A heart-healthy Canadian oil that’s also environmentally friendly

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One of the healthiest cooking oils in the world is a made-in-Canada success story. Canola was developed in the 1970s by the University of Manitoba and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada using traditional plant breeding techniques.

The vast fields of yellow flowers have become a symbol of the Canadian Prairies, and the oil that comes from its crushed seeds is a top choice for dietitians when making heart-healthy eating recommendations.

That’s because canola is rich in two “good” fatty acids: alpha-linolenic acid that protects against heart attacks and strokes, and linoleic acid, an essential omega-6 fatty acid that helps in growth and brain development in infants.

Compared to other commonly used cooking oils, canola is also lowest in fats that are bad for human health, like saturated fats linked to coronary heart disease, and trans fat, which raises cholesterol levels.

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It’s also a good source of vitamin E, an antioxidant that protects the body’s fats and proteins from free radical damage, and is cholesterol free.

The environment benefits from canola production as well. Most canola grown in Canada today is from varieties that have been developed to become herbicide tolerant through plant biotechnology. Herbicide tolerance means farmers can control weeds in the field with a herbicide. In the past, farmers had to till the soil as the only way to control stubborn weeds.

Less tillage means less soil erosion, more water held in the soil, and improved habitat and food sources for wildlife. And fewer passes across a field with a tractor means less fossil fuel used and lower greenhouse gas emissions – all things that help lower crop farming’s environmental footprint.

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Looking for some quick and easy ways to add canola to your diet? Use it in salad dressings, baked goods, sautés and stir-fries, and even for grilling and marinating. Its light taste and high heat tolerance mean you can use it for almost anything. Recipes can be found at www.canolainfo.org. – NC

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