Can you guess?

Perhaps you already know and I’m the one who’s late to the party.  Party?  Well, hardly a party, a bit more somber than that.  But why not start off with a riddle?

What is a frequently used kitchen staple that I believed was a healthy choice, compared to other options?
What item takes it’s name, not from the raw food from which it is made, but from the nation where it was developed?
Actually, that’s only the first part of its name.  The name includes a middle part which is the first letter of the type of product it is; and the last part of the name is actually an acronym for the fact that there is only a low level of a toxin in this product. Huh?

canolaOkay, that last part may be more confusing than helpful as a clue.  Enough riddling.
The answer is…CAN-O-LA oil.

Here are some notes from Dr John Douillard, an Ayurvedic practitioner with whom I have studied.  You will find his bio and a link to one of his related articles at the end of this post.

“The first suspicion-raising reason to avoid canola is that there is not a ‘canola’ plant in nature.   It turns out that, in an attempt to create a cheaper version of olive oil, researchers genetically modified the rapeseed plant from the mustard seed family and created GMO rapeseed oil. Like olive oil, it was a monounsaturated oil. The only problem was its high content of erucic acid, a compound that is toxic and problematic for cardiovascular health.

“… so, Canadian researchers figured out a way to genetically modify it further to lower the erucic acid content and give it the appearance of a heart healthy polyunsaturated fat. As long as it was lower than 2% erucic acid, it was considered safe. They even found a way to grow the new genetically modified rapeseed plant organically…

“The new rapeseed oil was given a tributary name. CAN for ‘Canadian,’ O for ‘oil,’ and LA for ‘low (erucic) acid.‘  It was the new rage… a monounsaturated oil like olive oil with a high amount of omega 3’s, like fish oils, and low in problematic saturated fats.   What could be better? Oh yes – and it was dirt cheap!  In 2006, the FDA allowed it to be marketed as a heart healthy oil.

“While there are no long-term studies assessing the risks of canola oil, there are studies that raise suspicion related to heart and circulation, fibrous tissue accumulation, growth issues in infants and more.  But remember, like all other refined vegetable oils, canola oil is cooked, bleached, and deodorized to the point where it can sit on a shelf for years and not go bad.  As a rule of thumb, if the bacteria that make things go bad won’t eat it, your liver will not be able to digest it either.”

I don’t know about you, but this !#^* scares me.  For years I have been comfortable feeding my loved ones foods made with canola oil, believing…   Well, there’s a question, who have I been believing?  Food magazines?  Whole Foods Markets?  Advertising?  How can something be GMO and organic?  I am truly befuddled here.  Comments?

John Douillard, DC is the former Director of Player Development for the New Jersey Nets NBA team. He directs the LifeSpa Ayurvedic Retreat Center in Boulder, CO

Fats That Heal, Fats That Kill by Udo Erasmus.  Published by Books Alive. 1993

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