gums, free fatty acids, color matter, odiferous and flavorous substances, natural breakdown and oxidation products of the oil itself. There are two methods for refining edible oils: alkali and physical refining.”

HEALTHY OIL? HMM… What do you think?

Also, according to Mary Enig, author of “Know Your Fats,” a book considered to be THE leading resource on the subject of fats and oils, Canola oil “was produced by genetically modifying the parent rapeseed so that the monounsaturated fatty acid would be oleic acid instead of another monounsaturated fatty acid caled erucic acid. Erucic acid-containing rapeseed oil is considered undesirable as a food by the US and Canadian governments.” And “like any highly unsaturated fat, it needs to be carefully handled as it becomes rancid very easily.” The effects of genetically modified crops are still unknown, but many predict that they won't be positive as time goes on. If that's not reason enough to avoid canola oil…


Highly unsaturated fats like Canola oil oxidize VERY easily. Leave a bottle open on a counter for a week. Smell what happens. Do the same with coconut oil or even butter. Smell what happens. The chemical structure of unsaturated fats is VERY delicate. When something in their environment isn't perfect, their structure is changed easily, causing them to oxidize. This is one reason why we say that olive oil shouldn't be heated or only on very low temperatures- so that it's chemical structure can remain in tact. Once these structures are changed, the body can't use them as intended.

Coconut and other saturated fats are far more STABLE and do no chemically change when heat is applied (at least not as easily, it will take much higher heat for longer periods of time), so when they enter our bodies, they're in-tact and our bodies recognize them as what they are from nature. Oxidized or rancid oils in the body enter and cannot be biochemically understood as food. They enter and are more like a PLASTIC in the body, or a toxin. Our body does not metabolize toxins but rather STORES them – in our fat cells. This leads to inflammation. Inflammation is a key player in many chronic diseases, weight gain, weight loss resistance, general feeling of fatigue, pain and lethargy, joint pain, etc. While I recognize that canola oil's fatty acid profile is high in health-promoting omega 3s, neglecting to look beyond that one seemingly positive attribute of the oil (which becomes a moot point once the oil is oxidized, which we can see happens extremely easily) paints a false picture of this oil's true composition and function in our bodies.

I hope that was enough information on why canola oil is bad. Coconut oil, why it's good- I have to save that for another day. I need some dinner.

In the event that you'd like to read more on canola oil, a simple search on for “canola oil” reveals many results. He's a trusted naturopathic doctor who has long provided valuable medical guidance to living a healthier life, naturally. Robb Wolf also covers a bit about coconut oil in his Paleolithic Solution podcast, Episode 23 which is free for anyone to listen to streaming or download.

Comments 26

  1. Hi Diane,

    I don't know what got into Loren Cordain to allow canola oil on his version of "the paleo diet." It certainly isn't in my definition. Another quirk of his is the inclusion of diet soda. Huh? One needs to give up all sweets to get over the sweet cravings, or tolerance for them. And like canola oil, isn't a "real food."

    1. I wouldn’t cook with it but cold-pressed rapeseed oils are now very common all over Europe and seem to take a similar place in diet as olive oil, so to be used in moderation on salads etc.

  2. What's your take on rapeseed oil in general? I don't use canola oil, but have been using some rapeseed oil in cooking, when I don't use coconut oil.

  3. @Julie- honestly, I would imagine it's one step better than canola in that it's not a GMO seed, but the process by which it's made is likely the same if not very similar. This is a common processed used for most vegetable oils with few exceptions (olive oil is one of them). I personally only have 3 types of non-animal fats in the house: organic virgin coconut oil, organic extra virgin cold-pressed olive oil and some cold-pressed sesame oil. I would use coconut oil, butter, lard or tallow at high heats, olive oil at very low heat or for dressings and the same for sesame oil- low heat or for dressings. I hope that helps!

  4. @Val- a pantry clean-out is a fantastic idea 🙂 Jump on over to the facebook fan page if you want some support!

  5. Great post and informative! I totally agree with the first poster too. What oil do you recommend for cooking with? I have recently lost nearly 50 lbs doing a Low Sugar diet and I want to eat even cleaner and better now!

  6. @Amber- I recommend cooking with coconut oil, palm oil, butter, lard, tallow, or other animal fats. Those oils don't easily oxidize at high heats. Olive oil is okay if you are just sauteéing at a low heat– but not frying or anything too hot! Congrats on the weight loss!

  7. I’m sharing a link to this article with someone who’s asking about canola oil – thanks for yet another to-the-point, short and sweet synopsis!

    1. I am sure you must know John Berardi. He is the best in nutrition and fitness. What I have learnt from him is use Olive oil for low to medium heat and coconut oil for high heat. And Canola if you don’t want to use Olive oil and coconut oil for som reason! I am not saying what you say about Canola oil is wrong but now a days every single food we are consuming is going through the same processing level one way or the other? So, does it mean we have to stop eating everything?? In my idea because of the same reason that I mentioned above the best thing is to eat everything but moderately, isn’t it better??

    2. Hi, Diane. I’m now Paleo due to health concerns. But was wondering about sunflower oil as well. Thoughts?

      PS- will it ever get easier when eating on the run or in a restaurant????

  8. I love coconut oil for small jobs, but what oil is best in a deep fryer? I need about 2 gallons to do my fish fry… Is corn oil better than canola?

    1. Nope – please refer to my cooking fats chart. A refined coconut oil, pure lard, or duck fat would probably be best in the fryer.

  9. Thank you for this eye opener regarding canola oil. I have been using canola oil for a while now because it was recommended by my mom’s cardiologist who says that it is ideal for cardiovascular health because as you’ve mentioned it’s fatty acid profile is high in health-promoting omega 3s. Now I have to reconsider, going back to coconut oil if this the healthiest/ safest cooking oil to use. Again thank you for this great article.


    P.S. Your site layout is just terrific I really love going back to this site. 🙂

  10. Wow, that brown icky stuff made me want to throw up, yuck! Thank you so much for sharing. I usually let restaurants used whatever oil they have, but now I think I’ll be making some specific requests 🙂

  11. I know that canola oil is used for deep frying in restaurants, and I generally can’t eat those foods. They are done so badly, they make my head ache.
    I stay away from canola oil at home for the same reason. I think olive oil is fine for frying, it is a cheap solution, and works for a person on a student budget like me.
    Lard is also great, but it can take up some time to find good quality lard. I use duck lard if I can find some at the local market.

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