(Healthline) – The rapeseed plant usually blooms in the summer and is famous for its golden-yellow flowers.
Belonging to the cabbage family, it’s closely related to turnip and mustard.
Its oil — known both as rapeseed and canola oil — is widely used for cooking, baking, and food processing.
This article reviews the nutritional content, benefits, and potential downsides of rapeseed oil.
Production and uses
Canada is the largest producer of rapeseed oil, with Germany coming in a close second. In fact, the name “canola” comes from a pairing of the words “Canada” and “oil” (1Trusted Source).
Originally, culinary rapeseed oil was developed via traditional crossbreeding. However, most varieties available today are genetically modified (GM) to be pest-resistant. Thus, these products are classified as genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Rapeseed oil vs. canola oil
It’s important to distinguish between the two main types of rapeseed oil: industrial and culinary. The culinary version is also known as canola (1Trusted Source).
Industrial rapeseed oil is used in the automotive and chemical industries, while the culinary version is used for cooking. The two varieties are notably different due to their genetic makeup and content of erucic acid, which is harmful to your health in high amounts (1Trusted Source).
In fact, to be called canola oil, it must contain an erucic acid level of 2% or less and meet internationally regulated standards. Otherwise, it will be labeled as “rapeseed oil.” However, most varieties in grocery stores are canola oil (1Trusted Source).
Rapeseed oil is used for industrial and culinary purposes. To be called canola oil, it must have a lower erucic acid content and meet international standards. It was named canola oil after Canada, its largest producer.
Rapeseed oil is pure oil, so it contains no protein or carbohydrates. However, it’s a good source of healthy fats and fat-soluble vitamins.
One tablespoon (15 ml) of canola oil provides (2):
Total fat: 14 grams
Saturated fat: 1 gram
Monounsaturated fat: 9 grams
Polyunsaturated fat: 4 grams
Vitamin E: 16% of the Daily Value (DV)
Vitamin K: 8% of the DV
It’s a great source of vitamin E, a potent antioxidant that supports skin and eye health (3Trusted Source, 4Trusted Source).
Furthermore, it’s naturally low in saturated fat and high in unsaturated fat, which is linked to better heart health (1Trusted Source, 5Trusted Source).
In particular, it’s a good source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a type of omega-3 fat. ALA is an essential fat that’s converted into eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in the body. A diet high in these fats is linked to heart health benefits (6Trusted Source).
Rapeseed oil is also high in omega-6 fats, which support overall health when consumed in moderate amounts. However, most people get too much omega-6 fat in their diet, which can lead to inflammation (7Trusted Source).
Fortunately, rapeseed oil has an omega-3 to omega-6 ratio of 1:2, which is considered a healthy balance of the two fats. Most experts agree that a 1:4 ratio or less is ideal for good health, making rapeseed oil a great option (7Trusted Source).
Research on the effects of this oil on blood cholesterol is mixed. However, a recent analysis of studies found that regularly consuming canola oil led to lower levels of LDL (bad) and total cholesterol, which can help prevent heart disease (8Trusted Source).
Rapeseed oil is high in unsaturated fats and vitamins E and K. It contains a beneficial ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fats, which can positively influence heart health.
Although there is some controversy surrounding rapeseed oil, its use is associated with many benefits.
High-heat cooking temperature
Rapeseed oil can be cooked to high temperatures because of its high smoke point, meaning it won’t burn until around 400ºF (204ºC), at which point it will start to smoke. At this temperature, fat molecules begin to break down and create harmful compounds (9).
Smoke point is an important factor to consider when you’re choosing a healthy cooking oil. One factor that determines this is how refined an oil is. The more refined, the higher the smoke point.
Since rapeseed oil is highly refined, meaning that many of its impurities and free fatty acids have been removed, it has a higher smoke point than other oils, such as olive oil (10).
This makes it ideal for sautéing, pan-frying, baking, deep-frying, and other high-heat cooking methods (9).
It’s flavorless and versatile
Rapeseed oil has a very mild flavor, allowing it to be used for a variety of culinary applications. Furthermore, it can be served at room temperature or cooked (10).
It works well in salad dressings, dips, and baking and can be used for pan-frying or deep-frying without adding any additional flavor to your dish.
Rapeseed oil is very affordable and accessible because of its worldwide production (11Trusted Source).
Depending on where you live, you can usually buy 1 gallon (4 liters) for less than half the price of the same volume of olive oil.
Higher quality oils, such as extra virgin olive oil, cost more due to their more delicate processing techniques and shorter shelf life (11Trusted Source).
Rapeseed oil is inexpensive, flavorless, and can be cooked to high temperatures, making it a very versatile and affordable cooking oil.
While there are many benefits to using rapeseed oil, there is some controversy regarding its use.
Here are some potential downsides to consuming rapeseed oil.
Most rapeseed oil found in grocery stores and food products is genetically modified (GM).
By modifying the genes of the rape plant to become pest-resistant, growers are able to produce larger yields, resulting in a more affordable product with less waste (12Trusted Source).
While this may be perceived as a benefit, there are some concerns about GM foods and their effects on health, particularly allergies, antibiotic resistance, and cancer (12Trusted Source, 13Trusted Source).
Furthermore, some cultures and religions avoid GM products, as they are viewed as an unnatural form of food.
However, most research suggests that GM foods are safe for consumption and lead to no adverse health effects. Since GM foods are created using relatively new technology, more long-term research is needed (12Trusted Source, 13Trusted Source).
Nonetheless, if you choose to avoid GM foods, be sure to purchase rapeseed oil that is certified organic by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) or labeled as GMO-free.
Most oils used in the food industry are highly processed, and rapeseed oil is no exception.
A chemical solvent known as hexane is added to “clean” the oil. Then, a water filtration process removes free fatty acids, gums, and unappealing colors (10, 14Trusted Source).
While this is considered a safe process, it leads to a lower vitamin E and free fatty acid content, which may decrease the oil’s health benefits. Processed oils also tend to be higher in omega-6 fats, and consuming a high ratio of these may contribute to inflammation (10, 14Trusted Source, 15Trusted Source).
If you’re looking for an alternative to highly processed rapeseed oil, you can try the cold-pressed version. This processing method allows the oil to retain the majority of its nutrients. However, it’s difficult to find in most grocery stores and usually can only be found online (14Trusted Source).
Most rapeseed oil is genetically modified (GM). While GM foods are considered safe to eat, many people choose to avoid them. Furthermore, this oil is usually highly processed, which may lead to lower nutritional quality and negative health effects.
The bottom line
Rapeseed oil is widely used around the world. It’s popular for its affordability and versatility as a cooking oil and is commonly found in salad dressings, baked goods, and fried foods.
It’s a good source of healthy fats but tends to be highly processed, which may lower its nutritional value and alter its health effects.
When possible, try to select cold-pressed or minimally refined rapeseed oil, both of which retain most of this oil’s original nutrients and benefits.