What is the difference between Canola and Rapeseed Oil?

Have you ever wondered whether Canola is the same as Rapeseed Oil? In the UK, the answer is yes.

Rapeseed oil is the name given to oil produced from the seeds of the oilseed rape crop, which is a member of the Brassica family that also includes cabbages and turnips.

The oil largely has two uses — consumption and industrial (e.g. bio-degradable lubricant, bio diesel and plastics). For both uses, visually, the crops and their seeds are fairly identical. However, different varieties are used for each, with different properties.

Culinary rapeseed oil comes from seeds with low levels of compounds identified as potentially unpalatable and unsuitable for consumption in high concentrations.

The name ‘Canola’ was registered in 1979 in Canada and refers to this edible oil crop, developed back then using breeding techniques, and characterized by low erucic acid (less than 2%) rapeseed (LEAR), and low levels of glucosinolates. Some say the name stands for Can(ada) + o(il) + l(ow) + a(cid).

Erucic acid is naturally found in some oils. Findings from animal and laboratory studies suggest that regular consumption of high levels of erucic acid may be a risk to heart health. Evidence from human studies is less clear but suggests that this fatty acid is less of a concern in humans. Nevertheless, it’s still considered undesirable to produce an oil containing too much. Glucosinolates are natural components found in some plants that can be toxic and unpalatable in high concentrations.

High erucic acid rapeseed (HEAR) on the other hand, is useful for industrial use, and is valued for its high heat stability properties.

In some countries, the term ‘rapeseed oil’ is used to refer to the oil for industrial use, whereas ‘Canola oil’ is used to refer to the edible cooking oil. However, in the UK, ‘rapeseed oil’ is usually used interchangeably for both and the term ‘Canola oil’ is not really used at all.

Find out more about how edible rapeseed oil is made.

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