Promoting The Health Benefits Of The Prairie’s Main Oilseed

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“It’s one of the only oils that has a health claim and one of the oils that you need to consume the least of to claim health.”

Affordable, versatile and healthy. You can’t offer much more in a cooking oil and canola has it all, says Simone Demers-Collins, who works for the Canola Council of Canada and the Alberta Canola Commission.

“Canola oil is good for everybody and that’s our slogan, “Demers-Collins told a recent seminar here. She said everyone including farmers is a member of the canola information marketing team. Many producers may get caught up in the realities and intricacies of growing canola and sometimes forget the role the plant has in daily life, she said.

In 2000, Canadians used 500,000 tonnes of canola oil, but that figure continued to drop until medical experts began to sound the alarm on trans-fats, with some U.S. jurisdictions banning them in restaurants and even the Canadian government musing about legislating a ban. That’s prompted a major switch to canola oil. This was mainly a conscious decision by food processors, not necessarily consumers, Demers-Collins said.

“It’s a good trend, but I’d like to see that trend going up a lot more because of people making a conscious decision to be using canola.”

Compared to other oils on the market, canola is the lowest in saturated fats and contains monounsaturated fats which help reduce harmful cholesterols. In addition, the oil has a one-to-two ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acids, making it nutritionally balanced.

Canola oil has a high smoking point and can be used in frying, sautéing and baking. It can also be used for salad oils and dressings since it doesn’t solidify in the fridge, Demers-Collins said.

The oil works well as a biodiesel in cold weather, since it is low in saturated fat and remains in a liquid form.

CANADIAN AND U.S. PROMOTION

The Canola Council of Canada is partnering with various national and international groups to promote canola oil as a healthy choice. The council is a major sponsor of Spark recreation, a children’s health program developed by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. The council has also sponsored the 2010 Diabetes calendar with the Diabetes Foundation, and is a sponsor of the Canadian Culinary cookbook awards. The council has also campaigned for inclusion in Canada’s Food Guide, and canola is now mentioned and recommended in the most recent edition.

The council is also trying to actively market canola consumption into the United States. Over the past few years, American consumption of Canadian canola has been increasing. Producers in the U.S. are now becoming more interested in the crop and are planting winter canola, said Demers-Collins.

“Canola has a bona-fide health claim which means the government has indicated that one and a half tablespoons of canola may reduce the risk of heart disease,” said Demers-Collins. “It’s one of the only oils that has a health claim and one of the oils that you need to consume the least of to claim health.”

The council has also begun a partnership with the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association. Olympic swimmer Janet Evans has been a spokesperson and developed a smoothie that uses canola oil.

Chef Homaro Cantu, who specializes in molecular cooking, has freeze-dried canola oil to make pastry. Chef Ming Tsai, who has three Food network programs, is also a strong supporter of canola oil. The council has also developed lesson plans with the Culinary Institute of America which feature canola oil, and has worked with numerous culinary institutes and educators in North America.

Three companies in Mexico are now selling canola oil, and the Council is working with a Mexican media firm to help market the oil into Mexico.

About the author

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Alexis Kienlen

Alexis Kienlen lives in Edmonton and has been writing for Alberta Farmer since 2008. Originally from Saskatoon, Alexis is also the author of two collections of poetry, a biography, and a novel called "Mad Cow."

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